So, let's clear this up right away -- mid-summer fan popularity votes in sports are inherently dumb, there's no value to be gleaned from them whatsoever and they are created entirely to spark debate and in some cases rather heated and angry debate and therefore lead to more comments and traffic and ad revenue.
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This summer, TSN changed up the way they carried out their "Franchise Faceoff" polling after last year's was rather hilariously destroyed by the ridiculous Eberle vs. Hall final matchup. Here's the basic setup:
If you were starting an NHL franchise of your own, who is the one player you would select as your cornerstone?
Would it be a top-notch goal scorer or a two-way forward? Would you opt for pure skill or is leadership ability more important?
That's Hockey has selected 31 options for your consideration this summer. They are matched up in a head-to-head single elimination bracket style tournament and it's up to you to crown the champ.
On That's Hockey, we'll roll out the day's match-up and our two panellists will debate and make the case for the player they would select. You can then cast your vote on TSN.ca and the results will be revealed on the next episode of That's Hockey before the next match.
For an added element of surprise, the TSN Quizmaster is watching and can veto your final vote - once in Round 1, once in Round 2 and a single Round 3 challenge which would trigger a re-vote.
So, the poll is asking a very general and subjective question: "Which player would you start a franchise with?" Note that this isn't a "who is the better player" poll, but is instead tied to overall ability to be the cornerstone should a team start over completely from scratch. Once again, another subjective question.
Where this gets tricky is that last part, where the TSN Quizmaster has the ability to veto in each of the first three rounds. Given what happened last year, this does make a bit of sense -- if Carey Price had beaten out Tuukka Rask, for instance, then vetoing that absurdity is only logical.
Oh wait, Price did beat out Rask. And no veto was used. Huh.
When it came to Jamie Benn vs. Evgeni Malkin, it seems this was what the veto was waiting for.
Perhaps this speaks to the fact that Benn and the Dallas Stars have been thrust into the national hockey spotlight after years of obscurity, or perhaps everyone is just sick and tired of the Pittsburgh Penguins being jammed down our throats -- but Jamie Benn beat out Malkin in the vote.
However, the Quizmaster pulled out his veto and opened up another vote. Which is fine, it's within the rules as stated -- but when Benn won the second vote, it was vetoed once more and Malkin was selected to move on. Let's see what the reasoning was here:
Faceoff voters have spoken & selected Benn over Malkin as Franchise player. Veto exercised. Malkin, not Benn, moves on to 2nd round.— TSNquizmaster (@TSNquizmaster) July 30, 2014
Malkin has averaged point per game 7 of 8 career seasons; Benn is all-around force but yet to hit point per game mark in 5 career seasons.— TSNquizmaster (@TSNquizmaster) July 30, 2014
Trusted advisor says simply: "Malkin is freak show of talent." No better way to sum up edge over Benn, who is emerging as special player.— TSNquizmaster (@TSNquizmaster) July 30, 2014
There were other arguments being made, with Craig Button also backing them up, that Malkin has won the Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe and is über-talented and therefore should obviously be considered over Benn as a cornerstone around which to build your franchise.
So obviously we needed not one -- but two! vetoes to show up those that voted in favor of Benn. Now, saying Malkin is better than Benn isn't such an absurd thing to say, but was this such a lopsided choice that no matter what happened Malkin was going to move forward? Why even have the vote?
This all above, and the debate it created, shows why these polls are flawed and dumb. It's so incredibly subjective. But it did get me to start thinking about what a franchise player actually entails and if that is any different to "best player in the world" and what is more important overall to your organization.
The interesting thing about this poll is that it doesn't give enough detail for the consideration process -- should we consider where the players are at in their careers at this very moment? Or are we trying to make this decision based on potential, or when those players were at their very best?
If we're talking when they were at their best, it's Malkin all the way. But he's 28 years old, he's had injury concerns the past few seasons and whether it was coaching or environment or the team -- Malkin hasn't looked himself in a few years. Conversely, the Penguins also have been rather disappointing overall and are still riding the coattails of their success in 2009 despite the various postseason failures since then.
Meanwhile, Jamie Benn is 24 and still getting better and he's emerged as one heck of a leader on and off the ice. He's perhaps the top power forward in the NHL at this point and he's yet to really reach his full offensive potential -- this is a guy who is still improving and hasn't shown what he's fully capable of. So which player would you -- at this very moment -- choose to build your franchise around?
There's also the dreaded "intangible" factor -- is a franchise player simply the one with the most pure and raw talent and scoring ability, or is there something more to it?
Sure Malkin may be better right now...but what about next year? Two years from now?
So the question we pose to you is -- what makes a franchise player? If you had to pick five players from the NHL, at this very moment, to start five separate franchises around who would they be?
Go ahead, fire away.