USA Today's NHL Player Poll Reveals the Blue Jackets as a Popular "Under the Radar" Stanley Cup Pick

By Rob Mixer on September 11, 2017 at 6:50 pm
Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky

Andy Marlin - USA TODAY Sports

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Survey says...good news.

The NHL and NHLPA wrapped up their annual media tour in New York City last week, an event that always hammers on existing storylines and usually generates a few new ones.

Kevin Allen, prominent veteran hockey writer for USA Today, spoke with 31 "high-profile" NHL players and polled them on a variety of topics, ranging from future NHL expansion possibilities to their thoughts on the NHL abstaining from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

One request of the players was to select an "under the radar" team that could win the Stanley Cup this year, and while there were 14 different teams named by the 31 players, the Blue Jackets received the second-most votes (4), along with the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Leading the way were the Dallas Stars (5), a popular pick by many in the hockey world after a down season in 2016-17 led to the dismissal of Lindy Ruff. Former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock is back with the Stars for a second tour of duty, a sure sign that expectations are ratcheted up -- and the Stars' offseason wave of activity backs that up.

Hitchcock's first stint in Dallas went pretty well, after all.

Aside from the Blue Jackets showing well in the dark horse Cup winner category, the players' preferred expansion destinations are quite interesting. Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., was a long-rumored expansion target in the 1990s and 2000s but nothing materialized; Quebec City lost out to Las Vegas in 2016 while Seattle remains a potential market for the future.

With training camp and the exhibition season upon us, the time for predictions and prognostication is about to be finished. The Blue Jackets, after a 108-point season that included 50 wins, have never faced such pressure going into a season in their history -- and anything less than a return trip to the postseason would have to be considered a failure.

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