It’s time for the 2017-18 NHLPA Player Poll!
With the results now available to the public, here are some of the things I found most noteworthy about the results.
WHO IS THE FASTEST SKATER?
Before we talk about how it’s obviously Connor McDavid, something stood out to me: Each poll shows the Top 5 answers to each question, but in the bottom right corner, you’ll also notice that each poll shows the number of players who voted.
Out of the 501 players who voted on the league’s fastest skater, 81 per cent voted for McDavid. That’s 406 out of 501 players. Michael Grabner finished second with 3.6 per cent of the vote, which means just 18 players voted for him (or 19 depending on how the NHLPA rounded the numbers).
When it comes to wheels, McDavid really is in a class of his own.
Something about this list seemed out of date.
Carey Price was first by a long shot with 41 per cent of the 439 votes cast. Rounding out the top five were Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been getting Vezina talk all season. How isn’t he even in the Top 5? Holtby finished fifth with just five per cent of the vote. Vasilevskiy didn’t even get that? Seriously?
Rinne has been fantastic while Quick and Bobrovsky have been solid. Price and Holtby however are both having arguably the worst individual seasons of their respective careers.
Then it all made sense.
“NHL players were surveyed on more than 20 hockey-related questions during their annual NHLPA team meetings, between the preseason and early January 2018.”
Either Price and Holtby got reputation votes or most players who voted for this poll voted in the pre-season.
WHO IS THE TOUGHEST PLAYER?
Ryan Reaves ranked first with 44.7 per cent of the vote. That’s over three times more than runner-up Milan Lucic’s 14.8 per cent.
I know there’s all kinds of metrics that suggest Reaves isn’t a good player. I joined a lot of you in raising an eyebrow when the Penguins acquired him from St. Louis at the 2018 draft. I raised the other one when Vegas acquired him from Pittsburgh less than a year later.
“Vegas has acquired Ryan Reaves,” might sound funny to you. “Vegas has acquired the toughest player in the league,” has a different ring to it.
You can say what you want about Reaves as a player. But amongst his peers, he’s the baddest man on skates. Shouldn’t that mean something?
SHEA WEBER IS STILL FEARED
Shea Weber has only played 26 games in this injury-filled nightmare for him. Despite that, it’s clear players still have a lot of respect for him.
Weber placed fourth in the question: “Who is the most difficult player to play against?”
He also placed fourth in: “Which player is the best role model?”
He even placed third in: “Which defenceman is the most difficult to play against?” with a huge chunk of the vote (19.4 per cent). Heck, Erik Karlsson placed first with 22 per cent of the 402 votes cast, which means Weber only finished about 10 votes behind him.
Montreal’s lineup misses him in the worst way.
WHICH COACH WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO PLAY FOR?
Joel Quennville winning with 16.5 per cent wasn’t surprising, but considering a few grumpy Blackhawks fans have called for his firing this season, it’s kinda funny. Gerrard Gallant at No. 3 is hilarious, too. I’d love to know how many of the players who voted for him are on the Florida Panthers.
Mike Babcock at No. 4 with 7.5 percent of the votes (20 players) was a surprise to me. Many seem to agree that he’s a good coach, but I’ve never gotten the impression he’s the most popular coach. I’d love to know how many of the players who voted for him have never played for him.
PLAYERS THINK D.J. SMITH DESERVES A SHOT
Speaking of Leafs coaches, D.J. Smith placed first with 8.3 per cent of the 216 players who voted for which current assistant should be a head coach.
I have a few questions about that one.
Out of the 18 players who voted for Smith, how many were Leafs? The Leafs are the only NHL team Smith has ever coached for. He was either an assistant or head coach for a number of current NHL players such as Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis, Zack Kassian, Adam Henrique, Boone Jenner, and Scott Laughton, back when they were in junior. I wonder if any of his junior alumni gave him a nod.
What also interested me was the phrasing of the question: “Which current assistant coach should be the next head coach?”
I think the question is meant to be asking, “Which assistant coach would make a good head coach in the league?” but the way it was worded makes it sound like, “Which assistant coach is most likely to take over if the head coach gets fired?”
I wonder if any players were similarly confused.
WHO IS THE BEST REFEREE?
Seeing Wes McCauley dominate with 47.8 per cent of the vote might be the thing fans and players agree on the most.
THE YOUTUBE GENERATION
There were several questions at the end about the best forward of all-time, best defenceman ever, and so on. Peter Forsberg got a lot of love.
This one stood out to me:
“Who was your favourite player growing up?”
Out of the 379 players who responded, Peter Forsberg finished first (8.4 per cent), Steve Yzerman was second (8.2 per cent), Joe Sakic third (7.4 per cent), Nicklas Lidstrom fourth (5.3 per cent), and Mats Sundin fifth (4.2 per cent).
My first thought was, “Wow, a lot of Swedes must have voted on this.”
My second thought was, “Hey – those were my favourite players when I was growing up!”
I realized that a lot of the players in the NHL today are from my generation. We grew up watching the Avalanche and Red Wings dominate the league before meeting in the playoffs and tearing each other apart. We watched these players create history at the Olympics; every one of the top five has won Olympic gold. We had their hockey cards. I still tell people that Peter Forsberg is one of the best players I remember seeing in person.
I’ve already heard younger players say they watched Sidney Crosby growing up.
This question is probably the one I’ll be most curious to check back on year in and year out.