Who are Red Wings' best and worst dressed players? Who gets the aux cord?: Player poll
Monday, the Detroit Red Wings embarked on one of their longest road trips of the season: a week-long swing through Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a trip with huge stakes for their season and could go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.
As it happens, it was this same time last year that the Red Wings’ trip out West (followed by a tack-on jaunt to Washington) sparked their best stretch of the season, winning 4-of-5 to get themselves briefly back into the playoff mix. This year, they set out on the road already occupying a playoff spot, but looking to solidify it. It also happens to be one of the best bonding opportunities they’re going to have this season. And those two are more related than you might first think.
“It’s a big thing,” defenseman Jake Walman said. “You see all the best teams are the closest teams, and I really think that means something, especially off the ice. Bonding over these road trips — we’ve been together for a while now — we know a lot about each other, but these are opportunities for us, building confidence. Winning this road trip would be huge.”
And speaking of how well these Red Wings know each other, The Athletic has spent some time over the last two months canvassing their locker room for one of our favorite traditions: the anonymous team player poll.
This year’s poll was a bit shorter, to get more participation, but the basics were the same. Players were granted anonymity to share their teammates’ fashion sense, music taste and trustworthiness when it comes to food. Some questions lent to flattery, others fell more into the category of an open roast. And through it all, the hope is to learn a little more about the characters that make up the team.
So, let’s dive right in.
The Red Wings locker room can take heart in the fact that they had eight players get votes here, with a couple of players so torn on their answer they decided to give two names, in which case those players received half votes. Robby Fabbri had two such splits, and had he gotten both outright instead, he’d have tied for the win.
Moritz Seider got the nod instead — and that seems like a justified outcome. Seider has already been featured this season in The Athletic’s style rankings, indicating it’s not just his teammates that feel this way.
Dylan Larkin has made a style ranking top 10 as well, and his second-place finish in this poll also could have been a first-place tie with Seider if not for one of those split votes — a tie with Fabbri in which a teammate praised their choice in suits.
“Just the whole outfit’s usually a good look,” the player said of Larkin and Fabbri.
It wasn’t enough to knock off Seider for the crown, though. And in hindsight, maybe we should have known a 22-year-old European was going to win this category.
This one turned into a runaway, with Daniel Sprong becoming a target early and the rest of the room piling on.
I do have to take a little bit of responsibility here, as one Red Wings player was ready to vote for Andrew Copp until I responded by telling him how many votes Sprong was getting … which immediately led to the player reversing course and voting for Sprong.
Another teammate refrained from actually voting, saying “I can’t do negative ones, not to the boys.” But when informed one player was running away with the vote, he knew immediately, without being told, who that must be.
“Oh yeah, Sprong-dog,” the player said. “For sure. For sure he is.”
Some players were diplomatic in their assessment of Sprong’s attire, with explanations like “Not my style.” Others had a little more fun with it. “He thinks it’s cool, but it’s not,” another teammate joked.
When I told Sprong, early on in the process, that he was starting to earn votes here, he responded simply and confidently with: “Fashion.”
So, out of curiosity, I went looking for pictures and videos of Sprong’s game day fits to see what the fuss was about, and what I found didn’t seem too far outside the norm. He seems to like a beanie/suit combo, but so do a lot of hockey players.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 7, 2024
It made me wonder if Sprong was getting too harsh a verdict. So I enlisted The Athletic’s Julian McKenzie, one of our Style Rankings rankers, for his opinion.
“I took a look at Daniel Sprong’s outfits and my biggest takeaway is that his style isn’t awful,” McKenzie said. “But rather boring. It’s closer to middle of the road than anything else. It’d be cool to see him mix it up with his hats. The white beanie, especially, doesn’t need to be worn with every single outfit.”
After getting multiple best-dressed votes, it was notable that Ben Chiarot also got a pair of nominations in this category — although one of them seemed to just be trying to get a dig in at the veteran defenseman.
“Just because he’ll get mad about it,” the teammate said.
One player actually tried to pick himself, to avoid throwing anyone under the bus.
“We’re all looking some kind of sharp, I feel like,” the player said.
Teammate you trust with the aux cord
Picking the music in the locker room is a sacred responsibility, so this is an important category. And the clear winner was defenseman Justin Holl. It sounds like this might be his assigned job in the locker room.
“I think Hollsy’s doing it quite a bit,” one teammate said. “He likes his country, he likes some old classics, a little bit of pop, rock. Just a good mix of everything.”
That wide array of tastes might be the key to success in this category because this was a divisive one outside of Holl.
Fabbri garnered a vote and a half. David Perron picked up a vote because, in one player’s words, “He’s old school like me. He doesn’t listen to this new garbage out there.”
What was most funny, though, was Joe Veleno getting two votes in his favor and two adamantly against him.
“He will put on the worst song and walk right out of the room,” one teammate said. “It’s rap, EDM, he’s a mix. It’s a joke now (that) he’ll put on the worst song when I’m taping my stick, and he’ll just walk right out.”
Even one of the voters who didn’t cast their ballot for “Not Joe Veleno” took a swipe at him: “Joe’s been playing (it) this year, but I don’t really trust him with that.”
One of the pro-Veleno voters cited his
taste in hip-hop and rap as a point in his favor. A different voter, though, lamented of the locker room in general: “I don’t like rap. They all like rap.” Hence, perhaps, the divided results.
So, in the end, it was Holl and his eclectic taste winning out.
Teammate you trust for a dinner spot
Much like the music, some pressure comes with choosing a team dinner location.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, this category is skewed toward the veterans. The winner, though, was Fabbri.
“I feel like he’s really dialed into food,” one teammate said. “And he usually makes the reservations.”
“He’s kind of like in charge,” another added. “I think he decides for the most part. It’s been pretty good. Trust him.”
That being said, the team isn’t necessarily going for 23-man dinners each night on the road. So while one player said Fabbri was “in charge,” it also sounded like multiple others were doing the same for various smaller groups, and getting good reviews in the process.
“Cat (Alex DeBrincat) picks our dinners, and he hasn’t missed,” one player said.
“Copper’s usually in charge, he’s got the dinners under control,” another said.
Jeff Petry got multiple votes, with one teammate citing his ability to find a hidden gem on the road.
“He took us to some great spots,” the player said. “Very undercover, not a lot of guys knew about it, so we just showed up and it was usually a pretty good dinner when Jeff had his hands on it.”
Christian Fischer was in the multiple votes club as well and was proud of it.
“I have a group of eight that comes with me,” Fischer said, “and I don’t think … I would be shocked if any of them ever had a complaint about our dinner spots.”
In hindsight, perhaps the better question would have been who not to trust for a team dinner recommendation. But that’s a question for another poll.
(Top photos of Robby Fabbri, Moritz Seider and Justin Holl: Nic Antaya / Getty Images, Michael Mooney / NHLI via Getty Images and Dan Hamilton / USA Today)