July 03 2013 10:27AM
Taylor Hall was not named to one of the two NHL All-Star teams when they were announced earlier today. It’s easy to understand, given that the two players named were Chris Kunitz and Alexander Ovechkin, and that’s pretty stiff competition.
Or at least, that would be easy to understand, except that Alex Ovechkin was also a first-team all-star at right wing.
You Can’t Make This Up
Email to PHWA voters in April: "If you intend to vote for Alex Ovechkin, please note that he has been playing RIGHT WING wing this season."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 3, 2013
The Professional Hockey Writers Association has already taken some heat over their management of various NHL awards, thanks to baffling voting decisions and an opaque process. And while the decision-making has occasionally been laughable, they’ve never been so painfully stupid as to name the same player at different positions to both teams.
And painfully stupid it was.
Ovechkin played right wing all season. This is not only something that, in The Hockey News' Ken Campbeel's words "one iota of research would have revealed," but it's something the PHWA actually emailed its membership about. All of the voters on NHL awards got an email, telling them that Ovechkin had played right wing, and somehow enough of them disregarded it to make Ovechkin the consensus choice as the second-best left wing in the NHL.
A Broken Process
There is no way to defend this. There have been a few tepid suggestions that perhaps right and left wing should be abolished, and voters should just choose wingers, and while that would prevent such an astonishing debacle from happening again (at least, until somebody else gets votes at centre and wing, and we need to abolish "centre" as a distinct position as well) it doesn't solve the basic, underlying problem.
What's the basic, underlying problem? Rank incompetence by the rank and file of the PHWA, incompetence that gets hidden behind closed doors because the voting process isn't exposed to the public eye.
Voting for Ovechkin as a left wing requires a basic ignorance of the NHL game. I barely watched the Eastern Conference this year, but I was fully aware of Ovechkin playing right wing - without needing an email from the PHWA - because it was a major story in the Capitals season. Ovechkin's move to right wing was highly controversial, and tied directly to Adam Oates' work as a rookie head coach.
TSN's Bob McKenzie put it this way:
If you didn't know Ovechkin played RW this season, or didn't pick up the phone to find out, you really shouldn't be voting for awards.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 3, 2013
That's the problem. We can sweep this under the rug and eliminate left/right wing differentiation. But the problem is that there is at least a sizable minority - big enough to vote Ovechkin in at left wing (just over one-quarter of all PHWA voters, as it turns out) - voting on NHL Awards who have no business doing so. And there's no way to know who, because the PHWA shields the incompetence of its worst members by hiding the voting process.
Sorry, Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall had an incredible season on a very poor team, and was a deserving choice for his first-ever All-Star nod. It didn't happen, and he can thank the media. Also, seeing as he's still eligible for entry-level bonuses, the possibility exists that this didn't just cause irritation; it may also have cost him money.
Update: Fortunately for Hall, it didn't.
Told that Taylor Hall hit all his exhibit A and B bonuses anyway. All-Star vote didn't cost him any money.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) July 3, 2013
Update 2: Or maybe it actually cost him $50,000.
Correction. Hall hit all Exhibit A and B bonuses paid by Club. $50K All-Star is paid by the league. According to CBA, no limit on those.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) July 3, 2013