Getty ImagesAlex Ovechkin accomplished many great things in the 2012-13 NHL season: Leading the NHL in goals (32) and winning the Hart Trophy as the League’s most valuable player. But his most peculiar accomplishment arrived on Wednesday, as the NHL released the rosters for its annual All-Star Teams, as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Ovechkin was named first-team all-star right wing, the position where Washington Capitals Coach Adam Oates infamously shifted him after Ovechkin spent his entire NHL career on the left side. Oates had found similar success shifting Ilya Kovalchuk from left to right during his time as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. The experiment with Ovechkin paid off as well.
Yet despite the fact that Ovechkin was playing right wing during his offensive resurgence this season, the Capitals star was also named to the NHL all-star second team as its left wing.
Here are the 2013 NHL All-Star Teams
Did somebody at the PHWA miss a memo?
Actually, they probably did, and we have the memo to prove it.
On April 22, Kevin Allen, president of the PHWA, sent out a message to the organization’s voters warning them that for the purposes of All-Star voting, Alex Ovechkin should be considered a right wing this season.
“If you intend to vote for Alex Ovechkin in your All-Star ballot, please note that he has been playing RIGHT WING this season. Ignore what the NHL statistics say.
“We had similar problems last season, with whether players were RW, C or LW.
“People who have questions should contact the beat people for each team, so that we get things right.”
There have been a few issues in recent years with the NHL listing a player in one position but with that player having excelled in another position during the season. James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins was listed as a right wing and not a left wing last season; ditto Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, who listed as a winger rather than a center.
In both cases, the PHWA sent out a warning to its voters during balloting; a warning that, apparently, was ignored in the case of Ovechkin, who remains listed as a left wing by the NHL.
Here's the voting on right wingers:
So who got screwed by the PHWA’s double vote for Ovie?
Yep, Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers. As if Tyler Dellow didn’t already have enough reason to rail against the hockey writers.
For transparency's sake, my ballot for the 2013 All-Star teams.
NHL All-Star Team
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Marty St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
The word “transparency” has been heard plenty around the PHWA in the last month, as the call for all voters to reveal their votes has never been louder.
I plan on writing on this down the line, but know this: There’s a huge difference between a witch hunt to find out who game Patrick Kane two votes for the Selke and one to find out who thought Alex Ovechkin played left wing this season for the Washington Capitals. One is a trivial quibble that doesn’t mandate transparency, in my eyes; the other just cost Taylor Hall an all-star berth and whatever rewards come with it.
The former is a matter of preference, misguided as it is. The latter is just an embarrassment – either through laziness or assumption or because of the anomaly of the season's truncated conference-exclusive schedule, the second-team all-star selection was completely wrong.
Yes, the problem begins with bad information for the source: The NHL has Ovechkin listed as a left wing, so writers see his stats and list him as a left wing. But they're not just writers; they're hockey journalists, a.k.a. writers that should know better, especially when his shift to right wing was one of the biggest stories of the season.
To get it this wrong puts the faith of fans in this process, and the future of the writers’ voting on the postseason awards, at risk. I’m not a transparency guy per se, but I’m stunned and embarrassed that this happened, and want to know why.
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