The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/19/12 at 04:06 PM ET
For someone who claims to not care about the All-Star Game, ESPN’s Scott Burnside joined the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren by launching into a scathing criticism of the NHL’s decision to allow Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne to skip the All-Star weekend…
I applauded commissioner Gary Bettman’s strong stance at the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal, when Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom declined to show up for the proceedings after they’d been selected to participate. Bettman had previously told his GMs that he didn’t want guys pulling the plug after they’d been chosen and that if players were bowing out using the injury card, they wouldn’t be able to play in the first game back after the All-Star break. So, in effect, Lidstrom and Datsyuk were suspended for a game after the ’09 break. The Wings hated it and it was a tough call given the long years of dedicated service Lidstrom had put in on behalf of the Wings and the league.
Now, though, that hard stance has apparently fallen by the wayside in favor of the “wink, wink” strategy for avoiding the game. Lidstrom and Hall of Fame-bound Anaheim winger Teemu Selanne, among others, deserved to be in Ottawa and should have been there based on a host of factors, including their All-Star caliber of play this season. But sources have told ESPN.com those players let the league know they’d prefer not to go—heck, Selanne came out publicly saying he wanted a break—and so Corey Perry will go essentially on behalf of Selanne, even though Selanne, as captain, would have been a nice bookend to Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson’s captaincy of one of the All-Star teams. Lidstrom, a captain a year ago in Raleigh, is having another Norris-caliber season but won’t be in Ottawa. If you’re going to have the event, and it’s going to mean anything at all, this turn of events is a definite step back and is a slap in the face for the fans who are, after all, paying the freight. They have been cheated out of a chance to celebrate the appearance of two future Hall of Famers in perhaps their final year of play. And the absence of players such as Selanne and Lidstrom is a slap in the face to the players who will show up in Ottawa but would rather be somewhere else. Like many things, it’s all about consistency, or in the case of the All-Star Game, a lack thereof.
But we have an explanation as to why the NHL changed its stance via the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston: Rob Blake took care of the invites on behalf of the NHL’s Hockey Operations department, and it was Blake who chose to allow Lidstrom and Selanne To go unpenalized for skipping the game:
Two other notable omissions earned a free pass from the league. Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom and Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne—a pair of 41-year-olds possibly in their final NHL season—each asked to be given some time off.
Blake was more than comfortable obliging those requests.
“There’s only a few (players) each year that have earned that right and those two guys have definitely represented the league a number of times and been outstanding players,” said Blake. “A lot goes into how they’re feeling for their run down the stretch. You obviously want them to be ready for their team especially—a guy like Nick Lidstrom is continuously in conference finals and Stanley Cup finals, the amount of games he plays. ...
“Those two guys have earned more respect from their years of service in the league.”
Update: Cue the, “Huh?” via Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon:
Of course, the respect they’ve earned is the reason fans who buy tickets to the All-Star Game want to see them. So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword for guys like Lidstrom and Selanne. They’re so well-liked that they’re constantly being pulled in opposite directions. And since they can’t be in two places at the same time, they’re bound to upset somebody and end up feeling guilty.
Meanwhile, disliked people get to stay home alone, watching TV like kings.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.