NHLPA releases annual player poll: Detroit Red Wings don’t rate in any category

Detroit Free Press

Nearly 500 NHL players have spoken, and the Detroit Red Wings don’t rate with them.

The NHL Players Association released its annual survey Thursday, ranging in topics from favorites to fashionable — and, of course, the pandemic.

COVID-19 prompted the league to use a 56-game, intra-divisional schedule that split 31 teams into four geographical groups in 2021. The Wings played in the Central Division, with the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. Travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada led to all seven Canadian teams forming the North Division.

That is not a scenario most players want to see carried forward. (The NHL already has nixed the idea, anyway.). The poll showed 68.2% of the 490 players who participated voted no, with 31.8% voting yes. On the other hand, 66.3% of players favored carrying forward a series-style schedule, rather than going back to traveling from city to city after one game.

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The poll also revealed that 46.3% percent of players consider Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews the best goal scorer; 64.7% consider the Lightning’s Victor Hedman the best defenseman, and 54.1% consider the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy the best goaltender. Matthews was also voted most fashionable, with 21.2% of the votes.

Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)  and Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) tied for most complete player with 23.78%.

Asked to name the one player they’d want if they needed to win one game, 36.7% chose Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers). The poll was conducted in March and April, so before McDavid’s Oilers were swept in the first round. Crosby came in second, at 23%. Crosby was voted most superstitious, at 27.4%.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane was named by 49.5% of players when asked who the best stick handler is — almost double that of McDavid’s 25.8%. Boston’s David Pastrnak was named by 42.3% of players in response to which player has the most unique tape job. Dallas’ Jamie Benn, whose stick to Dylan Larkin’s neck during the April 20th game ended Larkin’s season, got 3.8% of votes.

The poll names four to six players per question, so for example, almost 10% of players voted for someone other than Matthews, Alex Ovechkin, David Pastrnak or McDavid in respond to who is the best goal scorer. But it’s doubtful any Wings made the “other” list in any of the main categories — goal scorer, defenseman, goalie, shot, passer – given they don’t have a superstar on the roster.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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