The NHLPA released its player poll on Wednesday, providing an always insightful look into the minds of those who “play the game.”
Over 500 players were surveyed for the poll, which took place between the preseason and early January during annual NHLPA team meetings. And for the most part, there weren’t too many surprises. But there were definitely a few interesting nuggets:
Crosby and McDavid get a lot of love
The two best players in the NHL are well regarded by their peers? Who would have thought!
Among the two, big brother got the better of little brother — all those extra years, Stanley Cups, Hart Trophies and scoring titles will do that.
These are the categories that Sidney Crosby earned the most votes: Most difficult to play against (forward and overall), best role model, best team player, the guy you’d want on your team if you needed to win one game and the player who’d one day make a great coach. He was also voted the third best forward of all time, behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Connor McDavid was second to Crosby for toughest forward to play against and the one player you’d want next to you in a do-or-die situation. But he was able to snag a few categories from Crosby, albeit obvious ones: fastest skater and the best player to build a franchise around.
Carey Price is good
When it comes to goalies who strike fear into the heart of the oppostion, there’s Carey Price and there’s everyone else.
The Canadiens netminder earned 41 percent of the vote for toughest goalie to score on. The next best was Jonathan Quick, who took home 12.1 percent of the vote.
Nightmares on D
Erik Karlsson (22.1%) was voted as the toughest defenceman to play against over Drew Doughty (20.4%) and Shea Weber (19.4%), but the vote was so close it’s hard to take a strong stance here.
Karlsson isn’t the best pure defenceman of the three but he is much harder to deal with when he has the puck on his stick, so maybe that was the difference here.
What’s interesting, though, is that Karlsson and Doughty placed behind Weber in voting for the toughest “player” to play against.
It turns out Wes McCauley is more than just a fan favourite. The boisterous official is hands down the No. 1 guy for the players as well, earning 47.8 percent of the vote — 30 percent more than second-place Kelly Sutherland.
Who knows how much of this is influenced by his calls on the mic versus his calls on the ice.
Best and worst barns
It’s no secret that players love playing in Montreal, and this poll confirms that.
The Bell Centre was picked as the players’ favourite place to play, while also being home to the best ice in the league. According to the players, Montreal also has the third-best fans in the league (18.8%), behind the Blackhawks (30.4%) and Predators (19.4%) and far ahead of the Maple Leafs (4.8%).
As for the worst ice in the league, the BB&T Center in Sunrise takes the cake with 16.8 percent of the vote. Entirely unsurprising, as is the fact that the other top vote-getters (Arizona, Anaheim, Carolina) are all from warm climates with the exception of Brooklyn.
Reaves is indeed a bad man
Ryan Reaves, to these eyes, is without a doubt the baddest man in the NHL. It turns out the players who have to go up against him agree, as he was voted the toughest player by a landslide. He earned 44.7% of the vote, while Milan Lucic was next best at 14.8%.
There’s not much debate over the best forwards of all time. It’s Wayne Gretzky and then Mario Lemieux, and that’s how the players voted. It’s a little less clear for defencemen.
GOATs, Vol. 2
Among defencemen, Bobby Orr was the clear No. 1 (61%) and Nicklas Lidstrom (29.1%) was second, which is not much of a shock. It’s a little surprising Lidstrom blew Ray Bourque (2.6%) out of the water, but that speaks more to the era current players grew up watching more than anything.
Much like forwards and defencemen, there’s a pretty obvious pool to choose from in goal: Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek. And that’s exactly how the voting shook out, which is neither much of a surprise or anything to get upset over.
What is surprising, however, is just how far back Hasek (13.6%) landed compared to Roy (39.3%) and Brodeur (33.2%). It must be the Stanley Cups, because all three played in the same era and Hasek has more Vezinas and better career numbers than the other two.
Who didn’t vote for McDavid?
As mentioned above, McDavid was the clear winner of the fastest skater vote. No offence to the other guys, but it’s hard to believe he only got 81 percent of the vote here.
Players don’t hate Mike Babcock
Despite what rumours you might come across on the Internet, Mike Babcock is still a draw for players around the league.
Every time a player decides he doesn’t want to play for the Leafs, Babcock takes a lot of blame. Chris Chelios said it, Mike Commodore clearly feels the same way, and when Mike Green and Valtteri Filppula refused to waive their NTCs for Toronto, it was apparently because of Babcock.
There’s probably some truth to that — not every coach gets along with every player. But according to this poll, Babcock is the fourth most desirable coach to play for behind Joel Quenneville, Jon Cooper and Gerard Gallant.
Players don’t always make the best GMs, and we have even more proof of that now.
Trailing those three? Jonathan Toews! That’s incredible, really. Just think of the bedlam that would occur if there was a league-wide re-draft and Jonathan Toews went fourth overall. Just goes to show how much players value the intangibles Toews brings to the rink every day.
The next bench boss
Steve Ott hasn’t even been behind the bench for a year and he’s already a top candidate for a head coaching job, according to the players.
Ott, who became an assistant in St. Louis last may, was tied for third in voting (5.1%) with Chicago’s Ulf Samuelsson, trailing Washington’s Todd Reirden (7.4%) and Toronto’s D.J. Smith (8.3%).
That’s quite the vote of confidence, especially considering how many players Ott must have pissed off over his career.
What even is underrated?
Can you even be considered underrated when you’re consistently voted the most underrated? Don’t you eventually graduate to properly rated?
In this year’s poll, Nicklas Backstrom was once again voted the NHL’s most underrated player. He also earned that distinction back in a 2015 Puck Daddy player poll.
It’s also kinda funny that Nikita Kucherov got a lot of votes here considering he’ll probably win the Hart.
Players like the point system
Despite all the digital ink spilled over the current point system in the NHL, the players are all for it. And it’s not even really close, as the yays beat the nays 77.7 to 22.3 percent.