The NHL’s Players’ Association released its annual Player Poll yesterday. If you are not familiar with the poll, it asks NHL players a wide variety of NHL related questions, ranging from the best forward to the best trash talker. This year, the survey questioned almost 600 players, and their responses provide both valuable insight into the league and some lighthearted content to remind us fans that players are people like the rest of us.
Connor McDavid vs. Sidney Crosby
It turns out that just as many NHL players are as amazed by Connor McDavid as fans — 68.35% of players (380 of 556 votes cast) view him as the best forward in the NHL. This is not surprising, as he has won two Art Ross trophies and one Hart Memorial trophy in his young career. Sidney Crosby, by contrast, won 14.93%, or 83 votes.
But, Sidney Crosby has not entirely abdicated his throne to the phenom. When asked “If you need to win one game, who is the one player (any position) you would want on your team?” 44.03% (225 of 511 votes) picked him as their leader. McDavid earned 30.53% or 156 votes. It makes sense that players would put their faith Crosby, who cracked the NHL’s list of 100 greatest players of all time.
Crosby trumped McDavid again when players were asked who the most complete player in the game was. Crosby won the day with 45.56% of the vote while McDavid did not even clock in the top four. Patrice Bergeron took second place with 25.44%, while Aleksander Barkov and Ryan O’Reilly brought up the rear with 7.5% and 5.33% respectively.
Clearly, the 32-year-old veteran still has the confidence and admiration of his peers. While McDavid will continue to develop, Crosby is by no means handing over his crown without a fight.
Brad Marchand Being Brad Marchand
Not surprisingly, Brad Marchand was voted the best trash-talker in the NHL, taking home 25.87% of the vote. Funny enough, he also was voted the worst trash-talker, receiving 10.59% of votes. Drew Doughty finished second behind Marchand in both categories, indicating that he is not quite as good at trash-talking but also not as bad. So, all in all, that might be a win for Doughty. Marchand’s trash-talking ability should come as no surprise considering he is willing to lick opponents’ faces. That is dedication.
Say what you will about Marchand, he is one of those guys that you hate if he isn’t on your team but love him if he is. His on-ice shenanigans add an extra flair to the game that, honestly, make the NHL more entertaining.
Also noteworthy, Ryan Reaves made an appearance in the best trash-talker category, finishing third place. He may not have the offensive skill of Marchand, but he certainly knows how to fight and fire up his team — a dying skill in today’s NHL.
Customizing Equipment: Yea or Nay?
The NHLPA asked players if they would like to have the option to express their personalities by customizing their equipment. Of the 530 votes, 53% said yes and 47% said no. Interestingly, players opted for skate customization (40.57%) over other pieces of equipment. The poll did not provide any details on what options players would have, and the consensus among the players themselves is not an overwhelming majority.
Currently, the largest stage for NHL players to express themselves is the NHL All-Star Game where antics and fun ensue. Who can forget Alex Ovechkin donning a hat, sunglasses, and Canadian flag in the 2009 All-Star Game shootout? While these All-Star weekends are fun, I have a hard time seeing the NHL — a league so grounded in tradition — allowing players to customize equipment. I admit that I could be blinded by my personal dislike for the advertisements that plague KHL jerseys. Please, never in the NHL!
Relaxed Game-Day Dress Code
In the same vein, the poll asked players if they would be in favor of a relaxed game-day dress code, which currently requires players to wear ties, jackets, and pants. The numbers show that players seem to have had enough with the fancy getups, as 73% said yes and 27% said no. While I tend to favor the classic looks, I must admit that Miles Wood showing up in a snakeskin suit was pretty funny.
Should the NHL decide to relax its dress code, it would be following the footsteps of the NBA, which has had a much more casual dress code for years. Again, the NHL changes slowly, so I would be surprised if this happens anytime soon. Then again, I have been wrong before, believe it or not.
The Value of the NHLPA Players Poll
The annual Player Poll provides a lot of fun content for hockey fans to mull over. It also gives us a rare insight into how NHLers view their peers. Aside from best and most complete forward, players voted on the best defenseman (Victor Hedman) and best goalie (Carey Price). They also indicated that the Edmonton Oilers have the best visitors dressing room while the Chicago Blackhawks boast the best jersey. Of course, there are disagreements among players and fans (that is half the fun). Nevertheless, these polls provide a point of connection between fans and players, reinforcing the hockey community as a whole.