SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers gain notoriety from NHL poll

Would a new downtown arena/entertainment district help make the Edmonton Oilers more attractive to...

Would a new downtown arena/entertainment district help make the Edmonton Oilers more attractive to NHL players? (QMI Agency file)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:37 PM ET

EDMONTON - They finally found a way to make NHL All-star Sunday more interesting.

No, not the latest abomination of the game Sunday in Raleigh.

It's the release of a National Hockey League Players Association poll of 318 members on game day by Hockey Night In Canada.

There's something for just about every fan in every market to get fired up about, in one direction or the other, negative or positive, with this compelling player poll.

A few of the juicy results:

* Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is identified as the man the highest percentage of NHL players would least want to have as their coach.

* Detroit, Chicago and Vancouver are rated 1-2-3 as the team most players would prefer to play for despite the amount of travel involved in playing for a West Division team.

* Quebec City (53%) defeated Winnipeg (25%), a second Toronto team (16%) and Hamilton (5%) as the Canadian city most deserving of an NHL franchise.

Edmonton achieves player poll notoriety in two areas.

* What team would you least like to play on: 1. New York Islanders (27%), 2. Edmonton Oilers (20%), 3. Atlanta Thrashers (7%), 4. Toronto Maple Leafs (5%).

* What rink has the best ice: 1. Edmonton 37%, 2. Montreal (15%), 3. Detroit (13%), 4. Minnesota (8%), 5. Vancouver (7%).

It's the latter one that is more shocking than the former.

There was a time when it was possible that the ice might be rated No. 1 by 100% of NHL players. But it is mind boggling that 37% (and more than double any other location) still see Edmonton as having the best ice in the league.

The ice in the aging building isn't anywhere near what it used to be. The amount of snow being scraped off in-game is getting to be considerable. And ruts in the ice have resulted in a season-ending injury to Ryan Whitney and another injury to Jim Vandermeer as well.

So why the perception?

But that, of course, is not the category which is going to cause the most controversy.

For what team would you least prefer to play?

The suggestion in the copy accompanying the polls is that the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers ought not to be surprises because the two teams have been languishing as losers for some time and the two teams play in the two oldest buildings in the league.

The Oilers were in the Stanley Cup final in 2005-06 and will miss the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year this season and quite possibly a sixth straight next year. The team was 30th in the league last year and quite possibly may be 30th again this year.

Players don't want to play for last place teams. Nothing in that to get your shorts in a knot about.

But we all know there's more involved here.

It says that the Chris Pronger factor of this not being a place you want to play is still out there with the players. It would suggest a large percentage aren't sold on management here. And it would indicate the new crew with Taylor Hall and the kids hasn't convinced enough of them on the idea that the Oilers are a lock to turn into the an outhouse to penthouse team like the Blackhawks became last year.

It testifies to the idea that the Oilers were absolutely right, however, to go the route they've gone with growing their own because the players are a long way from lining up to come here as free agents just yet.

I wish they'd done the survey last year. Edmonton might have ranked far worse than any other place with a far higher percentage as the worst place to play. The story might be that they've dropped to being the second worst place to play and only 20% now.

And I'd like to see it again next year after a brand new arena in a knock-your-socks-off entertainment centre and downtown redevelopment has been approved, another top draft pick is secured and Taylor Hall and the young Oilers begin their climb up the standings.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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