In the latest episode in the trade that keeps on giving Dion Phaneuf has been "elected" as a starter in the 2011-2012 NHL "All-Star" game. He joins Tim Thomas, and some terrible Ottawa Senators players in the starting line-up.
Phaneuf is in some illustrious company as he becomes the first Leaf to be named an All-Star starter since Mats Sundin and Curtis Joseph were named starters from Team World and Team North America respectively in 2000. That game was held in Toronto in the newly built ACC. The only other Leaf to be named an All-Star stater is Felix Potvin who earned the honour in 1994.
The most notable exlusions were players who have actually achieved any amount of success in the NHL thus far this season. Two Leafs in the Top-10 in leauge scoring, Kessel and Lupul, were left off. They will most certainly be named to the team so whatever.
What is interesting is the notion that it may not have been Senators fans responsible for stuffing the ballot box. By all accounts Kessel held a significant lead only four days ago, only to be surpassed by Milan Michalek at some point. So what do you think? Did the NHL step in? Or did Senators’ fans take three months to figure out how this whole voting process worked?
Wednesday on Twitter when it looked like three Leafs might get voted into the All-Star Game I bet that it would set off 29 fanbases making the same ridiculous complaints that have existed since fan balloting was introduced: the votes were making a mockery of the event. Well guess what, it’s an event solely for the hometown fans and corporate sponsors. Players do all they can to skip it and most fans don’t care. What it does provide is a chance for columnists to notch up an easy column. "Oh fiddledee the fans have voted in (insert name of borderline or possibly ridiculous player) and now the long-held honour of being an All-Star will never again be the same".
I mean, let’s forget that the only time a player’s All-Star appearances matters is when they make the All-Star teams at the end of the season. Or that the event is dumb to begin with especially considering its origins as a charitable fundraiser which is kind of ironic since it is pretty much the opposite of that now. Sadly, it is provides a great chance for professional trolls to get in their shots.
ENTER THE KING OF THE TROLLS
• Four Sens start all-star game? Not one of top 10 NHL scorers? Just silly. At least Thomas overtook Reimer or it wud have been total joke.
• I mean, Daniel Alfredsson’s a classy guy. But he’s 68th in NHL scoring. Just discredits entire game……even more. . .
• For any credibiity, all-star starters would be dominated by Canucks and Bruins.
• Out of chosen/selected/voted starters, only Thomas and Karlsson are particularly deserving.
• Hometown fans seem to believe concept is to wreck the game.
• Guess Kessel will again have a shot at being picked last!
• I do think Spezza has had a nice bounce-back season. But not worthy of starting position.
• Or call it the NHL Popularity Game. Would be more logical.
• OTT fans may think they’ve accomplished something by all-star vote when they’ve really just undermined the honor of being voted a starter.
• Funniest part is Sergei Gonchar barely missed catching Phaneuf to make it five Senator starters.
• Now Sens fans can get to work on Kyle Turris being named one of the subs.
• Could probably pick a better team of ex-Sens. Start with Brian Elliott in goal, Chara on defence. . .
• Dang. Blocking ignorant OTT fans really cutting into my time dedicated to blocking ignorant VAN fans.
It’s par for the course. Nevermind that Kessel will get named to the team anyway, that this is an exhibition for the fans, or that his second last tweet is a blatant rip-off of Project Mayhem which he tried to pretend he’d never heard of despite the fact that his employer (Sportsnet) had me on their flagship radio station (Fan590) to share a few chuckles with Greg Brady and Jim Lang over it. I wouldn’t blame him for not having read Don "Hawaii Five-O" Brennan’s piece on Project Mayhem. I’m sure his print version was stained by Brennan’s tears. Maybe his plea of ignorance was really a way of outing Brennan’s living situation as one smart Senators fan noted.
CIRCLING THE WAGONS
The pom-pom media in Ottawa couldn’t wait to wade in as Steve Warne of the Team1200 in Ottawa "Home of the Legally Actionable Wife Beating Accusations" managed to confuse Toronto having the biggest fanbase with Toronto’s fanbase pushing hard to get their players into the ASG. It’s an easy mistake to make I guess if you still have gates on your stairs but every team does the same push for their players. A lot of Leafs were leading the voting because when a lot of people vote you end up with a lot of votes. But sometimes, a small group of really determined fans voting as many times as humanly possible ring up more votes. Good for them. They’re paying for the tickets anyway. Or at least, someone in Ottawa is because a friend told me today that season ticket holders aren’t even guaranteed tickets to the game. Nice ownership you’ve got there.
And finally, no instance of rallying around the golden goose would be complete without a member of the Ottawa media shoehorning in a comparison to something Toronto did which isn’t close to analogous but which most people won’t follow up on. In this case, it was suggesting that stuffing the ballot in Ottawa was the same as Dmitri Yuskevich playing in 2000. Yes, that game was in Toronto but the format was different (North America v the World) and Yuskevich got in because he was selected by the league. And he picked up a goal and an assist.
MAPLE LEAFS REACT TO SELECTIONS
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs took the right approach:
Brian Burke said he had no issue with it and expected nothing but the same from Leafs fans when Toronto hosts it next.
Phil Kessel expressed the feelings of most players:
“You know I really don’t care,” Kessel said Thursday after the morning skate at the Air Canada Centre. “Fans voted for me and that’s a good thing. So I thank them.&rdquo
Joffrey Lupul cracked on Senators fans:
“Obviously, Ottawa just wants to see all their guys play,” Lupul said. “Why don’t they just get a ticket to a Senators game?
and Dion Phaneuf thanked the fans for their support:
“It’s a huge honour to be selected in the all-star game,” Phaneuf said. “It’s an individual thing that is connected to team success. I definitely couldn’t have gotten there without my teammates. We have got great support here in the city of Toronto.
And with that, I can’t wait until the league bothers announcing the Western Conference starters. Ha! Just kidding.