OTTAWA — At media day on Friday, there were as many questions about the players who won't compete in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday as there were about the game itself.
The dominant question: Was Alex Ovechkin right or wrong in pulling out of his All-Star Game selection after receiving a 3-game suspension for a hit on Zbynek Michalek?
"You should be here. If you are chosen to come here, you should probably be here," said Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul to the Ottawa Citizen.
"I think the game needs stars. That's why Ovechkin not being here … I totally understand if he's got some kind of injury. I don't know why he said no," said Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "There are a lot of fans that wanted to see him here. But it's an individual choice, and he made that choice."
Ovechkin's explanation for pulling out of the game, after the NHL named him to the roster, was that he wasn't "deserving" to be there and that his heart wasn't into it after serving one game of the 3-game ban. "I feel I'm not deserving to be there right now. If I suspended, I have to be suspended. That's why I give up my roster [spot]," he said.
Does Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's vice president of player safety, buy that as a valid reason to pull out of the game?
"I think I respect it," he said on Saturday in Ottawa.
"That situation was unique. I don't think it's ever happened before. I think it's something that internally we need to address and come up with something in the future going forward — what is our policy on that?"
Shanahan said the focus on the players who aren't at the event detracts from the players that are there.
"In the end, this a game and a weekend where we've got great all-stars and great rookies that want to talk about the game and talk about themselves, and not who's not here," he said.
There was some speculation that Shanahan and the NHL might limit the ban, so Ovechkin wouldn't have attended the All-Star Game as a suspended player. (Which he could have.)
"I knew in the back of my mind it was a possibility, but I pushed it out of my mind," said Shanahan.
"You get so much training from being a player that you know your surroundings but you get focused on your job. It's not something that caught me by surprise, but at the same time it had no bearing on the decision itself."