The NHLPA released the results of its annual players’ poll on Tuesday, giving everyone a glimpse into the minds of those who play the game.
In total, 588 players participated anonymously in the 2019-20 edition. (Not everyone chose to answer each question.)
Questions ranged from skills to social media, friendships to mascots. Here are 10 takeaways from the poll results.
1. The game could get more fashion-forward
As we see more players bring a little more personality into their game-day wardrobes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see that 73 per cent of players would “be in favour of relaxing game-day dress code, similar to the NBA.”
Players were also asked about which way they’d like to “see players showcase their personalities on the ice,” to which 43.6 per cent said skates would be a good vehicle to do so. However, just 53 per cent of players voted for more on-ice expression while 47 per cent voted against it.
2. Poulin earns top spot among women, but it’s close
When asked who is the best women’s hockey player in the world, 40 per cent of voters said Team Canada captain (and all-time clutch golden goal scorer) Marie-Philip Poulin is worthy of the top spot.
But it’s a close race — Team USA power forward Hilary Knight is right behind her with 36.3 per cent of votes (just 18 ballots back of Poulin). U.S. captain and NHL All-Star Kendall Coyne Schofield ranks third (15.6 per cent), while another name, Team USA’s Emily Matheson, emerged in fourth place as a write-in candidate— seven players wrote her name on the ballot.
Looking at these results, it’s no surprise the women’s Canada-USA rivalry is the best in the game today.
3. Carey Price still on top
The 2019-20 campaign hasn’t been kind to Price, but that hasn’t affected his standing among his voting peers. A majority 41.7 per cent of NHLers said he’s the best goalie in the league, followed by Andrei Vasilevskiy (17 per cent), Marc-Andre Fleury (nine per cent) and Sergei Bobrovsky (5.7).
4. Hedman at the head of his class
With so many elite defensemen in the game, the Norris Trophy race is a tight one every year. If it were up to his peers, Victor Hedman would take the award — the Lightning rearguard was voted the league’s best defender by 37.8 per cent of players polled. John Carlson, who hit career highs in goals (15), assists (60) and points (75) through 69 games this season, ranked second with 21.4 per cent of votes. Nashville’s Roman Josi earned nine per cent of votes while Drew Doughty and Brent Burns tied for fourth with 6.6 per cent each.
5. The Crosby vs. McDavid debate is still alive and well
Connor McDavid was voted best forward by a landslide, with 68.3 per cent of votes compared to Crosby’s 15 in second place. (Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov were third and fourth, respectively.)
Crosby, however, got the edge when it comes to clutch play: 44 per cent of players said he’s the guy (any position) they want on their team “if you need to win one game.” McDavid ranked second in those votes, with 30.6 per cent choosing him in a one-game-wins-all scenario, followed by MacKinnon (4.1 per cent of votes) and Patrice Bergeron (3.3).
Crosby is also still considered the NHL’s most complete player, earning almost half the votes in that category. McDavid didn’t rank there (though it’s probably only a matter of time, right?) The other three “most complete” players are perennial Selke Award nominees Bergeron (25.5 per cent of votes), Aleksander Barkov (7.5) and Ryan O’Reilly (5.3).
6. McDavid among the all-time greats
Perhaps the most impressive voting result that shows the power of McDavid in the hockey landscape can be found in a category in which McDavid didn’t win, but rather placed fourth. But considering who’s in front of him, it’s pretty much as good as first.
Players were asked “Of all players, past or present, who would you pay to see play?” The top three are canonized in hockey lore: Wayne Gretzky, unsurprisingly, got the most votes, with 32.8 per cent of players wishing they could watch The Great One in action; Bobby Orr was second (15.4 per cent) followed by Mario Lemieux (9.5).
Eight per cent (that’s 38 votes) of today’s NHLers said they’d pay to watch McDavid play — the only current player to rank on the list. To sit fourth behind those three, as voted by your peers, has to feel pretty cool.
7. Brad Marchand is, fittingly, both loved and hated (but mostly loved)
The Bruins pest, who has made an art form out of getting under opponents’ skin, took home two awards that kind of hammer home his polarizing presence on the ice. Marchand earned the most votes for being both the best trash talker (25.7 per cent of votes) and the worst trash-talker (11). Drew Doughty wasn’t far behind him, ranking in second place in both categories.
8. These guys love love
Ask anyone who’s played, and he’ll tell you it’s the bonds formed in at the rink that make this game so special. There wasn’t a clear winner in the “best bromance/friendship in the league” category — probably because everyone was just voting for his own buddy. The bond between David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly on the Blues was voted best bromance (6.5 per cent) with Joe Thornton/Brent Burns, Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner, Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin, and Brad Marchand/Patrice Bergeron all getting between three and five per cent of votes, as well as this suspicious entry: … somehow, Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty also made its way into that vote… hm.
9. Players want more Crosby
Sidney Crosby isn’t on social media, but 26 per cent of his peers say he should be. (Joe Thornton is second place here, and we have to agree with that one. More beard pics!)
Of the players who are online, 13.7 per cent said P.K. Subban is the best follow. Alex Ovechkin gets a second-place nod here.
10. Gritty is king of the creatures
When it comes to the best mascot in the game, there’s really no contest — the Philadelphia Flyers have the best one by a landslide.
Gritty got 69.5 per cent of votes, miles ahead of Nashville’s Gnash and Arizona’s Howler, who both got 2.8 per cent of votes.