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Best of the Decade: Looking At Hockey’s Best

Posted on December 30, 2009 by Scott Weldon
Detroit Red Wings v Colorado Avalanche

Nicklas Lidstrom was the best defenseman of the decade and helped the Red Wings to a pair of Stanley Cup titles.

The first ten years of the 21st century have flashed by. Great NHL careers like those of Joe Sakic, Jaromir Jagr, Steve Yzerman, Peter Forsberg and Mario Lemieux have come to an end and others like those of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin have just gotten started.

Who has had the best decade though? Taking a look from Jan 1, 2000 until December 31, 2009 I’ve come up with this list. These are my best ten players of the 2000’s in the NHL.

Who Was The Best Hockey Player Of The Decade?

  • Nicklas Lidstrom (32%, 7 Votes)
  • Martin Brodeur (32%, 7 Votes)
  • Joe Thornton (14%, 3 Votes)
  • Jaromir Jagr (9%, 2 Votes)
  • Jarome Iginla (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Scott Niedermayer (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Joe Sakic (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Chris Pringer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Daniel Alfredsson (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Patrik Elias (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 22

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10. Patrik Elias LW- New Jersey Devils- Regular season (GP-652 G-267 A-359) Playoffs (GP-114 G-38 A-64) 1 First All-star team.

Elias started the decade helping Brodeur and company dump the Dallas Stars in the Stanley cup finals in 2000.  He was in the finals again the next year barely losing to the power house Colorado Avalanche four games to three. New Jersey won the cup again in 2003 defeating the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Elias provided offense on a team that played a tight defensive system to win their cups. He played through a decade of injury and sickness on a trap team and still managed to be the decades 9th leading scorer in the regular season. When you throw in his playoff numbers he’s the seventh leading scorer of the decade and he’s tied with Vincent Lecavalier for the sixth most total goals in the decade. This skilled playoff performer was the tenth best player of the 2000’s.

9. Jaromir Jagr RW- Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers –Regular Season (GP-571 G-267 A-400) Playoffs (GP-56 G-22 A 40) 3 First All-star teams, 2 Art Ross trophies (League Scoring leader), 2 Lester B Pearson trophies (PA MVP)

Jaromir Jagr won two scoring titles in the decade.

Jaromir Jagr won two scoring titles in the decade.

Jaromir Jagr was in to his second decade as a player by the time the year 2000 rolled around. He’d already been one of the greatest players of the 1990’s. His skills had appreciably declined. Yet the diminished Jagr still managed two 50+ goal seasons and 120+ point seasons in the 2000’s. Jagr left the NHL for the KHL to start the 2008/09 season. Despite missing that last year and a half of the decade in the NHL he still managed to be the fifth leading regular season scorer of the last ten years. He was the highest point per game player for the decade among those players who got in at least 500 games. He won two scoring titles and two player’s association MVP awards in the decade. He didn’t win a Stanley cup in the last ten years but he was still more then a point a game playoff performer. Jaromir Jagr was the ninth best player of the 2000’s.

8. Daniel Alfredsson RW- Ottawa Senators- Regular season ( GP-681 G-281 A-445) Playoffs (GP-79 G-31 A-30 ) 1 Second All-star teams

While not inundated with trophies or awards this Swedish star has been consistent as a point a game player for the decade. He’s third over-all in regular season league scoring over that time. His playoff points bump him in to second overall with 787 in 763 games. His thirty playoff goals were the fourth most in the league during the last ten years trailing only Joe Sakic, Patrick Elias and Marian Hossa. He has lead good Ottawa teams into the playoffs. They got as far as the Stanley Cup Championship in 2007 where they were outmatched by the Anaheim Ducks. Now he’s leading a bad Ottawa team with thirty one points in thirty seven games. The oft-maligned Alfredsson deserves better. He was the eighth best player of the 2000’s.

7. Joe Sakic C- Colorado Avalanche- Regular Season (GP-567 G-244 A-395) Playoffs (GP- 98  G-46 A-51)  3 First All-star teams, 1 Hart trophy (League MVP), 1 Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly player), 1 Lester B Pearson trophy (PA MVP)

Burnaby Joe was another of the all-time greats of the 90’s who had enough left in the tank for this last decade. His 46 playoff goals in the last ten years were easily the best total in the league. He helped Patrick Roy and Ray Borque win Colorado’s last Stanley Cup over the New Jersey Devils in the 2001 playoffs. He had 26 points in 21 playoff games that year losing out to Patrick Roy for the Conn Smythe. He lead another great playoff run the next year losing to Detroit in seven in the western finals. Joe retired after last season as age and injury caught up with him. Still he managed to be a point a game player for the decade. He was the sixth leading regular season scorer, second leading playoff scorer and fifth overall for the decade. He was chosen three times as the end of season first team all-star center indicating it was felt he was the best center in the league for three of nine seasons in the decade. Joe Sakic was the seventh best player of the 2000’s.

6. Joe Thornton C- Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks- Regular Season (GP-702 G-247 A-569) Playoffs (GP-59 G-9 A-35), 1 First All-star team, 2 Second All-star teams, 1 Art Ross trophy (league scoring leader), 1 Hart trophy (league MVP)

Joe Thornton was the leading scorer in the NHL in the decade.

Joe Thornton was the leading scorer in the NHL in the decade.

Joe Thornton has played the heart of his career in the 2000’s.  The league leading playmaker took a couple years to get rolling but once 2000 ticked over he was going full speed. Joe was the leading scorer for the decade despite his meager playoff record. His 816 points in the regular season were 79 ahead of second best Jarome Iginla. He had the second most points per game in the decade (1.13) among players who played at least 500 games. He won the scoring trophy and the MVP trophy the year Boston traded him to San Jose. If Joe had managed to be on one Stanley cup champion or even managed to score a point a game in the playoffs I think he’d be in the hunt for best player of the decade. Unfortunately none of his teams have made it out of the second round and he’s a .746 point per game playoff performer while being a 1.162 regular season scorer. Joe Thornton seems like he could have been the best player of the decade but instead he’s the sixth best player of the 2000’s.

5. Chris Pronger D- St Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers- Regular Season (GP-592 G-91 A-326) Playoffs (GP-105 G-18 A-61 ) 1 First All-star team, 2 Second All-star teams, 1 Hart trophy (league MVP), 1 James Norris trophy (best defenseman)

Chris Pronger has long been viewed as one of the best defenseman in the league. The physical blue-liner won a controversial MVP trophy with the Blues for the 1999/2000 season. He’s known as a physical, big minute shut-down defenseman but he also was the fourth highest scoring defenseman of the decade. He moved to Edmonton for the 2005/06 season and lead them to a Stanley Cup final seven game loss versus the Carolina Hurricanes. That was certainly Edmonton’s finest moment of the last ten years. His 21 points lead the team in the playoffs. He then moved on to Anaheim and won a cup with the Ducks. He was the leader on a skinny defense in Anaheim and a key member of the cup winning team. Philadelphia traded for and has signed him to be their playoff savior this year. Chris Pronger is the only player in the top ten to have been on four different teams but he still was the fifth best player of the 2000’s.

4. Jarome Iginla RW- Calgary Flames- Regular Season (GP-711 G-360 A-377) Playoffs (GP-52 G-27 A 20) 3 First All-star teams, 1 Second All-star team, 1 Art Ross Trophy (league scoring leader), 2 Rocket Richard trophies (league goal scoring leader), 1 Lester B Pearson trophy (PA MVP)

Jarome Iginla led the NHL in goals scored during the decade.

Jarome Iginla led the NHL in goals scored during the decade.

Jarome was the second leading scorer for the regular season during the last decade. He was the goal scoring leader for the decade by thirty nine over runner-up Marian Hossa. Jarome is another point a game player who lead his team throughout the 2000’s. He’s won a scoring title and two goal-scoring titles. His Flames teams have only made it to the finals once where they lost to Tampa Bay in seven games. Only Kovalchuk and Ovechkin have scored goals at a faster rate this decade. Jarome is one of the most consistent power forwards in the game. He needs a Stanley cup victory to round out his career but he’s the fourth best player of the 2000’s.

3. Scott Niedermayer D- New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks- Regular Season (GP-658 G-100 A-316) Playoffs (GP-134 G-16 A-57) 3 First All-star teams, 1 Conn Smythe trophy (MVP playoffs), 1 James Norris trophy (best defenseman)

Niedermayer started the decade winning a cup with the New Jersey Devils. He won a second in 2002/03 with the Devils. He tied for the team scoring lead in the playoffs with Jamie Langenbrunner that year. He moved on to the Ducks and won a cup with them in 2006/07 and the most valuable player in the playoffs award at the same time. He was a first team all-star three times in the last nine seasons and won the best defenseman trophy once. He was known primarily as an offensive defenseman yet he’s only the fifth scoring defenseman in the league for this last decade behind Lidstrom, Gonchar, Rafalski and Pronger. He played in one hundred and thirty four playoff games in the last nine playoff years. His teams were always in the mix and almost always seemed to do well. The talented Niedermayer is still a key member of the Anaheim Ducks at the age of thirty six. He’s the third best player of the 2000’s.

2. Martin Brodeur G- New Jersey Devils- 3 First All-star teams, 2 Second All-Star teams, 4 Vezina trophies (best goalie)

Martin Brodeur was the premier goalie of the decade.

Martin Brodeur was the premier goalie of the decade.

Brodeur won the most games and had the most shut-outs of any goalie in the 2000’s. He won two cups with New Jersey and in the second one he had a 16-8 record, 1.61 GAA, a .930 save percentage, and seven shut-outs and still managed to lose the playoff MVP award to losing Goalie JS Giguere of the Mighty Ducks. Mind you Giguere was 15-6, with a 1.62 GAA and .945 save percentage. Other Stanley cup winners like Cam Ward and Nikolai Khabibulin saw their statistics vary over the decade. Brodeur while piling up his four vezina trophies started the decade with a 2.04 GAA and .910 save percentage and currently has a 2.41 GAA and a .916 save percentage. His save percentage has never been lower then .906 for a season and the goals against average has never been higher then 2.57 for a full year. He set the career record for shut-outs this year passing what was once thought to be the unbeatable 103 of Terry Sawchuk. Martin Brodeur is one of the best goalies of all time and he’s the second best player of the 2000’s.

1. Nicklas Lidstrom D- Detroit Red Wings- Regular Season( GP-718 G-120 A-441) Playoffs (GP-121 G-22 A-66) , 7 First All-star  teams, 1 Second All-star team, 6 James Norris Trophies (best defenseman), 1 Conn Smythe trophy.

Lidstrom was obviously the best defenseman of the last decade. He was the highest scoring defenseman for the last ten years and the fourth leading playoff scorer, period, behind only Elias, Sakic, and Rafalski. Brian Rafalski managed his four extra playoff points in the 38 extra playoff games he was in. Lidstrom is also known for his tight defensive play and great first pass out of his zone. He’s the shut-down guy on his team as Chris Pronger is on his. Nicklas was on two Stanley Cup champions in Detroit winning the Conn Smythe during the 2002 playoffs. He made it to the finals again last year. Lidstrom is 39 now and approaching the end of his career but the last decade was his. Nicklas Lidstrom was the best player in the NHL of the 2000’s.

When you’re weeding down to ten players for an entire decade players get left out. Alex Ovechkin with his two MVP’s, Malkin and Crosby with their cup, even Eric Staal with his just haven’t played enough games to be in contention for best player of the decade. Look for them during the next ten years.

Some players like Marian Hossa, Marcus Naslund or Alexei Kovalev had a lot of points but no cup. Some like Lecavalier or St Louis or Dan Boyle had a cup but not quite enough points. I was shocked to learn that Milan Hejduk won a Rocket Richard trophy with 50 goals back in 2003. I’d completely forgotten it. Pavel Bure won the first two Rocket Richard titles of the decade with 58 and 59 goals but he only played two more injury impaired years.

I was surprised that Pavel Datsyuk or  Dany Heatley or Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t have better numbers for the decade. Again I think the next decade is more likely to be theirs. Some players like Mike Modano, Teemu Selanne and Steve Yzerman just had diminished numbers this last decade and couldn’t compete with the guys that finally made my list. Brian Rafalski, Sergei Gonchar, and Dan Boyle all deserved consideration as well. They were key members of Stanley Cup winning teams but for a while it looked like my whole list was going to be defensemen. The goalies were the easiest to sift through. Aside from Brodeur there were a lot of one or two hit wonders in nets during the decade including Ward, Giguere, Kolzig, Hasek and Khabibulin. All that said these are the players I settled on, the ones I believe were the best of the 21st century so far.

Check out other Best of the Decade Articles:

Best of the Decade: Steroids Rule The Baseball World

Best of the Decade: Best NBA Players

Best of the Decade: Top Individual Sport Athletes

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