Who's the best player in the National Hockey League? The dirtiest? The most overrated? Which team will win the Cup this year?
These questions - normally reserved for rabid debate among hockey pundits and fans of the game - were posed to the players themselves by ESPN the Magazine, which recently conducted an anonymous poll of 50 NHLers.
The results were likely more candid than if players had been asked the same questions "on the record", and while some answers can certainly be filed under the category of "less than shocking", others are somewhat surprising and revelatory.
Here are some of the results:
64% of players said that Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin was the best player in the sport; the Pens' Sidney Crosby was second but it wasn't a particularly close race, with the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native receiving 24% of the vote.
The ubiquitous Red Wings were voted as the best franchise in the league, with 60% of those polled saying Detroit was No. 1.
Despite a tremendously successful season thus far, Phoenix still managed to take the honours for worst franchise (with 28% of players saying so), likely the holdover from last year's much-publicized off-season ownership woes and generally low attendance. The Coyotes were followed by Atlanta (18%) and the New York Islanders (11%).
Players were asked which squad will win the Stanley Cup just a few months from now. 32% of respondents said the young, talented Blackhawks will be taking home Lord Stanley's silver, with San Jose and last year's champs the Penguins tying for the honour of second-most-likely (16% each).
One answer in particular will not please fans of the Vancouver Canucks; 6% of players thought Roberto Luongo was the most overrated player in the game (the highest percentage of any single player). He was followed by a four-way tie between Vincent Lecavalier, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester and Sean Avery, who all hit the mark of 4%.
When asked what single change would help raise the profile of the game the most, the top answer was "more television coverage" (52%).
Kerry Fraser, who automatically claims the mantle for best hair year after year, was also called the best referee with a mark of 26%. Stephane Auger, who was involved in a messy series of exchanges with the Canucks' Alexandre Burrows earlier this season, was called the worst official by 20% of the players.
Meanwhile, the Wild's Derek Boogaard, listed at a frightening 6'7 and 258 pounds, was voted the toughest fighter (46%) while 22% of players said Chris Pronger of the Flyers was the dirtiest player on the ice.
A list of some selected results from the poll:
Alex Ovechkin 64%
Sidney Crosby 24%
Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Zetterberg 4%
Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton 2%
Roberto Luongo 6%
Vincent Lecavalier, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, Sean Avery 4%
New Jersey 8%
NY Rangers, Chicago 4%
WHO WILL WIN THE STANLEY CUP?
Pittsburgh, San Jose 16%
Detroit, New Jersey 8%
And some other highlights:
Smartest Coach: Mike Babcock, Red Wings 22%
Last coach they would want to play for: John Tortorella, Rangers 18%
Grade Gary Bettman should get as commish: 30% said "C"
38% said the NHL should contract