For about two minutes yesterday, I was just like everyone else.
NHL All-Star rosters had come out and as I looked through them, I marveled at the snubs.
Where was Teemu Selanne, who leads his teams in points playing in what is almost certainly his final season and is pretty much universally beloved? Where was Nicklas Lidstrom, the second-best defenseman of all time behind Bobby Orr, a Norris winner at 41 and a guy making Ian White -- of everyone on Earth -- look like a superstar? Where was Jaromir Jagr, who's having a revelatory season after years spent in Siberian exile, and is one of the greatest offensive forces in hockey history?
I was angry, I was confused. But then I remembered that the NHL has the stupidest All-Star policy on the planet.
The reason these guys — and many other of the league's top players over whom fans of their teams have legitimate gripes for their lack of inclusion — aren't going to the game is not because the league magically overlooked them. No one on earth forgets that Nicklas Lidstrom plays in the NHL.
What happened was that these players were quietly told they would be selected as All-Stars, probably a few days ago, and politely declined. After all, when you're selected to the team, it's five days off you don't get, and generally the rigamarole that goes into participating in All-Star Weekend is referred to as "a grind." It is, therefore, pretty easy to see why these guys turned down the chance to participate in their 29th straight glorified shinny game.
Being named an All-Star is a big deal to some players because it means that in their next contract negotiations, they can pull out their blue or red jersey and go, "Look at this, and then add half a million dollars to my yearly salary." But those guys aren't exactly playing for the contract at this point.
Other sports do things differently. In baseball, for example, guys are named to All-Star teams because they deserve to be there, and then get to beg out later because of minor, possibly-exaggerated injuries. They're still All-Stars, but they just want to take the week to rest instead. And that's when guys get subbed in. Makes perfect sense.
It cannot, however, be that way in the NHL.
You might remember a few years ago, Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were named to the All-Star team but begged out in much the same way baseball players do; they had nagging injuries and wanted to rest them, rather than answer questions from the media, sign a trillion autographs, stand around during skills competitions, then half-ass their way through an unwatchable 12-11 game that, of course, ended in a shootout.
You might also remember that for this terrible crime against the Sanctity Of The League or whatever it was, Gary Bettman suspended both of them for a game apiece. Which is colossally stupid. The rule, apparently, is that unless you miss your team's final game before the All-Star Game, you will be suspended for not participating, so it will be interesting to see whether all these "snubs" who asked out will be eating some pressbox popcorn in the coming days.
And the reason it's stupid is obvious. People who tune in are still getting the same players participating this way as they would under a saner system. None of the people going to the game (see also: sponsors and maybe their kids or something) are going to be put out by Nicklas Lidstrom's absence because they're going to be futzing with their phones and gladhanding all game anyway.
What, in the end, is the qualitative difference between asking not to be selected as an All-Star and having someone named in your place, and being selected then backing out?
To pretend as though Selanne and Lidstrom aren't good enough to be All-Stars this year, but Alex Ovechkin or Logan Couture are, by comparison, is absurd. It opens up too many complaints about snubs and makes the people who pick these teams look like maniacs. Although, to be fair, the league is now at least acknowledging that guys are passing on the opportunities to play and deferring to teammates, something I don't recall them doing last year.
So really, what's the difference if we all officially know that no one cares?
Obviously because Bettman put his foot down about Lidstrom and Datsyuk that one time, the league can't reverse its decision without losing face, at least in its own estimation. And so we're stuck with an initial All-Star roster that includes Dennis Wideman like that's no big deal.
Forget snubs, that's what everyone should really be angry about.
When it rains in Montreal it apparently pours, and the huge downpour of embarrassing behavior — canning an assistant coach for no readily apparent reason, trying to get a coach fired for not speaking a language, the owner apologizing to fans for hiring that coach, protests and more — just wasn't enough.
Now the Habs have traded an admittedly under-performing, big-contract player after he had the audacity to say that the team, which currently sits 12th in the East, only three points ahead of the dead-last Islanders, has a losing mentality. Please note, however, that including last night's game in Boston, the Habs have won just three of their last 12.
Guys have, of course, been traded for being malcontents before, and Cammalleri certainly isn't the last, but Pierre Gauthier, frantically grabbing at the emergency cord on his parachute for any maneuver that will save his job, did a pretty crummy thing in pulling his $6 million man from the third period of a game against the team's archrival, sending him back to the hotel to await further instructions like he's in Mission: Impossible 5.
The optics on this look bad because the move came just hours after the controversial statement (allegedly ginned up to be more than it was by some members of the Montreal media after the quotes were translated to French) but apparently the trade had been discussed for a month or so.
And really, that makes the decision to pull him from the game look worse. It's a pretty bad thing to do to a guy on your payroll to yank him from a game you let him start. I understand they didn't want to run the risk of him getting hurt in the third period but the point is, why let him play the game at all? It's unlikely that Jay Feaster picked up the phone in the second intermission and said, "Y'know what? We'll take Cammalleri now."
Regardless of the circumstances leading up to the decision to pull Cammalleri from the game, this looks like petty payback from Gauthier for innocuous comments, but I'm not sure what we're supposed to expect from a guy who has excelled at making himself look bad in recent weeks.
This is a total gong show, and the way everyone in that city has been behaving lately, it's richly deserved.
Pearls of Biz-dom
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- Sports & Recreation
- Sports & Recreation/Ice Hockey
- Nicklas Lidstrom
- Teemu Selanne