Patrick Kane sits on the bench during a game. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
OLIVIA FRZOP | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2010s was a decade to remember in the NHL. The league saw highs and lows ranging from a lockout in 2012 to an expansion team in 2017. Some of the best players to ever touch the ice broke out in the decade. Many people have their views on who are the top players of the decade.
According to Adam Gretz of NBC Sports, the top players are:
- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
- Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators / San Jose Sharks
- Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
- Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
- Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
- Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
But he is wrong. He left out some of the most important players that shaped the way the game is played.
- Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals. The Russian native is a goal scoring machine. His 437 goals in the decade leads all other players, and Steven Stamkos follows him with only 339 goals. Ovechkin’s one timer from the left circle is nearly impossible to stop, with 106 of his goals rocketing off his stick from that spot, which include 22 in the 2013-14 season. But he doesn’t stop there. Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard trophy for most goals six times in the decade. He scored 50 or more goals in four of those seasons, which puts him ninth on the list of all time scores in NHL history. If he continues this pace, we might be witnessing the best goal scorer of all time.
- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. His name is synonymous with the word hockey. While Crosby battled with injury during the decade, that didn’t stop him from scoring 788 points — 296 goals, 492 assists — for the Penguins, as well as 123 points — 42 goals, 81 assists — in 115 Stanley Cup Playoff games to lead the league. The Canadian native can make even the best players look bad with his slick moves and sniper-like shot. Known as one of the smartest players to play the game, Crosby lifted the cup over his head in 2016 and 2017, when he also won the Conn Smythe trophy for MVP in both years.
- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks. The first round pick in 2007 was the best American player of the decade. The Buffalo native slides under many radars as far as being the best in the decade, but Kane was an essential part of the Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. At the beginning of the 2015-16 season, Kane found himself on a 26-game point streak, making it the longest of any American-born player. One of the first memories of the decade came when Kane scored the winning overtime goal over the Flyers to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. At the time, only Kane knew he scored, but once that goal horn went off officially, Chicago knew they had an all star on their hands. Before 2010, the last time the Blackhawks won the Cup was in 1961. Kane leads the decade with points scored with 802 points — 315 goals, 487 assists — and sits just behind Crosby in playoff points with 109 — 41 goals, 68 assists.
- Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. This Boston Bruins forward is one of the reasons why the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup final in 2013 and 2019 and raised it in 2011. He has now recorded seven straight seasons scoring over 20 goals. Bergeron might not have the same numbers as the players above him on the list, but he is a better two-way player than the rest. Bergeron was also the game-winning goal scorer in the NHL’s best game of the decade, when the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs in overtime during game 7 of the first round. Bergeron scored at 6:05 of overtime to lift the Bruins over the Leafs 5-4. Bergeron also scored the tying goal with 50.2 seconds left in the game, forcing it to overtime.
- Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators/San Jose Sharks. Karlsson is easily the best defenseman of the decade. He is more than just a shut down defender, as he scored 120 goals in the decade and had 422 assists. He has won two Norris Trophies for being the top defender in the league and is a top contender every year for the award. He helped carry the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators to a playoff run that was completely unexpected. Karlsson impressed the Sharks enough in his first year to land him an eight-year, $92 million contract.
- Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins/Vegas Golden Knights. Fleury, a 2-time Stanley Cup champion with Penguins, is a staple in the league. Known as a prankster, Fleury reminds everyone what playing hockey is about. Fleury had the most wins of the decade with 322. In 2016, Fleury was sidelined due to injury and many thought his time was up. In 2017, he helped the Penguins lift the cup with impressive numbers — .924 save percentage and two shutouts. He surprised the league with his numbers in Vegas’ first year with a .927 save percentage and 29 wins. Fleury, also known as Flower, is a dominant force in the net and deserves to be recognized as the decade’s top goalie.
- Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins. There must be something in the New England water, because just like Tom Brady, this 42 year old is still playing top line minutes. The veteran player, who was also named to the 2000’s decade team, was a key component to the Bruins winning the cup in 2011. In all of the decade, Chara found himself on the plus side every year of his plus/minus ratios with him being a +33 in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. The 6-foot, 9-inch giant is a force on the ice with eight seasons in the decade recording over 100 hits, with 166 in the 2011-12 season. When on the ice, Chara locks down on defense and uses his long stick to poke the puck like no other. Many have learned the hard way to not go in the corner with Chara anymore.
- Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks. Without Keith, the Blackhawks would not have won their three cups. He averaged over 28 minutes of ice time in each cup run with impressive plays on the blue line to keep the Blackhawks alive. What might slide under the radar, as compared to his teammates, is that he has two Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy to go along with his three cups and two gold medals with Canada. Keith is an important aspect to every piece of the Hawks’ game.
- Henrik Lundquist, New York Rangers. Another goalie that has to be mentioned on the best of the decade list has not won the Stanley Cup. Lundqvist usually gets forgotten because of his lack of cups along with the sub-par defense in front of him. The Rangers would not have made it to the 2014 finals without him. The Rangers would go on to lose the series 4-1, but not without one game going into overtime and two going into double overtime. Lundqvist only has one Vezina trophy for best goalie in 2012, but many don’t realize he is third on the list for goalie wins of the decade with 299, sitting only below Fleury and Pekka Rinne. From 2010-16, he had a save percentage of at least .920.
- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Tampa Bay star started his career in the decade, but his impressive stats are what puts him just over Connor McDavid, fellow young star. In just six and a half seasons, Kucherov has put up an impressive 511 points. He found his groove in the 2015 Stanley Cup finals, and four years later, he put up numbers that crushed this decade’s single season points record with 128 points. This young winger made an impressive impact despite his short time in this decade.