Maple Leafs duo most over-rated in NHL: Players poll

 

 
 
 
 
Toronto Maple Leafs stars Phil Kessel (left) and Dion Phaneuf don't get a lot of love from some of their peers.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs stars Phil Kessel (left) and Dion Phaneuf don't get a lot of love from some of their peers.

Photograph by: Abelimages, Getty Images files

Who's the most over-rated player in the NHL?

It's a toss-up between a pair of Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf.

Each Leaf received three votes in a Postmedia poll of NHL players in six Canadian NHL markets: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

Postmedia beat writers asked 22 players to answer a few questions — anonymously, of course — over the past three weeks. And while a poll of this size is hardly scientific, it does shine a light on what at least some NHLers think about their peers.

Right behind Kessel and Phaneuf in the over-rated player category were Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin, Carolina forward Alex Semin and Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban with two votes each.

While there was no overwhelming winner — loser? — here, it's telling that the two guys at the top are the two names that pop up most often when discussion turns to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the NHL's current sad-sack franchises.

Fleury won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but he wasn't exactly stunning during that run. Since then, it's been a series of post-season disappointments and finger-pointing at Fleury, whose only plus-.900 save percentage came last spring.

As for Ovechkin, who has won five Rocket Richard trophies, including this year, one can only guess he was included due to the fact the Capitals tend to be a non-factor in the post-season, year after year.

Six other players (Dustin Brown, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Hammond, Anze Kopitar, Milan Lucic and Jason Spezza) had one vote each.

Here's what else we found out (note: not every player answered every question):

Who is the best goalie in the league right now?

Carey Price: 17

Henrik Lundqvist: 2

Pekka Rinne: 2

Devan Dubnyk: 1

Price has almost certainly locked down the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie — and is a frontrunner to become the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP since Jose Theodore, of those same Montreal Canadiens, in 2001-02.

The respect for Lundqvist, a five-time Vezina nominee and 2012 winner, remains despite the New York Rangers stalwart missing nearly two months of the season.

Nicklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper lost six straight games in the Minnesota Wild net before Devan Dubnyk arrived in a trade for a third-round draft pick. Dubnyk, since then, has gone 27-9-3; Kuemper has played just twice, Backstrom not at all.

Who is the toughest guy to defend?

Sidney Crosby: 11

Pavel Datsyuk: 2

Patrick Kane: 2

Evgeni Malkin: 2

Ryan Getzlaf: 1

Phil Kessel: 1

Alex Ovechkin: 1

It's interesting that two Pittsburgh Penguins — Crosby and Malkin — made the list, given the Pens flailed their way into the postseason. Will Crosby and Malkin be able to step up their game?

Who's the dirtiest player in the NHL?

Brad Marchand: 4

Zac Rinaldo: 4

Antoine Roussel: 3

Matt Cooke: 2

Maxim Lapierre: 2

Alex Burrows: 1

Steve Downie: 1

Zack Kassian: 1

Milan Lucic: 1

Cody McLeod: 1

Chris Neil: 1

The Flyers' Rinaldo and the Bruins' Marchand lead the list, but they are just 15th and 19th, respectively, in penalty minutes this season. There certainly seems to be regular, umm, intent with those two.

Cooke, meanwhile, has had a long career and a longer reputation. Despite his long-ago claims of rehabilitation, that reputation persists.

Lapierre, Burrows and Kassian have all had associations with the Canucks, a team that's long been rumoured to be whiny, if not dirty.

Who is the biggest pain in the ass to play against?

Corey Perry: 3

David Backes: 2

Ryan Kesler: 2

Milan Lucic: 2

Zac Rinaldo: 2

Patrice Bergeron: 1

Ryan Callahan: 1

Zdeno Chara: 1

Sidney Crosby: 1

Steve Ott: 1

Dion Phaneuf: 1

Antoine Roussel: 1

Mark Stuart: 1

John Tavares: 1

A lot of different names and no clear winner in this category. These players can all make life challenging for their opponents.

Apart from the coach you have now, which coach would you most like to play for?

Jon Cooper: 4

Joel Quenneville: 3

Barry Trotz: 3

Mike Babcock: 2

Willie Desjardins: 2

Paul Maurice: 2

Dave Tippett: 2

Bruce Boudreau: 1

Gerard Gallant: 1

Lindy Ruff: 1

Cooper had three very successful seasons coaching at the AHL level and has now put together excellent back-to-back regular seasons as the Tampa Bay Lightning boss.

In Quenneville's 18 seasons as an NHL head coach, he's never had a losing season. Not even close. He's shooting for his third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.

There must be all sorts of good reasons why Barry Trotz, now of the Washington Capitals, had such a long career running the Nashville Predators. Players certainly respect him.

Which coach would you least like to play for?

John Tortorella: 5

Ken Hitchcock: 2

Patrick Roy: 2

Craig Berube: 1

Bob Hartley: 1

Peter Horachek: 1

Peter Laviolette: 1

Lindy Ruff: 1

Darryl Sutter: 1

Michel Therien: 1

John Tortorella is enjoying all the money that regularly comes to him from the Vancouver Canucks, who fired him in the spring of 2014 after one calamity of a season. Despite being a Stanley Cup winner (Tampa Bay, 2004), he seems extremely unpopular among NHLers.

Which team has the best uniform?

Chicago: 7

Detroit: 3

Montreal: 3

Los Angeles: 2

Toronto: 2

Calgary: 1

Edmonton: 1

Pittsburgh: 1

St. Louis: 1

It is, perhaps, not surprising that NHL players like history. Four of the top five teams are from the NHL's Original Six.

Who would you pick first in your playoff pool?

Sidney Crosby: 4

Ryan Getzlaf: 3

Alex Ovechkin: 3

Steven Stamkos: 3

Evgeni Malkin: 2

Jonathan Toews: 2

Erik Karlsson: 1

Crosby topped Getzlaf here, which presumes he can lead the Penguins a great distance. But Getzlaf's Anaheim Ducks are the Presidents' Trophy winners. In an EA Sports' annual Stanley Cup playoffs simulation, the Ducks beat the Rangers in the Cup final and Getzlaf picked up nine goals and 17 assists in 28 games. Yes, EA calls for the Ducks to go a full seven games in each of four series.

Who would you pick No. 1 in the NHL draft?

Connor McDavid: 21

Duh.

 
 
 
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Toronto Maple Leafs stars Phil Kessel (left) and Dion Phaneuf don't get a lot of love from some of their peers.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs stars Phil Kessel (left) and Dion Phaneuf don't get a lot of love from some of their peers.

Photograph by: Abelimages, Getty Images files

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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