This is a quick share-your-opinion post for those who'd like a break from arena referendum talk.
Most fans, whether we're on the shrink's couch or in a confessional, can admit a grudging respect for a player or two on our most hated rivals.
We don't like to admit it, and when that kind of player scores against the Islanders it hurts every bit as bad, but sometimes we'll be muttering, "If it had to be someone, at least it was him." Maybe, secretly, you even wish he was wearing Orange & Blue, and you'd be all too happy to trade your first and second scapegoat to get him.
Who are your players you hate to love? I'll volunteer a few from the Atlantic Division, but you can run with it wherever the topic takes you.
Players You Hate To Love
Short Island Smurfs: This is probably a name that won't surprise you, but Ryan Callahan is the guy. Love the way he plays, respect the way he competes, plays smart, yet does the little cliched things that old-time coaches love. I do appreciate that he at least drove a hard bargain with the Rangers though, pulling down well over $4 million per year now.
Pittsburgh Penguins: During this past season, my once rather unmoved stance toward this team -- every playoff encounter has gone the Isles' way -- transformed into good old rivalry hatred, based on their increasingly dirtying it up and then whining after they were punched back. Speaking of whining, that's a charge leveled at Sidney Crosby since his rookie year. But despite that and the occasional speed-bagging of an opponent below the belt, the rest of Crosby's game is still something to behold. He hustles like a fourth-liner, passes like the games best, and plays smart against every level of competition. Malkin has the flash, but Crosby is the guy who knows the game at every corner of the ice. It's a shame about the other stuff.
New Jersey Devils: In this team of robots, it's no surprise the guy I like is the personality known as Zach Parise. That has nothing to do with his dad or the Milburian draft choice to pass over him. Rather, Parise is just an exciting, hard-nosed player whose motor never stops and who has never let size limit him. No matter what anyone of us thought in his draft year, it was hard to figure he'd be quite this good at the NHL level.
Philadelphia Flyers: There's really nothing loveable about the current Flyers, unless you include Ian Laperriere, a player I've always liked even when he's driving my team nuts. Mike Richards' game always impressed me, but now he's gone. Claude Giroux has quickly become someone to watch. In the end they're all still Flyers, a team that's had the Isles' number for longer than I care to think about.