Almost like clockwork the moment the NHL rolled out this year's all-star ballot (which fans can start voting on-line starting next week) there were instant cries of anguish over who was - and more to the point - who wasn't on the ballot.
Jay Bouwmeester - he of only five total points and 304th in NHL scoring - is on the ballot. So too is Shane Doan and Ryan Sutter (both of whom have three points each in granted shortened seasons so far for different reasons). Mark Streit of the Islanders will still be on IR by the time the All-Star game is played in Carolina, yet there he is on the ballot as well.
These additions to the ballot as well as others would seem comical at first based on the seasons they are having, but then you take into account the names left off the ballot and comical seems to turn into downright criminal. Patrick Sharp, Chris Stewart, Claude Giroux, Alexander Semin, Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky ... These are names just off the top of my head without looking at any kind of stats that I'm sure most would agree should have been given some kind of ballot consideration.
Of course we have neglected Dallas Stars Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro. I even saw some Stars fans on Twitter lament the omission of Jamie Benn. Sure Brenden Morrow, Brad Richards and Stephane Robidas are actually on the ballot and all are fine candidates for Stars fans to vote for, but with no option for fans to write-in votes (a privilege lost after that whole Rory Fitzpatrick debacle) the idea that someone like Loui may be completely left off the All-Star team despite having 75 goals over the last two seasons and again this year is top ten so far in league goal scoring has many Stars fans seeing red.
Thing is, we as fans shouldn't be surprised. If anything, maybe the NHL needs to be given credit for finally seeing the All-Star vote for what it is: A meaningless popularity contest for a meaningless exhibition game played at half the ability that the players actually possess and since the vote is nothing more than a popularity contest it's up to the NHL promotions people (or whoever it is that was in charge of writing up these ballots) to provide a list of names that would be familiar to not the hardcore hockey fan, but to the casual sports fan who has a general overall knowledge of the sport, but probably knows Bouwmeester more for his rather large contract than they do Robidas for his gritty, hard nosed play.
It's the same reason Marc-Andre Fleury and Antti Niemi are on the ballot. Forget that they've had sub-par seasons this year and forget that they aren't even really their team's full-time starters right now. Casual hockey fans know them as the last two goalies to help lead their team to a Stanley Cup, so they make the ballot while Kari Lehtonen who has arguably been the Stars MVP thus far is left off because some are still stunned he isn't out with an injury yet.
The best advice we can give? Try not to get too worked up about who is and isn't on these ballots and for now vote for the three Dallas Stars who are in fact listed.
It is just a popularity contest after all.