With Lidstrom retired, who takes over as the NHL’s most respected player?

By: Tim Kolupanowich/Jeff Blay, Executive Editors

Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom’s exit from the NHL leaves a big void to be filled. Well, several voids actually, including best defenseman, best all-around player and most poised with the puck, but what we are trying to figure out is which player would take over the unofficial title of the most respected player in the NHL by players, media and fans alike.

(Dinur/Flickr)

There’s no vote, no award, but there’s always one player that seems to carry the title. Brian Costello, senior special sections editor for The Hockey News, notes how the honor was passed to Lidstrom from Joe Sakic who was the most respected player in the post-Gretzky years. Now Costello believes Iginla will get the title.

“Iginla would be tops because he’s a captain who leads by example, doesn’t mind throwing down the gloves to spark his team and is always gregarious and smiling off the ice,” he told Coincidental Minors. “He’s just a very likeable guy.”

We wanted to know what our readers think, so we conducted a poll on our Facebook Page asking our readers to pick who they think is now the most respected. Our nominees were:

•    Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks
•    Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
•    Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
•    Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
•    Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
•    Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
•    Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
•    Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers
•    Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
•    Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

There were also two write-in votes for Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tim Kolupanowich discussed in a recent article on The Good Point how the two most important assets for a player to be considered the most respected are credentials and class. They need to not only prove to be among the very best of their generation, but do so with grace and sportsmanship. Each of the players in the poll have proven to be among the best, scoring countless goals, recording wins by the boatload and earning dozens of trophies.

But which was said to be the most respected? The final tally, as of June 6, is:
•    Teemu Selanne: 45.8% of votes
•    Jarome Iginla: 33.3%
•    Martin Brodeur, Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson: 4.1% each

Along with casting their vote, readers had a chance to comment on the poll and provide their two-cents. One of the more interesting comments came from reader Chris McMillan, who discussed the write-in selection of Crosby. McMillan said: “I can tell you one thing Sid the Kid doesn’t deserve to be on this list… He is hated by his peers and is too young to command the kind of respect that Lidstrom has.”

McMillan has a point; as we have discussed on this site before, Crosby is an agitator, one as effective as the likes of Dan Carcillo, Raffi Torres and Steve Ott. That style and nastiness irks just as many as his sublime skill impresses and that will always give him as many enemies as fans, forever leaving him out of the discussion of the most respected player.

(Clydeorama/Flickr)

One of the more humorous responses comes from reader Rich Wininger, who voted for Anaheim Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne. Wininger said: “No need to explain. If you don’t agree, you just don’t know Teemu well enough.”

Other responses:

Bill Hendle, who voted Selanne:  “I definitely agree with the Selanne choice. He’s a certain hall of famer who is still playing at a high level, even though he’s up there age wise.”

Harout Mazmanian, who voted Iginla: “I think its Iginla, based on the way he plays, he’s the perfect leader, trapped on a team that’s going nowhere and he still remains loyal and never does anything out of context.”

Matt Burns, who voted Pavel Datsyuk: “I think it’s easily Pavel Datsyuk. Countless players are always talking about how they think he’s the most skilled player in the NHL. That’s not all they talk about either, also about how good of a leader and a person he is too.

Costello said The Hockey News sent a similar poll to about 40 hockey writers last season, with 75% of respondents naming Lidstrom the most respected. As he projected above, Iginla was second with 10% of the votes, followed by St. Louis, Doan and Brodeur. Costello explains why this particular group of players has garnered the respect of many throughout the hockey world.

“St-Louis would be next because he’s a battler who has overcome height issues to be a star in the NHL,” he said. “He helped lead his team to a Stanley Cup and has always been honest in his approach to playing.

“Doan and Brodeur would be next because they’re a couple of veteran performers who have spent their entire career with one franchise. That counts a lot when it comes to the most respected category for some reason…looking back at Sakic and Lidstrom. The fact Doan and Brodeur took their teams very far in the playoffs this spring will enhance that respect even more in my eyes.”

Who do you think takes over the title of the most respected player in the NHL? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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