NHL All-Star Ballot Shouldn't Even Include Names

RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 30: The Team Lidstrom lineup hanging in the locker room before the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Today in the Morning Skate, we look at the outdated system that dictates who makes it on the NHL All-Star Ballot. We also wonder out loud about an Eric Lindros documentary and why Scott Arniel still has a job.

The NHL All-Star Ballot came out late on Thursday afternoon, and already the predictable debate about which players were snubbed from the ballot has begun.

The league has to love this debate. It generates attention for their All-Star Game and gets people interested in the voting process. But while everybody is arguing over which players should and shouldn't be on the ballot -- should Sidney Crosby even though he hasn't played a game? -- I can't help but think it's all a waste of time.

Consider:

The 2012 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting marks the sixth straight year the balloting process is entirely digital, with fans casting votes using interactive online ballots at NHL.com/vote, the microsite for the 2012 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, and via mobile devices. The NHL.com/vote ballot will be optimized for iPad and other tablets.

For six years now, ballots have been exclusively available online. You know when you go to a baseball game before the All-Star voting ends and they hand out those paper ballots to everybody during the game? Yeah, that doesn't happen in hockey. There's no such thing as a paper ballot anymore, and there hasn't been since before the lockout.

And really, selecting players to put on the ballot is a practice from a bygone era. With an online ballot, there's no need to list a bunch of players and then select those players with check boxes or whatever. 

There are six spots open for fans to vote players in to the All-Star Game. Instead of limiting the number of players we can choose, just make them all essential write-in fields. Make them each auto-fill, so when I start typing JAROM, it fills with JAROMIR JAGR. Or RORY FITZPATRICK, if that's what tickles your fancy.

Nice and simple, right? No snubs. Fair chance for every player in the league to be voted in. But then there's no debate, and I guess that takes away half the fun and all the fake outrage. 

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Our buddy Steve Lepore mentioned something on Twitter last night that I couldn't agree more with. This whole NHL Original Productions thing that was announced on Thursday should be fantastic, and as one of their first orders of business, they really should put together a documentary-type look at Eric Lindros.

It's really perfect timing: Lindros is returning to the NHL stage as part of the Winter Classic alumni game at the end of December, and with the concussion issue perhaps the most pressing issue in today's game, the topic is both timely and absolutely fascinating.

Think about the tragedy of Lindros' career, and really, a full decade-plus of his life:

Unfair expectations were mounted on him from the very start, as a boy inside a mans' body at age 16, ready to be drafted first overall in the OHL Draft. He was drafted and then turned into a pariah after making a few simply logical, legitimate and frankly smart decisions not to play for the team that drafted him.

When he finally played for Oshawa, he was an absolute monster on the ice. He dominated opponents with a combination of size and skill that had honestly never been seen before to that point. He won a Memorial Cup and an OHL MVP award. He was one of the best players the league had ever seen. 

When he hit the NHL, he was ripped for refusing to play for the Quebec Nordiques -- again, for largely smart and legitimate reasons -- but became a dominant force on the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers. Throughout the 1990s in his time with the Flyers, he pulled them out of the cellar of the Patrick Division and almost single-handedly brought them back to respectability.

Only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had a better points-per-game average in the 1990s than Eric Lindros. No. 88 was the fifth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 500 points. And he did all of this while bringing a physical game that we've never seen from a player of such skill.

But what do we remember about Lindros? A lack of longevity, more concussions than any man should ever have to deal, his feud with Bob Clarke, and the general idea that he was a big baby that was pampered by his father/agent combo Carl have continued to follow Lindros into retirement.

The fact of the matter is that Lindros deserves to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and more people need to start remembering how great a player he truly was. What better way to start than with an original NHL documentary on the tragic career of Eric Lindros.

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The Blue Jackets made another trade Thursday night (and rumors of them trading Fedor Tyutin to the Islanders for Evgeni Nabokov were unfounded), but somehow Scott Arniel still has a job this Friday morning. I'll repeat what was written in this space on Monday, following a 9-2 loss on Saturday.

And besides, it's not on Howson to make sure that team shows up to play on the ice. That's the sort of responsibility that falls on the players themselves and the coaching staff, and as the old cliche goes, you can't fire the entire damn team (even though Howson said would happen in this situation). 

When a team in such a desperate situation fails to show up for what's certainly a larger game than usual, anybody who fails to blame the coach and his staff must have some sort of ulterior motive. There's no other way to explain why Scott Arniel still has a job this Monday morning. 

This still applies after a 6-3 loss to a division rival on Thursday night -- especially when that lopsided score is not even close to a fair indication of how the Blue Jackets actually played. It was 6-1 at one point early in the third period. 

It's pretty evident that the higher-ups in the organization are falling in support behind general manager Scott Howson -- you don't let the guy make trades, otherwise -- and it's pretty clear that Howson supports Arniel. Fine, whatever.

We're just saying: Is acquiring a struggling piece from Pittsburgh and a borderline NHLer from St. Louis really what needs to be done here? Gonna go out on a limb and say probably not.

/whistles

/taps impatiently

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Morning Skate is a daily NHL column. It runs Monday through Friday. Check the archives.

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