What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. This blog will be different from the norm, as while I’m talking about two ex-Rangers in Cam Talbot & John Scott, I’m not talking about the New York Rangers here. Stay tuned for Monday’s blog – “Make the Rangers Great Again – What I Would Do If I Was Owner For a Day!”
When you boil it all down, the NHL All Star game may have just a bit of more integrity than the NFL Pro Bowl. When it comes to the four major sports, the Pro Bowl is hands down the worst All-Star game in all of sports. By the time the Pro Bowl is played, the NFL season is over (Or in recent years, played the week before the Superbowl) and no one is going to play hard. Football is a rough enough game as it is and no one is risking injury, especially in a sport where unless you’re a franchise guy, you don’t receive guaranteed money. Do you think any impending free agent really gives a shit about the Pro Bowl? There’s a reason why it’s called the Not For Long league.
For my money, the NBA All Star game is the most entertaining of the four major All Star games. Nobody watches basketball for defense and there is never any defense played in those games. It’s just the way the sport of basketball is designed. If you don’t play defense in hockey, your goalie is going to look silly. If you don’t play defense in baseball, your pitchers take a beating. If you don’t play defense in football, those specific players look bad. In basketball, you can allow the fast break for the slam dunk because everyone forgets that you didn’t play any defense when you rush up the court on the next possession and do the same thing.
When you think of the great basketball players of all time, rarely are guys known for their defense at the top of the list. Michael Jordan may be the best player ever, but no one mentions his defense. Dennis Rodman was one of the best defenders of all time, but no one will have him on a Top 10, 20, or even 50 list. With the way the NBA is now, offense gets you to the NBA championship, and whoever can make a stop or two in the NBA Finals wins the whole thing.
Hockey, football and baseball players pride themselves on their defense. Winning a Norris or a Gold Glove is a little more prestigious than being part of the All NBA Defense First Team. Basketball is just sexier to watch on TV with guys bombing 50′ 3 point shots and slam dunking. It’s just why that All Star game really works, as opposed to the other three.
The most traditional All-Star game of the four sports is the MLB All Star game. It is definitely a better watch than the NHL ASG or the Pro Bowl. The pitchers try, the batters try and the fielders (defense) run to make plays. Making a great play on defense, like robbing a home run or making a deep throw from short is something those players want and try to do. In the NHL ASG of late, before the 3 vs 3 format, you had guys laughing during a video game 17-12 score.
MLB and NFL teams field a ton of players, so while there are snubs, the teams are usually well represented. The NBA usually does a good job of getting it right as well. You can’t please everyone, but for the most part, the majority of fans are happy.
However, when I looked at this years NHL All Star Game and the snubs, it was just sickening. Many great players missed the cut because of the “every team has to be represented” rule. While most hockey players probably could care less about the ASG and rather the time off with their families, it is a nice thing to have attached to your name/trading card. However, when I saw Mike Smith made the ASG, I thought this was shades of Senator’s goalie, Peter Sidorkiewicz making the ASG in the 1992-1993 season with a record of 4-32-3. Ok, maybe Smith isn’t that bad, but you will get the point as I continue!
The always changing NHL All Star game adopted a new format last year. The NHL All Star game first saw its roots as a charity game to raise money for Maple Leaf Ace Bailey, who was forced to retire after what was reported to be a dirty hit, from Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins. In what made headlines at the time, in 1934, Bailey presented Shore with his All Star jersey, showing that he had forgiven Shore. Bailey enjoyed the game and hoped for it to be an annual tradition. However, the NHL ignored the fans who loved the idea of this type of game and the players who enjoyed playing in it.
The All Star game would be brought back as a way to raise money for a fallen player in 1937. Montreal Canadien Howie Morenz received a game after being hospitalized by a big hit by Blackhawk Earl Seibert. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the same happy ending that Bailey did. (Bailey died at 88 years old in 1992, nearly 60 years after his game.) Morenz died before the game took place, as he died of a heart attack, not related to the broken leg injury he received from Seibert.
After a year off, the All Star game returned in 1939, as a fundraiser for the family of former MVP, Babe Siebert, then to be the future coach of the Montreal Canadiens, who drowned earlier that year in a freak accident. Of note, Seibert won a Cup with the Rangers in 1933. That’s one more Cup than Henrik Lundqvist has ever won!
These three charity/fundraiser games were a hit and raised a lot of money at the gate. This was before the era of TV and huge contracts, and these games raised the equivalent of low 6 figures in today’s currency. The NHL, who are probably their own worst enemy when it comes to marketing the sport in America, didn’t have an official All Star game until the 1947-1948 season.
Where the Pro Bowl since the merger has been AFC vs NFC, the MLB presenting the AL vs the NL and the NBA highlighting the East vs the West, the NHL has changed the format of their All Star game multiple times.
When the ASG started officially in 1948, it featured the Stanley Cup champs against the best players from the other Original 6 teams. That format lasted until 1967, when the league expanded. During this time, most of the games were Toronto or Montreal hosting the other All Stars.
The league would try different All Star game formats as the league expanded. East vs West games, a game between the Wales & Campbell Conferences, games featuring North America (US & Canada) vs the World (Everyone else), a “Fantasy” type of game, where two captains would pick teams like you would do in a school yard, to the current incarnation of a 3 vs 3 tournament.
While the format of the All Star Game may have changed there have always been two constants. The best players play in the game and the fans get what they want. Sure, the stuff with John Scott negates the first part of this, but the fans got what they want and at the end of the day, it is the fans that watch & pay for the product. That’s what’s lost by the NHL and that is what is most important!
Let me preface this with this: fans care more about the All Star Game than the majority of players do. Sure, the players are happy with the nod and will have a good time there. However, it is the fans that go nuts about who made it and who didn’t make it. Most players are just happy to have the weekend off!
While I thought the John Scott controversy was great for the league last year (More on him and his book at the end of this blog), this year’s ASG has been dissected from all parts of the NHL fanbase. Jonathan Toews made the game, despite having a bad season for him. His teammates, Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa & Artemi Panarin have all been superior than Toews this season. Rumor has it, Toews got the nod from the NHL because they want to honor him during the NHL 100 ceremony. Four Blackhawks made the game this year and nothing against the guys who made it, it is a joke that Toews made this game and Toews has even said so himself.
Other snubs for this game, includes Cam Atkinson from CBJ, the team that tied the record for most consecutive wins in a season. Jakub Voracek was omitted. Ditto David Pastrnak, Mark Scheifele, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dustin Byfuglien, Phil Kessel (Didn’t we learn anything from the World Cup?), Alec Martinez, Ryan Getzlaf and Dougie Hamilton. You could also make a case for the Rangers Michael Grabner.
To me, the biggest snub of them all was Cam Talbot. For starters, check out the stats of the Pacific Division goalies: (Credit Fox Sports for the stats/table)
|Goals Allowed||Shoot Out|
Talbot has played more games than any other Pacific division goalie, has the most saves, the best save percentage, the most wins and has four shutouts to boot. He has his team sitting in first place (To be fair, other teams have games in hand) and has completely turned around the fortunes of a perennial NHL doormat. Does McDavid and the young guns, like Draisaitl & Maroon help? Of course. However, you have the hockey media in Edmonton, where hockey is taken a lot more seriously than the Rangers are taken here in NY, praise Talbot as the first time Edmonton has had a true starter since the days of Fuhr and CuJo.
Ever since Dwayne Roloson got hurt in the Stanley Cup Finals over a decade ago, it’s been a long struggle for Edmonton and their rotating door of goalies. Some had better runs than others. However, the Oilers are the talk of the league again and while McDavid will get the headlines and posters, make no mistake about it, Cam Talbot has that team in every game he plays.
Every team needs a representative? I get it, but it is so lame and rewards undeserving guys. I rather see John Scott play again this year representing the Coyotes!
Seriously, the Coyotes are a JOKE. Another black mark on the long list of Bettman mistakes. Do you think one fan gives a shit if a Coyote is in the ASG?
Mike Smith has not been great this season, he is going to the game by default. When your top scorer is Radim Vrbata, who leads the team with 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points, with a nice plus/minus of -14, you know it’s another “Phailure” in Phoenix.
20 year Coyote Shane Doan is having a blah season, but so is the rest of the team. If you’re not going to send Vrbata, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson would’ve been better suited.
When you are putting players in the game because of name value (Toews) and putting in guys who don’t belong (Smith), it is unfair guys to Talbot & the others who really deserve the spot. Who knows, this might’ve been their only chance to have been an NHL All Star, something players like to rib each other about. Hopefully for Talbot and the others, they will make a strong case two years from now, as the NHL All Star Game will not be played next year, due to the Olympics. Yes – an NHL All Star Game, a revenue generator, gets canceled every four years because of the Olympics. Here’s a thought – play the ASG at a different point of the year then!
I’m just a hockey fan who likes to vent and share my opinions with anyone who cares to read. I don’t know how Cam Talbot feels about the snub, nor would I expect him to tell me, “Yea it blows man.” For Talbot, this 2016-2017 season is the best season of his life. Just think, before the season started, he won the IIHF Gold for Team Canada, even posting a shutout in the final game. For more on that game and tournament, check out my blog from May 2016:
King Cam Talbot & Team Canada Win the Gold, The Future of the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers Failures Under Senile Sather & What Lies Ahead, Ex-Rangers Shining in the Playoffs, Shawn Michaels & The HBK Line and Much Love For Canada!
After winning the Gold for his country, Talbot entered the first year of his first big/life changing money contract. While he started slow in his new digs last season, by this time last year, Talbot figured it out and became one of the better goalies in the league.
Talbot has just been amazing this season. He’s won multiple NHL player of the week awards, none better than the first star of the week he received on 10/24.
FIRST STAR – CAM TALBOT, G, EDMONTON OILERS
Talbot went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average, .970 save percentage and one shutout to pace all goaltenders in wins and guide the Oilers (5-1-0, 10 points) to the top of the NHL’s standings, highlighted by their best six-game start since 1985-86 (also 5‑1‑0). He recorded 31 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Oct. 18 and 34 stops in a 3-1 triumph over the St. Louis Blues Oct. 20, one day after becoming the father of twins. Talbot capped the week with a flawless performance in a 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets in the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic Oct. 23, becoming the third goaltender in League history to post a shutout in a regular-season outdoor game (31 SV). The 29-year-old Caledonia, Ontario, native owns a 59-43-10 record in 119 career NHL appearances (2.29 GAA, .924 SV%, 12 SO), including a 5-1-0 clip this season (2.75 GAA, .919 SV%, 1 SO).
While Talbot is having the best season of his career professionally, he also became a father of twins during this week. Both professionally and personally, Talbot is having a “Disney Year” (In the NHL, that’s called a “John Scott” year!)
I’m mot that much shocked about the NHL ignoring Talbot. After all, the NHL still hasn’t figured out how to market the “GOALBUSTER”. The people in the NHL marketing department really have no clue how to promote, draw interest and draw new fans. This is the same league that doesn’t feature the Oilers on NBC at all this season, despite having perhaps the second best player in the league and a stud in Connor McDavid. The NHL would essentially like to promote Nickelback rather than showing Elvis singing with Jesus Christ. It’s just mind-boggling.
The Oilers don’t get the most eyeballs, but neither do the Coyotes. Arbitrarily selecting Mike Smith over Talbot just makes it look like the NHL was picking names out of a hat to fill a quota. Talbot’s stats and performances speak for themselves. He is an All-Star.
When you compare the stats, the teams and the performances of the men themselves, Cam Talbot should be heading to LA for the ASG, not Mike Smith. I am sure Talbot won’t mind too much, as he will get some time off to spend with his new children. However, when Mike Smith gets on the ice on Sunday, Edmonton Oiler fans & Talbot Nation will just shake their heads at this farce. While Talbot was easily the biggest snub, especially when you consider who is going to the game instead of him, it will be Mike Smith watching Talbot in the playoffs.
Speaking of the NHL All Star game, the 2016 All Star game is one that most fans will never forget. I can go on and on about Gary Bettman and in fact, I reviewed a book on this blog that slammed him – “Instigator” by Jonathon Gatehouse. This is the same commissioner that locked the league out three times, created ill-will with the Greatest player to ever play in Wayne Gretzky and has been the subject of fan vitriol for most of his tenure.
“A Guy Like Me”, John Scott’s autobiography, details the 2016 All Star Game from start to finish. While most fans will pick up this book because they want to get more than a “Players Tribune” article from John Scott, Scott does a great job sharing his life stories and what made him into the man he is today.
Before the 2016 NHL All Star game, John Scott to me, was just a former Ranger who didn’t fit in well with John Tortorella. After reading this book, he becomes a guy you’d like to have a beer with and shoot the shit with.
Scott talks about his family life, the darkest moment of his life (A DWI that landed him in jail), how he got into the NHL and all his stops in the NHL. You get from Scott that he wishes he could’ve stayed in the Chicago Blackhawks organization for the duration of his career. They won a Cup before he got there and after he left there. While it seems Scott enjoyed his first days in the Wild organization and later with San Jose Sharks, it seems Scott really appreciated playing in Chicago. He would go on to bring up Chicago a few times after his days playing there in the book.
Scott doesn’t really bury anyone in the book outside of John Tortorella. Tortorella is always going to be one of those guys that you either love or hate, with no middle. Personally, as a fan, I like Torts. I thought he was/is a good coach. He does a lot of charity that isn’t publicized. To hear that he is skipping this year’s ASG to be with his sick dog is just heart-breaking. As someone who has four pets myself, I get that bond between a human and an animal. I’m genuinely sad to hear about Torts and his dog right now.
However, Scott played for Torts and talks about why he didn’t get along with Torts. You can read the book yourself for the story, but in essence, it seems that Senile Sather struck again and made a trade that Torts didn’t even know about. Scott would just never fit in with Torts and a comment in the locker room sealed Scott’s fate with the Rangers.
Scott talked about all his stops in the NHL and while it seemed he enjoyed playing for his favorite team growing up with the Sabres, he seemed to really enjoy life in San Jose. It made me appreciate what Brent Burns did for him at the ASG.
Scott talks about all the big time players he played with in the NHL and what they were like away from the rink. Scott tells funny drinking and gambling stories as well.
Of course, the meat and potatoes of this book is the 2016 ASG. What the NHL and Bettman could never realize is that this is a game for the fans. The fans wanted to see him. Despite trying to be thwarted every which way (and really, the ARZ to MTL trade pretty much ended Scott’s career) Scott would not let down the fans. Again, this is the thickheaded NHL marketing department. Instead of running with this story as something huge, the NHL came off like villains, which is going to make for a great movie one day. And it will be a movie, as Scott talks about in his book. Scott also details the famous author who will be writing the script.
Scott also details his life away from the rink, such as his college days, how he met his wife, the birth of his children and what he hopes for the future. I don’t know how many times I can say this in one blog entry, but again how dumb is the NHL? Maybe it’s the pro wrestling background in me, but to not give Scott a TV job is silly. You got a name that everyone knows, even people who don’t watch hockey.
Here in NY, the NHL rarely gets back pages. Many cities in America ignore hockey for the other sports. However, when Scott was the MVP of the ASG, it was on the back page of every sports page in America. For a sport trying to get bigger in America, this is great news. Instead of capitalizing on this, the NHL tucked Scott in the coldest area of Quebec and tried to pretend it never happened. With current TV ratings not great, why not give Scott a talking head job? I mean, who would you rather see between the benches, Pierre McGuire or John Scott? Even if you had to create a TV segment for him, why not? Try to capitalize on that fame.
When you finish Scott’s book, you get that he is an articulate guy and is well spoken. Many, like me, have read his “Player Tribune” columns. I enjoyed his articles, his book and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.
You can find Scott’s book on Amazon.com or by going here directly: https://www.amazon.com/Guy-Like-Me-Fighting-Make/dp/1501159615
Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll be back either Monday or Tuesday with my “Make the Rangers Great Again” blog. It will be a doozy. Until then, enjoy this sports weekend of Bellator, UFC, Pro Bowl, NHL ASG and of course, the WWE Royal Rumble!
Let’s Go Rangers!
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