While researching an obituary on Jerry Toppazzini, I came across an interesting coaches poll conducted late in the 1957-58 season.
Appearing in the Toronto Daily Star (March 1958), it provides wonderful insight into the state of the game, and identifies players who were performing at the top of their game.
The coaches involved were Milt Schmidt (Boston), Rudy Pilous (Chicago), Phil Watson (New York), Sid Abel (Detroit), Billy Reay (Toronto) and Toe Blake (Montreal).
As mentioned in the Toppazzini obit, he was selected as the top penalty killer. Listed below are the other choices made by the bench bosses for the '57-'58 campaign.
Best and fastest skater - Henri Richard, Montreal
Smartest player - Gordie Howe, Detroit
Best passer and playmaker, Gordie Howe, Detroit
Hardest shot - Boom Boom Geoffrion, Montreal
Most accurate shot - Maurice Richard
Best stickhandler - Larry Regan, Boston
Best man on breakaway - Maurice Richard, Montreal
Best puck carrier - Gordie Howe, Detroit
Best referee - Eddie Powers
Best fighter - Fern Flaman, Boston
Best defensive forward, checker - Red Sullivan, New York
Best hustler, hardest worker - Red Sullivan, New York
Hardest bodychecker - Leo Boivin, Boston
Most underrated - Tom Johnson, Montreal
Most improved - Forbes Kennedy, Detroit
Best goalie on screened shots - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit
Best goalie, man against man - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit
Best defensive defenceman - Doug Harvey, Montreal
Best attacking defenceman, Bill Gadsby, New York
Nine of the above players played in the Stanley Cup final, which featured Montreal and Boston.
Montreal, who were in the midst of winning five consecutive Cups (1955-56 to 1959-60), captured their third straight prize on April 20, 1958. Montreal's 5 to 3 win in Boston Garden gave them a four games to two Cup victory.
The coaches poll providing a nice snapshot on the skills of those players who helped their clubs make it to the final.