NHLPA poll: Players oppose regional division alignment, favor 'series-style' schedules to cut down on travel

NHL players said they'd like to see the "homestand" scheduling from this season continue but are against the concept of geographically aligned divisions going forward, according to an NHLPA poll released Thursday.

Around 68% of the 447 players polled said they do not want to see regional divisions carried forward beyond this season. In 2020-21, the NHL temporarily realigned its teams into four new divisions, including one exclusively comprising the seven Canadian franchises. Games were played only inside of those divisions until the third round of the playoffs. This was due to restrictions on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and to cut costs in a season in which the league expected to lose over a billion dollars.

The NHL has already announced it is reverting back to the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific divisions for the 2021-22 season, with the expansion Seattle Kraken moving to the Pacific and the Arizona Coyotes realigning to the Central.

While the pandemic division innovation was rejected, around 66% of the players polled said they'd like to see the series-style schedule from this season continue. This was the first NHL season in the modern era where teams played consecutive home games against the same opponent -- in some cases, three games in a row.

The players favor this concept as a way to cut down on travel during the regular season.

The poll also covered several superlatives for the 2020-21 season. Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews won best goal scorer (46%) and most fashionable player (21%). The Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman (64%) was named best defenseman, while goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (54%) was named best goaltender, ending a four-year winning streak for Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who was voted third behind Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby was named the NHL's most complete player with nearly 24% of the vote, but he was second to Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid (37%) when players were asked who they'd choose as a teammate if they needed to win one game. Crosby, whose salary-cap hit ($8.7 million) matches both his birth year and jersey number, was voted the NHL's most superstitious player (27%).

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was voted as having the best shot (49%), while teammate Nicklas Backstrom was voted the best passer (21%). Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was chosen as best stick handler in the NHL with nearly 50% of the vote.