You know whose over-rated? The team with the 3rd most wins since the lockout – that’s who!
The results of the the NHLPA/CBC player poll were released on-line this afternoon, and the Canucks didn’t fare particularly well. In fact, in a poll that was answered by 318 NHL players, they fared very poorly indeed. Not only were individual Canucks skaters and coaches conspicuously absent from any individual accolades – but the team was overwhelmingly the most common answer to the question "which team is over-rated?"
So what does this mean? Well mathematically it means there are at least 77 NHL players who consider the Canucks, as a team, to be vastly over-rated. It’s not that surprising for a couple of reasons. First of all the Canucks were the overwhelming favorites to win the Stanley Cup last season, and failed to hoist the celebrated trophy. If you generate as much fanfare, controversy and discussion as the Canucks did on their run to the finals, and then don’t emerge as the champions – you kind of have to accept that you’ll wear the "over-rated" label the next season. Also, the Canucks have feasted on the worst division in the NHL for several years now, which probably impacts player perception (even though the Canucks play in the much more difficult Western Conference, division be damned).
In last season’s poll the Canucks finished 2nd in voting (12%) in the "which team is over-rated" category, a far cry from the Washington Capitals who were the overwhelming winner with 35% of the vote. On the Caps being over-rated, obviously the players had the right idea. Since then, Washington’s hockey club had an inglorious tumble out of the postseason, losing in a second round sweep to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’ve yet to return to their previous spot at the top of the table this season.
Which, when you think about it, means it’s kind of a good sign for the Canucks that they continue to be "over-rated." After all, it means that NHLers continue to bristle at the perceived quality and "contender" status that the Canucks enjoy. It’s not like the teams who scored highly on this list last season, and fell off dramatically (or entirely) this season (the Habs, Caps and Sharks) have done anything meaningful to play their way off of the list.
What’s clear is this: the fastest way off of the over-rated list is to have a thoroughly woeful season. Or In the Sharks case, I suppose winning one extra game in the playoffs last May than they won the season previous really altered them from being an "over-rated" squad to a team that is properly rated. The Canucks are back atop the standings, so they continue to generate resentment. As the old maxim goes: it’s better to be hated, than to be irrelevant.
Now as a fan, I know you never want to see the team you root for written off as over-rated, easily intimidated or soft – but as Canucks fans we should be used to that by now. The fact is, these player polls don’t provide much meaningful insight.
Take the Nashville Predators, second on the list of "most under-rated" teams, despite the fact that they’re a perpetual playoff team in one of the league’s hardest divisions. In fact, the Predators possess the fourth best record in the NHL since the lockout (behind only Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver), so why waste space calling them under-rated? They’re a quality team and anyone who doesn’t realize that isn’t paying attention, and hasn’t been since 2007!
Other teams that made the "most under-rated" list included the Islanders (who definitely just suck) and the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators – both teams who were also top-five on the over-rated list. Huh?
Or how about the question "which rink has the worst ice?" – do we really need a player poll to know that the four rinks located in Florida and SoCal have the poorest ice quality? "So you’re telling me Ice does not survive good in warm climates – thanks NHLPA/CBC player poll!"
While some questions in the poll are worth tracking, in particular league-wide opinion on the instigator rule is fascinating, the "over-rated team" question is pretty much meaningless. As Daniel Sedin told Elliot Pap last week:
I’ve never been a big fan of [player polls]. We had one of those from CBC, too, and I think everyone threw it in the garbage. I think that’s the way to do it. If you’re going to say something, at least stand for it and show your face. I’ve been asked to participate in anonymous polls but I would never do it. You can have your opinions but, at least, stand for them. That’s my opinion.
For the most part, the "over-rated" sections of a poll of this sort more closely reflect "envy" and "resentment" of the teams that suck up oxygen, more than they reflect actual team quality. The way the Maple Leafs sky-rocketed from nowhere last season, up to second place in the poll this year is telling. So forget about it Canucks fans – as the old saying goes: