The Oxymoron of All Star Game Integrity
It’s fair to say not everyone was thrilled that John Scott was elected Pacific Division Captain for the 2016 All Star weekend.
The 33-year old topped a fan vote, largely off the back of campaigns by The Steve Dangle Podcast and Marek vs Wyshynski Podcast, and while some thought it was a fun element to an increasingly meaningless weekend for the majority of fans other felt it compromised the integrity of the All Star Game.
The problem is, the integrity of the All Star Game was already under question.
Scott seemed to be in on the joke. A veteran of 285 NHL games, the Edmonton native has made a career as a pugilist in the NHL but at least saw the funny side of his increasingly redundant role in the league – even sporting a t-shirt of himself scoring whilst playing for San Jose last season.
Scott would be the first to admit he is no ‘All Star’, but embraced the somewhat bizarre situation he found himself in – possibly because there was a chance the Pacific Division might have won, earning Scott a share of the $1 million prize money the NHL will hand the winning team. As someone who earns $575,000, you can hardly blame him for that, nor the unique chance to take part in the event.
That was until he was traded yesterday.
Arizona shipped Scott and defenceman Stefan Elliott to Montreal for Jared Tinordi. Elliott was almost immediately flipped for Nashville’s Victor Bartley, with the Canadiens assigning both of their new acquisitions to the AHL.
In pure hockey terms, there was some logic to the trade – even if Habs fans can’t, won’t or couldn’t see it.
Had Montreal waived Tinordi, he almost certainly would have been claimed – leaving Montreal with nothing more than a little extra cap space. They have at least ended up with both the cap space and a serviceable depth defenceman in Bartley.
The Canadien’s may have crippled Tinordi’s value to the point where he was worth almost nothing, but *something* is better than nothing.
The Coyotes meanwhile add a young blue liner who could help them moving forward. Thumbs up for Don Maloney there.
Where it gets fishy is Scott’s role in this trade.
The Michigan Tech alumni adds little to a team who haven’t exactly been bullied on the ice this year, so have no cause to seek out additional muscle and he doesn’t resolve the Habs power play woes nor their stuttering offence.
So why did Montreal acquire him at all?
Let the conspiracy theories begin!
TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggested both the league and Coyotes asked Scott to decline his All Star invitation:
This was hardly a secret – though McKenzie’s confirmation validates what everyone seemed to know anyway – and so Scott’s move to Montreal seems even more suspicious.
Whatever theory you wish to subscribe to, the main driver behind all of them is that the NHL didn’t want Scott heading to Nashville at the end of the month.
His appearance along side the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Jaromir Jagr compromised everything the weekend is supposed to be about for the NHL – a chance to glad hand sponsors and let younger (and newer) fans see the games most skilful players participate in a glorified version of shinny.
And there we come back to that word again – integrity.
The league wanted to try and uphold it’s ideals for the event, existing fans wanted to have some fun with a format they’d long fallen out of love with.
Part of the problem is that the NHL has done a poor job maintaining the integrity of the event in previous years. A significant reason behind existing NHL fans regarding the All Star game with such distain.
Players appeared to care increasingly little for the weekend, and any even remotely ‘fun’ ideas – such as the draft – were short lived.
It seems little wonder there were those who wanted to inject a little bit of fun, chaos even, in to this year’s event by voting for Scott.
That the NHL saw Scott’s election as a problem, but not Patrick Kane’s – despite continued ill will toward the Blackhawks forward following the police investigation over the summer – says much about it’s priorities.
They’re all for ditching Scott, but seem fine with someone a chunk of it’s fanbase are uncomfortable seeing glorified.
The selection of Pekka Rinne only further exacerbated things, a blatantly ‘home team’ selection despite a poor run for the veteran Finn this term while Central Division rivals Corey Crawford and Jake Allen have excelled.
Some may feel justice has ultimately been done. That Shane Doan, Max Domi or Oliver Ekman-Larsson, still one of the game’s most underrated D men, will represent the Coyotes and that Scott, who had ‘no business’ even garnering one vote, will be riding the bus in the American Hockey League.
But that misses the point of why people voted for Scott in the first place, why so many have become disinterested in what should be a celebration of everything great about the league and sport.
It also papers over why so many people find the events of the last 24-hours distasteful and are left with deep suspicion of what led to this trade.
If the NHL wants the All Star game to truly mean something, they have to make it mean something. To all fans.
Because right now, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to some of the league’s biggest investors.