January 30, 2011
After questioning a healthy sample of 318 NHL players, the NHLPA and CBC's Hockey Night in Canada have released one of those players' polls that always provide a few shocks, revelations and points of fervent debate.
For example: 66 percent of the respondents are in favor of keeping the instigator rule in place. From CBC Sports:
The belief has always been that the players would rather police themselves then live under the threat of a penalty. The argument goes that the cheap shots evident in the game are the result of players not having to stand up to an enforcer. Remember the days of anybody messing with Wayne Gretzky had to deal with Dave Semenko or Marty McSorley?
This is a dramatic change since the lockout. As recently as 2007, the players had supported abolishing the instigator rule in these types of polls. Our primary suspicion on this reversal: Fights after clean hits. They've increased in the last few years to the point of a mini-epidemic in the NHL, and the instigator at least offers a measure of recourse for the aggrieved -- even if referees don't always apply it properly in these instances.
But that wasn't the only surprise in the poll. Not by a long-shot.
Here are the results from each question. Visit CBC Sports for the full percentages and for the runners-up:
What team would you least like to play on? New York Islanders, 27%
What rink has the worst ice? BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, Fla. (Florida Panthers) 20%
What team would you most like to play on? Detroit Red Wings, 14%
What rink has the best ice? Rexall Place (Edmonton Oilers), 37%
What is your favourite rink to play in? Bell Centre (Montreal Canadiens), 40%
Which current assistant coach should be the next head coach? Kirk Muller (Canadiens), 9%
Which coach demands the most of his players? John Tortorella, New York Rangers, 28%
Which coach is the easiest to play for? Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals, 21%
Which coach would you most like to play for? Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins, 21%
Which coach would you least like to play for? Ron Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs, 21%
Should the instigator rule be abolished? No, 66%
Which Canadian city deserves an NHL franchise - Quebec City, Hamilton, Toronto or Winnipeg? Quebec City, 53%
Should fighting be banished from the NHL? No, 98%
Which rink has the worst boards/glass? Joe Louis Arena (Detroit Red Wings), 12%
Who is the best referee? None, 15%
Which team is underrated? Nashville Predators, 18%
Which team is overrated? Washington Capitals, 35%
Which active player would you select to start a franchise? Sidney Crosby, Penguins, 69%
Which active player is the best role model? Sidney Crosby, Penguins, 26%
Who is the toughest to play against? Sidney Crosby, Penguins, 29%
Who is the hardest to take the puck off of? Pavel Datsuyk, Red Wings, 36%
Who is the smartest player? Sidney Crosby, Penguins, 29%
Who is the league's fastest skater? Marian Gaborik, Rangers, 37%
A few thoughts on the results:
• There was an ESPN poll of 141 players released in Jan. 2007, and it's interesting to see how things have and haven't changed.
Derek Boogaard was named the second "toughest" player back then, behind Georges Laraque(notes). Crosby was the player with whom they'd start a franchise. (45%). Gaborik was the fastest skater then and now. Crosby was second to Rod The Bod in overall athleticism.
A couple of names that have fallen off the radar for players: Martin Brodeur(notes) was the "goalie you'd want to start Game 7 for your team) back in 2007; he didn't crack the top five toughest goalies in 2011. For coaches, Lindy Ruff won "best coach" with 41% of the vote in 2007; absent in 2011.
• As far a coaches go, the love for Dan Bylsma is immense. It's interesting to note that the coach who demands the most (Tortorella) and is the easiest to play for (Boudreau) both don't make the top five for "coach you most like to play for."
• CBC takes pains to note on its "best role model" question: "Interesting to note that has on-ice nemesis, Alex Ovechkin, did not get one mention in this list." CBC also notes in the "most difficult to stop" question: "The odd thing is that there are only four categories where Ovechkin is in the top five, and this is the only place where he is rated number one. On the other hand, Sidney Crosby gets mention in 10 separate categories and only once is he not in the top two." And on the other hand, there are actually a few other players in the League not named Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. Weird.
• For underrated player, it was interesting to see a few players who are considered complimentary to other stars on the team get their due. Eriksson is "Brad Richards' wing man" typically. Travis Zajac(notes) (3.5%) and Tomas Plekanec(notes) (3.1%) both play with explosive wingers.
• Beyond "none," Kelly Sutherland was named the top referee. Tim Peel somehow made the list. Stephen Walkom, it should be noted, did not.
• Guess fighting's safe from elimination, huh?
• The Verizon Center escapes a mention on the "worst ice" list. Interesting.
• The Capitals failing to live up to their hype and maintain the scoring stats they've had in previous years earns them "most overrated." Surprising, however, to see the Canucks (12%) ranked second. Reads like some catty "Mean Girls" snark from Western Conference rivals right there.
• Finally, now that Ron Wilson has been named the coach they'd least like to play for, will Nick Kypreos demand that all future player polls be eliminated out of concern for hurt feelings?