The interest in this year’s NHL all-star weekend was for all the wrong reasons.
Drafts are supposed to be about who is picked first — not last, yet that was the focus Friday night in the televised proceedings ahead of Sunday’s game. I give the league and the players credit for trying something different, but not at the expense of someone’s pride and reputation.
Make no mistake about it, Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs organization took a very big one for the league Friday night. I really felt for Kessel and the rest of the guys who sat there in the final few chairs, squirming to avoid being last. The $20,000 charity donation is always a great thing, but giving him a car is like giving a prize for most honest score at a golf scramble event.
I don’t think any player should have to go through that again. The label of “last player picked” is now something he will have to carry through his career. And when it comes to Kessel and the continuing debate about the trade that brought him to Toronto, the Leafs’ organization needed that like a hole in the head. As if the Leafs’ year wasn’t bad enough, add this cherry on top of the sundae.
I know some say no big deal, and to that I say you’re right if the last player was Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes or Paul Stastny from the Colorado Avalanche, but because it was a Leaf I say you’re wrong.
Toronto’s market can ill afford to take any more hits. Leaf fans already know where they stand on the scale of respectability, and a Leaf being picked last is another shot at a once-storied franchise. Watching Alex Ovechkin taking a cell phone picture as Patrick Kane announced “with the last pick,” you start to wonder how many around the league quietly enjoyed Kessel’s humiliation.
All may not be lost though. If the league’s motivation was for guys to actually push harder during the game, no one will have more to prove than No. 81 from the Toronto Maple Leafs.