All-Star snubs, Kelly vs. Bettman ... and what's up with the Pens?

January, 4, 2009
You could hear the collective whining from Beantown seconds after the NHL announced the All-Star starters Saturday.

No Bruins! Oh my God! What a travesty!

Puh-lease. Get a grip. Who cares?!

The All-Star Game is a joke, and any fan who gets hot and bothered over their players' not getting voted in as starters should seriously consider getting a life.

Of course it makes no sense that four Montreal Canadiens are among the six Eastern Conference starters. Of course Boston center Marc Savard should have made it ahead of Alexei Kovalev, while blueliner Zdeno Chara and goalie Tim Thomas also deserved recognition. Don't worry; at least two of them will be selected by the NHL when the rest of the lineups are filled out.

By far, the biggest oversight in fan voting was Alex Ovechkin. The Washington Capitals sniper should obviously be starting up front for the East alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

So be it.

Habs fans are excited about hosting the game and showed it at the ballot box. There's nothing wrong with that. Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching a game at the Bell Centre over the past few years knows it's the best building in hockey right now. They've got passionate fans.

Out West, the hockey revival in Chicago is on full display with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brian Campbell all voted on as starters by Blackhawks fans. That's terrific to see. Perhaps surprising is three Anaheim Ducks filling out the starting lineup with Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Not that they aren't deserving, but it shows you what a Stanley Cup championship can do sometimes for a so-so hockey market.

And that must be a tough pill to swallow for San Jose Sharks fans. Their team is the class of the West right now, and Evgeni Nabokov, Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau all deserved serious consideration for the starters. Instead, three Ducks got in.


But again, folks, it's just an All-Star Game. Snore ...

We're not the only one who has soured on the event. Even at the high levels of the NHL, there is serious concern about the All-Star Game. The Winter Classic is leaving the All-Star Game in its dust, and the folks at the NHL are hoping to find ways to keep the All-Star event interesting and relevant. Good luck.

Still, you can forget canceling it (too bad). Both the NHL and NHL Players' Association want the event to continue. In fact, we're told cities and teams are still lining up to host it. So it's here to stay.

Trade fit between Ottawa and Atlanta?
Maybe it's just us, but don't you think the Ottawa Senators and Atlanta Thrashers would be a good fit for a trade? Both GMs are on the hot seat. Ottawa wants a puck-moving defenseman and Atlanta has a few of those. The Thrashers want to upgrade at forward and the Sens have Antoine Vermette on the block.

We're hearing that there have been some talks between the two teams. To me, the obvious candidate to move from Atlanta is veteran Mathieu Schneider -- his $5.75 million salary is becoming more palatable with each passing day because the cap hit becomes lesser and lesser as the season goes on. Vermette's cap hit is $2.76 million, so if this thing ever gets serious, Atlanta would have to take on another Senators body. At this point, it's just speculation, but we can't help but believe there's a good fit there.

Kelly vs. Bettman
Last weekend, we told you about the bout between the NHLPA and NHL over the Premiere Games in Europe and that the games for next season were hanging by a thread. Well, there's a huge meeting Monday at the world juniors in Ottawa between NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to see if they can salvage this thing. Later in the day, Kelly and Bettman are also slated to meet with the IIHF and European hockey federations to try and negotiate a new player transfer agreement.

Gaborik's future
One last point from us on Marian Gaborik. Given that he's out until at least mid-March as he recovers from the hip surgery he'll have Monday, his trade value took a serious hit.

However, one NHL executive told us Saturday that perhaps the Wild could still move him to a team that's desperately trying to move a long-term salary. The theory is that some NHL GMs are feeling the heat from ownership to cut payroll moving forward because of the economic downturn. The trade would be apples for apples this season in terms of salary, but, obviously, Gaborik comes off the books after the season. Food for thought.

The struggling Penguins
What the heck is going on in Pittsburgh? The Penguins were embarrassed at home by the Panthers on Saturday. They've lost 10 of 14 and dropped to ninth in the East. Things are not well right now.

Some are questioning the chemistry in that room right now. After a loss Tuesday night against Boston, the Penguins had a players-only meeting and coach Michel Therrien raised eyebrows when he questioned the team's leadership, which some perceived as a shot against Crosby.

A few days later, Therrien said it wasn't directed at Crosby, but still, something doesn't seem right. Therrien is in the first season of a new three-year deal, so it seems hard to believe the organization would want to eat that. The pressure, therefore, is on GM Ray Shero to make some kind of trade. Easier said than done.

Olympic camps
Just a quick 2010 Olympic note for our puckheads. We are told the U.S. Olympic camp will be Aug. 16-20 in Chicago, while the Canadian Olympic camp will be Aug. 24-28 in Calgary. Vancouver 2010 is just around the corner!

Final thought ...
Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News wrote a great column in Saturday's edition addressing what's at stake right now for the Sabres. Read the story and then ponder just how big Saturday's 4-2 win at Boston was for Buffalo.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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