October 12, 2010
Last season marked the first time I had a chance to select the Three Stars of the Game at an NHL arena, during a regular-season Washington Capitals home game.
As usual, I treated the undertaking with the gravity of a grad school thesis paper; much like how I selected my Selke Trophy winner by using quality of competition and other advanced stats while other writers relied on the time-tested "who won it last year?" theorem.
Sure, it's a superfluous postgame honor, existing only for some sponsored contest at season's end or to give a hometown hero a curtain call. But as puckheads, we've all attended a game in which we've waited for the Three Stars and likely wondered how the guy with one secondary assist made the cut -- and who to blame.
If you're someone who treats the Three Stars with a modicum of importance, then the Montreal Canadiens have either made your day or urinated in your Cheerios. That's because they're handing the Three Stars selections for home games over to the biggest collection of know-it-alls on Earth: the fans.
Coming up, more on this gimmick; after you've consumed it all, a simple question:
Pass or Fail: Letting NHL fans select the Three Stars of the Game.
As the Habs prepare for their home opener at Bell Centre on Wednesday, Bell announced that fans will have the ability to choose the Three Stars for the first time in franchise history. From the Habs:
Whether by visiting canadiens.com/3stars, or by downloading the Canadiens smartphone application available Wednesday, Oct. 13 for BlackBerry and Android and at the end of the month for iPhone, fans will now determine the "three stars" selections for each Canadiens game.
First introduced in 1936-37, picks for the three stars were traditionally chosen by the media. Now, the Montreal Canadiens will transfer that responsibility to its fans for the first time in club history.
Fans will be given the opportunity to cast one set of votes per game. Whichever three players from both teams' rosters receive the most votes will be awarded the game's 1st, 2nd and 3rd stars, respectively. Each vote a Canadiens player receives will count towards their Molson cup standings, determining the award's monthly recipient and ultimately, the Canadiens player of the year.
We spoke with Dominick Saillant, director of media relations, to clarify a point: Yes, it's going to be completely up to the fans to determine the three stars of the game, win or lose.
He said the team's confident that the "knowledgeable fans who follow the Canadiens" will offer a fair take on the games' stars. The example he used was if Vincent Lecavalier(notes) had three goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning on opening night, the fans would honor him with a star. The again, Vincent Lecavalier could probably sit on the bench smelling his own flatulence for three periods and still get a star out of the Habs fans in Bell Centre. Just sayin'.
The Canadiens broadcasters had been the gatekeepers for the Three Stars selections for the last three seasons, according to Saillant. But there will be no media checks or balances on this vote -- it's the fans' call.
Can this actually work to produce a fair representation of the game's key players each home game? The Upper Canadien notes some of the challenges:
Why could this be a bad idea? Well, Canadiens fans stuffed the ballots for the all star game two years ago, selecting players who did not deserve to be there, let alone in the starting lineup (that's right Mike Komisarek(notes), I'm talking about you). Now, we may see a repeat of that after every game at the Bell Centre.
The results could clearly be skewed by fans pulling together to vote for favourites. The one place the voting will have a lasting impact? Each three star selection counts towards the Molson Cup, a monthly trophy awarded by the Montreal Canadiens. The winner at the end of the year is then awarded the title of Habs player of the year.
Besides the fact that the visiting team might get the shaft, the "fans pulling together" bit should be the only real concern.
The ballot-box stuffing helped turn online fan balloting for the NHL All-Star Game into a farce. The 2007 "Vote For Rory" campaign that haunted the All-Star game had its virtues -- who didn't love seeing the blue-collar hero getting his due? -- but it was still the nerd getting voted Homecoming King in high school.
We'll assume fans will be given a set number of candidates each game to avoid, say, Maxim Lapierre(notes) going on a 10-game streak at first star no matter his stats. Otherwise ... well, never underestimate the power of puckheads to turn a popular vote into a giant goof on the system.
Overall: Cool idea. But with great power comes great responsibility. At least for those of us who get a kick out of guessing the Three Stars during the game.