If you could pick one player to build your team around for the next five years, who would it be? A sniper like Alexander Ovechkin? A playmaker like Sidney Crosby? Maybe a stalwart goaltender such as Roberto Luongo?
It's a tough choice, and it's one that TSN asked NHL general managers to make as part of a poll conducted for the NHL on TSN Season Preview Show, which aired Wednesday.
Twenty-eight GMs took part in the third annual poll for TSN, and the franchise player most coveted was Crosby, with 98 points in a 5-3-1 weighted system. Crosby was the top choice on 15 ballots.
Ovechkin topped Luongo 66 to 38 in terms of voting points, but its worth noting that Canucks captain had more first place votes (7) than the Russian gunner (5).
Others getting votes were Dion Phaneuf (21 points), Henrik Zetterberg (12), Carey Price (4), Zdeno Chara (3), Eric Staal (3), Ryan Getzlaf (1), top prospect Viktor Hedman (1), Evgeni Malkin (1), Ryan Miller (1), Jonathan Toews (1) and Shea Weber (1).
The GMs picked Tampa Bay to be the most improved team in the Eastern Conference, edging out Florida by a 12-10 count. Chicago was the pick in the Western Conference with 16 votes, 6 more than Edmonton.
The GMs pick to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final was Montreal. The Habs got 15 votes, with Pittsburgh next with 9 votes. Philadelphia, with three votes, was the only other team with more than one.
Bob McKenzie insists that the Canadiens are going to be good not just now, but in the future. "What's happening with the Montreal Canadiens -- their emergence last year and we think they're going to be good again this year, it's not a fluke," said McKenzie. "It's going to be happening for many years to come because they draft so well. It's going to be a big-time team in the NHL for a lot of years."
Both John Tortorella and Ray Ferraro lauded the Canadiens' transition game.
"They are well-coached, they play good defence, but a key is how they transition with their speed and quickness," said Tortorella.
Pierre McGuire, who likes Philadelphia to come out of the East, cautions that Montreal must do a better job in the faceoff circle, noting the need for improvement from a team that was 22nd in the league in faceoff wins last season.
Detroit was a landslide pick to come out of the west, logging 23 votes. Anaheim and San Jose were next with two each.
The Red Wings were also the consensus pick to win the Stanley Cup, with 18 votes. Montreal was next with four, followed by Pittsburgh (3), Anaheim (2) and San Jose (1).
"Sometimes when things seem too good to be true, they are," said Ray Ferraro. "Not in Detroit. They're just too good."
The GM poll was just part of the stacked lineup designed to get Canadian hockey fans ready for the 2008-09 season.
One feature that will surely be talked about at water coolers across the country was the unveiling of Pierre McGuire's locks for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team. His locks included Luongo in goal with Brent Burns, Mike Green, Phaneuf and Chris Pronger on defence. His list of forwards guaranteed spots included Crosby, Getzlaf, Dany Healtey, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Brenden Morrow, Rick Nash, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews.
McGuire extended list of players to watch is available online at TSN.ca. McGuire intends to update the list again later in the season.
In case you missed it, the NHL on TSN Season Preview Show is available on demand at TSN.ca. Various segments of the show are also be available for viewing online.
The NHL on TSN opens the season Tuesday, October 14 at 9pm et/6pm pt when the Calgary Flames host the Colorado Avalanche. The complete broadcast schedules for TSN and TSN2 are available at tsn.ca/nhl.