OTTAWA — Along with the ignominious label of Mr. Irrelevant and a new Honda Crossfire, Logan Couture was given something else as the last pick of the 2012 NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft: All of the questions Phil Kessel has had to answer for the last year.
Kessel's off the hook, giving up the sash and crown of last pick in the All-Star Draft to the San Jose Sharks sophomore, and not a moment too soon.
"It's dumb. It's stupid. People take it for too much, right?" said Kessel after Thursday's night's All-Star Draft.
"People" of course being media, fans and one curmudgeonly general manager in Toronto who felt the Draft needed to be reformatted after his guy was picked last.
"People" not being the NHL players in the draft, who find the whole thing rather amusing.
"I don't think anyone really cares where they get picked. The media really makes a big deal about it. In talking to Kessel, he really didn't care where he got picked," said Jason Pominville of the Buffalo Sabres, who was among the last four players picked along with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Couture.
"But [Kessel] said he at least got a car out of it," said Pominville. "I was thinking maybe I'd get a car out of it, towards the end. I guess I'll have to fly back home."
Couture's bounty for being the last pick included a new Honda Crosstour, which was a car with which he was unfamiliar. He's also currently driving a Mercedes Ranger Rover, so perhaps one of the dozens of friends and family that texted him after the draft will end up with a new ride.
"Couture's gonna do a good job with that car," said Scott Hartnell.
He also did a good job with being the last pick in the Draft. He was jovial, self-deprecating and understanding of his lot in life. He's a player that "gets it," and that's the kind of player that'll handle being the last man standing.
"I had a feeling it would be me, quite honestly. Playing on the West Coast in San Jose, it doesn't get too much TV coverage on East Coast channels. Especially being young, too, and not even being one of the bigger names on my own team," he said, noting that many other players were taken based on relationships with the team's captains and assistant captains.
"I gotta get to know all these guys in case I'm back here another year."
Kessel said Couture shouldn't think twice about being the last pick.
"He's a great player. He's young. You could see the young players going later. He's not going to be the last pick again. It's not a big deal," said the Toronto Maple Leafs forward.
It was enough of a big deal for the NHL and the NHLPA that there was a subtle tweak of the All-Star Fantasy Draft format so no player was placed in a negative spotlight. The players mulled around backstage rather than being seated in front of the podiums.
The bottom four went onstage together, so there wasn't the awkward moment of having one of them sitting alone in the dark like Kessel in 2011, with some Ovechkin-ish rascal snapping a TwitPic of their shame with his smart phone.
The NHL softened the blow of being the final pick since the Kessel Affair, even if the players said there wasn't really a need to. They support the Fantasy Draft format, and the odd little moments that emerge from it. (Seriously, how great was Spezza last night?)
For a player like Couture, last picked is still picked.
"It's the All-Star Game. I'm 22 years old. I never thought I'd be here at this age."