John Tavares is the top NHL player on ESPN's most recent "Poor Guy" poll, an extensive list of superstars playing in pitiable situations published by the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader this week.
The New York Islanders captain is among the "league leaders in scoring, carries himself with class and plays with an infinite amount of heart and enthusiasm for a dead team walking that's in last place in its division, packed with under-performing teammates, run on the cheap and never ceases to torture its already strained fanbase," according to ESPN, which chiefly covers the NFL, poker, the Miami Heat and Brett Favre.
Sportscenter anchor John Buccigross, the network's most vocal NHL advocate, says that Tavares' reputation as a great player on a lousy team is gaining steam among fans outside the sport.
"Johnny Hockey gets big ups for his silky mitts and sick dangle sauce," said Buccigross, refusing to use an interpreter. "But the tragically unhip Isles are a Nautical Disaster and Pop Star 91 is living Christmas at the Zoo. He's a pond hockey beauty, but Isles fans can't celly."
The "Poor Guy" list is a mix of results from an ESPN online reader poll and input from experts from across the network. Tavares finished sixth overall on the list behind other high-profile players on infinitely terrible teams.
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings tops the poll, followed by Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tavares received 39% of the votes in the NHL section, besting Edmonton's Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Winnipeg's Evander Kane.
"If the Islanders were the only team in the NHL, they'd still finish in last place," said esteemed ESPN hockey writer Scott Burnside. "If they were an all-sports network, they'd be Fox Sports 1. That's how lost they are."
Tavares, the first overall draft pick in 2009, was nominated for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player last season. The Islanders qualified for the playoffs after a five-year absence and played well in a first-round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But the current season has gone completely off the rails with injuries, scoring droughts, multiple blown leads, poor goaltending, questionable coaching, bizarre personnel decisions and inexplicable silence from management dragging the Islanders down to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
ESPN also reported that ESPN offered the Islanders a comprehensive plan for building a winning culture and surrounding Tavares with quality talent, but the team refused to pay for the ESPN Insider account required to read it.
"We read the first paragraph. That was enough," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. "It was all about how great Johnny is, but we already knew that. Some experts they are."
This is a satire. There is no ESPN "Poor Guy" list. But maybe one day, they'll ask Lebron James for his thoughts on John Tavares.