Tom Poti

All-Star Farce

by Adam Raider

We’re proud of quiet man Tom Poti. The Blueshirt blueliner will never win acclaim for his defensive prowess, but the kid sure can score.

Reminds you a bit of Reijo Ruotsalainen, no?

When it was determined that Brian Leetch would not participate in this year’s NHL All-Star Game, Poti seemed a logical substitute. Frankly, we were relieved that No. 2 decided to sit this one out.

It’s been a hit-or-miss proposition since fan voting determined the starters at the All-Star Game. It’s a nice gesture by the league, but sadly, invites some reckless ballot-stuffing.

Case in point: Leetch was named a starter for the Eastern Conference squad despite being sidelined since early December with an ankle injury. It marked the fifth time in his career that the defenseman, now in his 16th season, had been so honored.

The NHL relies on a fan vote to determine the 12 starters, with the league’s hockey operations department naming the reserves. Former Ranger Alexei Kovalev (Penguins) was added to the Eastern squad while Mathieu Schneider (Kings) and Doug Weight (Blues) skated for the West.

All-Star Games were created with the fan in mind and voting of any sort is influenced by name recognition. Leetch is one of the biggest names in hockey, one of the best at his position from an historical perspective. Indeed, if he re-signs with the team this summer, he could one day retire as the Rangers’ all-time scoring leader.

But the knowledgeable Blueshirt fan would have preferred to see Leetch given the All-Star nod on the basis of merit. Loyalties notwithstanding, anyone who feels otherwise is doing a disservice to the game.

The best (and most fair) remedy suggested so far would have fans vote for the 12 starters after the squads had been assembled by a panel of general managers. It doesn’t guarantee that a deserving player won’t be omitted, because even GMs make mistakes (Glen Sather traded Mike York, didn’t he?), but it would certainly narrow the margin for error.

EX-RANGER REPORT

Tony Amonte (1991-94) signed with the Phoenix Coyotes because he thought the warm, dry desert air would be good for him. A four-year deal worth $24 million might have had something to do with it too, but who’s counting?

Managing partner Wayne Gretzky (1996-99) and GM Mike Barnett lured the winger to Phoenix to give the surging ‘Yotes a proven 40-goal scorer and a star to illuminate their new arena in Glendale, scheduled to open in December.

Next to the Sharks, Amonte and the Coyotes have been the biggest disappointment in the Western Conference this year.

Having topped the 30-goal mark on eight occasions and 40 goals three times, Amonte is on pace for only 20 this year. That would be his lowest goal total since the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.

To make matters worse, he suffered a rib injury and had to sit out a Jan. 11 game against the Nashville Predators, ending the NHL’s iron man streak at 453 games. He had not missed a regular season game since 1996-97.

And while he may have trouble finding the back of the net, Blackhawks winger Theo Fleury (1999-02) has shown he can still find new ways to screw up. His much-publicized altercation with bouncers at a Columbus strip club last month resulted in some internal reprimand but may not have gone far enough in setting the troubled NHLer straight.

Had Fleury, who missed 25 games due to a league-mandated suspension for substance abuse, been discovered intoxicated at home, alone, then we’d be inclined to enter a plea for leniency on his behalf.

But a drunken brawl at a strip joint? One might as well Scotch tape a “Suspend Me” sign to his forehead.

But Fleury, allegedly accompanied by teammates/enablers Phil Housley and rookie Tyler Arnason, is still in the Hawks lineup. He’s conned Chicago brass and, apparently, his aftercare physicians in much the same way he conned Columbus police into not arresting him.

MEDIA WATCH

We hear that Journal News writer Rick Carpiniello, who has covered the Rangers for the last 20 years, has given up the hockey beat to become a columnist. The author of several books about the Rangers, including MESSIER: HOCKEY’S DRAGON SLAYER, Carpiniello is more than just a good journalist. He’s a class act.

Responsible but never boring, and able to deliver the scoop without stooping to sensationalism, Carp’s style should set the standard. He’s still writing about the NYR, of course, and his columns are posted at nyjournalnews.com.

Check out Carp’s latest piece about Sather, the Trottier firing, and the morass into which Rangers management has fallen.

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