NHLPA survey – Edmonton sucks but the ice is good (really?!?)
To help fill the void left in the NHL news cycle by the All-star weekend, the NHLPA and CBC released the results of a poll of 318 members of the NHLPA yesterday. This poll covers the same ground that every player poll like this covers. Where would you least like to play? Where would you most like to play? Who is the most underrated? Who is the toughest to play against? It’s the same old, same old. The questions never change and neither do the answers.
So it should come as no surprise that Edmonton was the answer a significant number of the player provided to the question “What team would you least like to play on?“. The Islanders lead the way with 27% of the vote, the Oilers followed with 20%. The Thrashers, Leafs, and Panthers rounded out the top five with 7%, 5%, and 2% respectively. Does this surprise anyone? Should Oiler fans care?
The short answer is and no and no. It’s well established that Edmonton isn’t a desirable place to play. It’s remote. It’s cold. There is a lot of travel. And the team isn’t very good. All things being equal (in other words money) if I had the choice to ply my trade in Edmonton or another NHL city I’d probably go somewhere else and I grew up here and I think Edmonton is a pretty great place to live.
But whether players want to come here or not doesn’t matter, at least not for now anyway. This team is building through the draft not through free agency so our immediate success isn’t dependent on what those outside of the organization think about Edmonton as a place to play. If the Oilers can continue to draft well and build a good team from the ground up, this team will move up the standings. As the team improves so will players views of the team. NHL players make more money than most people can even comprehend but they’re not just mercenaries looking for the biggest payout. They want to win and when a team gives you a legit chance to win and all those other things like the weather and travel don’t matter quite as much. If Edmonton develops into a perennial contender will these polls suddenly have the city listed among the team you’d most like to play on? Maybe not but I’d bet we’re not found at the bottom any more either.
While the players might not want to play for the Oilers, they do at least like the ice here according to the same poll. Edmonton topped the list when the players were asked “What rink has the best ice?” The ice at Rexall Place was ranked as the NHL’s best by 37% of those polled.
That Edmonton was ranked among the least desirable places to play was not surprising; this on the other hand is very surprising. Ruts in the ice at Rexall Place have led to some significant injuries for the Oilers this season: they knocked Whitney out for the season, have cost Vandermeer 15 games with two separate ankle injuries, and sent Gagner flying into the boards a little over a week ago. From where I sit it is a struggle to rank the ice as anything more than passable, the best in league is a stretch to say the least. Looking at these poll results I can only assume then that most, if not all, of those who voted for the Rexall Place ice either a) felt bad for voting Edmonton as the team they’d least like to play on or b) play in the Eastern Conference and haven’t been here in a while.