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Monday, January 31, 2011
Player Poll: Isles are unliked

By Mike Hume

Just prior to Sunday's All-Star game CBC released the results of an NHL player poll conducted in conjunction with the NHL Players Association, producing a load of debate fodder for the next few days.

As I shared on Twitter Sunday, the results were often interesting, but hard to weight as you wonder how much thought the players put in to their responses and many of the answers are certain to change from year to year. For example, the New York Islanders -- a team that hasn't advanced beyond the conference quarterfinals since 1993 and plays in the NHL's worst arena -- earned the dubious distinction of being the franchise with which players would least like to join. Hardly shocking considering the other teams on that list -- Edmonton, Atlanta, Toronto and Florida -- are all in rebuilding modes as well, even though Atlanta is in the thick of the playoff race this season.

On the flip side, the Rangers were among the top five teams players would most like to play for.

But it wasn't all bad news for the Islanders. Frans Nielsen was singled out as the league's second most underrated player, behind the Stars' Loui Eriksson. The Devils' Travis Zajac joined tied for third on that list as well.

A few Rangers were also held in high regard, with Marian Gaborik named the league's best and fastest skater by his peers. The Islanders' Michael Grabner, winner of All-Star weekend's fastest skater competition, was fifth on the fastest skater list.

Henrik Lundqvist ranked fourth behind Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas as the goalie skaters see as toughest to beat. Derek Boogaard meanwhile was the runaway winner for the NHL's toughest player.

On the coaching front, players picked the Devils' Adam Oates as one of the top five current NHL assistants who should get a shot at head coach. With Jacques Lemaire saying he'll step aside at the end of this season, Oates will certainly have his name thrown around, but I wonder if GM Lou Lamoriello will consider another first-time head coach after the team's struggles under rookie bench boss John MacLean.

John Tortorella, known for his tough-love reputation, was dubbed the league's most demanding coach, earning 28 percent of the vote. Unsurprisingly, that helped land him at the No. 2 spot when players were asked which coach they'd least like to play for.

MSG was a winner and a loser in the poll, named as the second favorite arena to play in, but also knocked as having the second worst ice in the NHL.