Selection process the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NHL's All-Star issues

Justin Cuthbert and Julian MccKenzie discuss all that ails the NHL's All-Star selection process after another disappointing unveiling last week.

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: And it was the week for All-Star rosters to be revealed. But instead of-- it's been a bit of an All-Star stir, we'll call it, with what is a pretty disappointing but also predictably disappointing roster announcement. We have some of the NHL's best players. But really, this is a collection of some really good players that may or may not be the best in the world.

Among notable omissions, we've got Brad Marchand, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Nazem Kadri, top five scorer in the league, William Nylander, Trevor Zegras, who pulled off the most exciting goal of the year probably and has the personality to match, Troy Terry, Igor Shesterkin. I mean, a lot of players that should be there that I think fans and broadcasting partners would like to be there aren't there.

So do you care? Does this bother you? What's your take on the All-Star stir?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: So there's no young stars game, right? Because that would have just been an easy place to have guys like Trevor Zegras there, for one.


JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, there's no young stars game. So that's very disappointing. Two, it's just so weird to me that a guy like Nazem Kadri, who's top five in scoring and deserves to be there, is not there. It's also weird that Sidney Crosby--

We were talking about all these people who got snubbed, like a Nazem Kadri or Nathan MacKinnon. Obviously talking about him as well, and Trevor Zegras and all these other players. And we kind of just considered Sidney Crosby being left off as an afterthought. It's like, oh, yeah, right, Sidney Crosby is not there. It's so weird that the NHL All-Star game, as it is, this year in particular, it's turned into this event where it's like, this guy's not here?

We're talking more about the people who are not going to be there, which is funny because in years past, the conversation about it was, oh, well, this guy is "injured," and they don't want to play. And I think I brought this up to Omar on Twitter. This is the unique year where we have players who are doing everything they can to not go to the All-Star game just because, for whatever reason, they don't want to be there, on top of the fact that there are guys there who probably should be there, and we're having a conversation about that.

And it's led to discussions about voting and just the event itself. And Pierre LeBrun actually made the point too on Twitter. Why are we having it amidst COVID and with how the season is going? I thought about this. Could you imagine if the NHL All-Star game goes down, and the festivities in Vegas go down, and an outbreak comes out? Do you know how much that would mess up the whole year?

We're not even at the halfway point of the year. And there's a possibility with the All-Star game. And not to kind of put that fear in people's minds. But could you imagine how embarrassing that would be if an outbreak came from that? I have a lot of thoughts on this. It's just a bit of a weird event. But the jerseys look nice.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: You like the jerseys?


JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I could believe how basic. They're so basic.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Here's the thing about the jerseys. If you look back at some of the previous ones they've had, like the St. Louis ones that they had, they've had some bad-- they've had some bad ones. I welcome the basicness of this one, because it's just totally like, you know what? The NHL was wilding out the last how many years. And they said, you know what? Let's calm down. Let's just get something basic and good and just go with that, because I can't handle another year where you look at the NHL All-Star jerseys, and you're like, wow, the AHL did better than you again. I can't have that again.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, I won't fight you on that. I mean, they're kind of simple and a little bit surprisingly simple, given Vegas and the amount of time that they've actually had to think about the next All-Star jersey, since we haven't had an All-Star game since, I believe, 2019 in San Jose. It's been a while. So I guess that would be three years.


JUSTIN CUTHBERT: A couple of things. Pierre LeBrun, love Peter, a little disingenuous though, that tweet, I think. I mean, he's wondering out loud why. He knows why, money. We know exactly why. He knows why. Come on, he knows why. It's money. It's ESPN. There's a lot of reasons why.

But you're right. It would be a complete disaster. And if it's an All-Star game in Vegas, there should be a lot of mixing and mingling. There should be a lot of chances for exposure. If they do it right, if this is what it should be, an All-Star game in Vegas with everybody there partying and enjoying themselves and actually a break after, this should be a very enjoyable experience for players.

And yet, they don't want to go. Now, do I think they don't want to go because they're worried about potentially getting exposed, missing time? No. I don't even know what it is.

But I do look at Brad Marchand. And Brad Marchand is the number one on the snub list. He's not a snub. He doesn't want to go. There's no chance that Brad Marchand was passed over not only for the team but also passed over for the last man in vote. He decided he didn't want to go. So I think that's one of the issues here.

I don't know if Sidney Crosby didn't want to go. But I think there's a lot of players that didn't want to go. And them recusing themselves from the game, it leads to the hysteria over, look how bad these teams are, look how terrible these selections are. I think that's a big thing that you've got to consider is that a lot of players didn't want to go. And we don't know who wants to go.

They should just make it public knowledge so that we're not all over them for not picking good teams. I think that's part of the reason why they are where they are. Nazem Kadri though, I think he does want to go. There's a lot of players that do want to go that weren't selected. It is interesting--



JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh, sorry, my bad. I keep cutting you off. I was just going to say that if you think that Brad Marchand is-- I have a hard time thinking that Brad Marchand doesn't want to go because his reasons are just, I just don't want to go.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Here's my theory.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: --doesn't think the same thing. I think--

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Here's my theory on Brad Marchand. Here's my theory on Brad Marchand. He is not happy about the Olympics. So he's not going to play the game. He's not going because he doesn't want to play the NHL's game and be a sheep or whatever, because he's the one that's most upset about the NHL not going to the Olympics.

If the NHL is, we're going to the Olympics, and they were taking that charter from Vegas to Beijing, I believe that Brad Marchand would be on that charter from Vegas to Beijing. I think that's a big thing.

What's interesting is a guy like Alex Ovechkin, who hates going to the All-Star games apparently, has recused himself from several, I think, is going, and is excited about it. So it's all about how you're feeling in the moment. I think Brad Marchand is a guy who loves the spotlight, but I think is a little bit miffed right now at the NHL and is like, hey, if you're not going to scratch my back, I'm not going to scratch yours.

So I think that's a lot to do with it is, like, everyone has their own thoughts on the situation right now. There's a lot of variables. There's the Olympics. There's COVID. There's how their seasons are going. There's the prospects of winning and putting their best foot forward with their club team. There's a lot of stuff that goes into it. And all of that and all the assumptions we have to make clouds our actual knowledge of what's happening and leaves us wondering why these teams ended up the way they were. I guess that's what I'm trying to say.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And we're all thinking about this for an All-Star game that, in the grand scheme of things, compared to so many other pro sports in North America, isn't that good. The only other one that it really is better than is the Pro Bowl. Let's be real.

And the NFL, for all the grand splendor that it has at getting everything right, the Pro Bowl seems to be the one boil on its face that it just can't remove. But the NHL All-Star Game is like one step above that. And they're well behind the NBA festivities and Major League Baseball's festivities.

Just for whatever reason, we haven't been able to figure out a way to make the NHL All-Star Game all that captivating, I find. Maybe ESPN changes it. But the fact that there are some notable snubs at this year's game does not help its case with making it an exciting and an enjoyable event.

I mean, I imagine if I was there, if I had the opportunity to be there-- I know you've gone. I might have more fun. But just watching it on TV, just, I don't have the same feel. I don't have the same excitement that I would watching the NBA All-Star Game or the NBA All-Star weekend or Major League Baseball with the Home Run Derby or even their All-Star game.

Just, for whatever reason, I don't have that same feeling of excitement for the NHL All-Star Game. So the fact that you're already going into it with guys missing, like Crosby and Marchand and Kadri, guys who should be there, who have done well this year, that's also not a good thing.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it matters that much. I think the personalities are the big thing. Like missing Brad Marchand in a game, like, I don't think that's a huge, huge deal. I think it could be entertaining or not entertaining, either way.

But I think it's about personalities. And this is my idea to fix it. There's no excuse for Trevor Zegras not to be there. He would want to be there, you would assume, right?


JUSTIN CUTHBERT: You're trying to showcase the next big talents and big personalities. He is, of course, one of them and would not be out of place at an All-Star Game. So I'm thinking SportsNet would definitely want him there. ESPN 100% would want him there. TNT, I actually don't know whether it's on TNT or ESPN. I think it's ESPN.

Either way, what I would do to fix this problem with the rosters is-- and it wouldn't fix anything, because the players have the option to go or not. But to make them better, just let the TV networks make the decisions on who's going to go. You don't have to actually pick it on merit, because it's not based on merit clearly, because you're taking one from every team. And you've got guys like Adam Pelech and Clayton Keller going to the game, who are clearly not all stars.

Pelech's a great player having-- I mean, imagine not a tremendous year, based on the fact that the Islanders are in the position they are.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: They had to pick somebody.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Never an All-Star unless he's the only player that's competent on his team, which is kind of the position that he's in right now.

But if you're going to have to have that participation thing-- and we can talk about what Nathan MacKinnon said. I think it is what it is. He says, it shouldn't be a participation thing. I agree with him. I don't think it should be a participation thing. I think it should be a TV network thing, where you're getting everyone that the TV networks want there there so you can boost their platform. That means a guy like Trevor Zegras would be playing a front and center role in this because the TV networks know that they can market this individual at this event.

It's not based on merit anyway. So stop pretending it's based on merit. Just let the TV networks decide who's going to go and who they want to tell stories of and feature at this All-Star Showcase. That would be my advice to at least sort of improve what is probably an irreparable situation, to be serious.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: You know what would be a fun thing to look at at this All-Star Game? You have two of the most exciting players going at it in a game, Trevor Zegras versus Jack Hughes. Jack Hughes is there. He got voted in. That's an easy storyline. That should be perfect.

And maybe for voting in the future, they do something similar, like what the NBA does, where they have a percentage of it to the fans, a percentage of it to the players, a percentage of it to a panel of media people as well. And that could be a way for the NHL to get the TV networks in, get people from ESPN or TNT and SportsNet and TSN, their biggest media partners in North America and maybe others from Europe too, if you want to put them in as well, to ensure that those guys are there. I think that's how you have to kind of think about it going forward.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah. And I think you nailed it with the NBA having, obviously, the standard in terms of these All-Star showcase weekends. What do they have? They do have a young stars game. And I think that would be great, a young star game where you could just see 10 people in the Calder Trophy race playing a quick three-on-three game.

Now, it's not the year to invite more people than needs to be there to Vegas, I don't think. But that's something you could do. And a guy like Zegras would be perfect for one other idea I have, which is like, a breakaway trick challenge or whatever against someone like Pavel Barber or another famous-- I guess hockey celebrity is not the correct word, but someone who's known online for their hockey skills and is routinely called on to do events like this.

You could have Pavel Barber versus Trevor Zegras against a non-NHL goalie, because you know an NHL goalie doesn't want to get embarrassed by these two. But just have civilian versus Zegras in a, like, 10-shot shootout, where they're just doing all these incredible things and scoring goals on what would just be basically a goaltender that's just in the net to be in the net.

That would be cool. And it would fit the personality of Zegras, who would relish the opportunity to have a moment where he can get his face out there a little bit more and have some screen time. They just have to pick the right people for the situation.

Just trying to get an All-Star from every team and not putting into account that these guys have and don't have personalities is not the way to do it. You've got to get the people who actually want to be there and can add something to these events. And I feel like they missed the mark on pretty much every level with this one.

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