(Not Pictured: Ovechkin uncontrollably laughing.)
Once in a while, the National Hockey League learns from its mistakes, which is why you can score a goal with a skate in the crease and Chaka Khan didn't appear on this year's awards show.
Last season, the NHL's online fan balloting for the All-Star Game created some outrage from fans who saw players that were off to absolutely blazing starts — Alexander Semin and Patrick Sharp among them — that were left off the 100-player ballot. Meanwhile, players off to terrible starts (like Antti Niemi) and players that hadn't played a single shift that season (Mark Streit) were given spots on the ballot.
So kudos to the NHL for paying extra special attention to the first six weeks of the season. From the League, in announcing the 127-player strong 2012 NHL All-Star Game fan ballot:
With impressive starts this season, the Dallas Stars and the Pittsburgh Penguins — leaders of the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively - hold a combined 11 spots on the ballot in the 2012 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting.
The ballot includes first time career appearances from Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson and Penguins forwards James Neal and Jordan Staal and defenseman Kris Letang. Joining their teammates are ballot veterans Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and Kari Lehtonen, Mike Ribeiro and Sheldon Souray of the Stars.
Yeah, Sid's on there. This brings us back to the annual debate about what the All-Star Game is "supposed" to be. If it's a chance to see the NHL's most famous names skate together and compete in skills competitions, then a guy like Sid belongs on the ballot. If it's supposed to honor performances from the first half of the season … well, he might still get in the game depending on when and how he returns, but shouldn't be on the ballot right now (nor should Marc Staal for that matter).
But having players like Sheldon Souray, Nikolai Khabibulin and Joffrey Lupul on the ballot shows a real awareness for who's earned it, which was missing last season.
Coming up, the team-by-team breakdown and the big bad ballot; any snubs?
Here's how the entries on the ballot shake out. Remember: There are no rookies here, and voting concludes Jan. 4, with the top six vote-getters by position - three forwards, two defensemen and goalie — set to take part in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.
|Anaheim Ducks: 6||Nashville Predators: 3|
|Boston Bruins: 6||New Jersey Devils: 4|
|Buffalo Sabres: 4||New York Islanders: 3|
|Calgary Flames: 3||New York Rangers: 4|
|Carolina Hurricanes: 3||Ottawa Senators: 5|
|Chicago Blackhawks: 6||Philadelphia Flyers: 6|
|Colorado Avalanche: 4||Phoenix Coyotes: 3|
|Columbus Blue Jackets: 3||Pittsburgh Penguins: 6|
|Dallas Stars: 5||San Jose Sharks: 5|
|Detroit Red Wings: 4||St. Louis Blues: 3|
|Edmonton Oilers: 5||Tampa Bay Lightning: 3|
|Florida Panthers: 3||Toronto Maple Leafs: 5|
|Los Angeles Kings: 5||Vancouver Canucks: 5|
|Minnesota Wild: 3||Washington Capitals: 5|
|Montreal Canadiens: 4||Winnipeg Jets: 3|
And now, the full collection of players in the All-Star pool this season:
Marc-Andre Bergeron has 16 points in 15 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can't make room for everyone; but he might earn his way onto the team eventually.
Kris Versteeg might have warranted a selection for the Panthers, along with or in lieu of Tomas Fleischmann. Mike Smith of the Coyotes is another one whose surge probably came after the ballot process was finalized.
No Jimmy Howard? No Corey Crawford? But Jaroslav Halak?!
But most importantly: Eberle, Hall, Grabner … and no Tyler Seguin?
The Seguinistas write-in campaign begins ...
So there's the ballot. Voting begins on Monday.
It's about time for Project Mayhem to begin, right? (For the uninformed: The voting of former Senators like Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara in as starters for the game played in Ottawa. So devious.)