The 2004-2005 lockout season was a devastating event for all hockey fans and the game itself. Hockey became a laughingstock amongst the three other big sports. We missed out on a whole season of hockey and the NHL lost the exposure of ESPN.
However, what came of the lockout was a great thing and probably the best thing for the league. The NHL became a more free flowing game that showcased more speed and skill, had two draft classes coming headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, which has ignited the most talked about argument of who is better since Gretzky and Lemieux.
Here's a look at the top 10 best players since the lockout.
Although Green didn't hit his niche until Bruce Boudreau took over as coach of the Capitals in the middle of the 2007-2008 season, no NHL defenseman has scored more goals than green since.
He has 58 goals in 190 games since that season and has lead NHL defensemen every year since. Last season, Green scored 31 goals and 73 points in 68 games. No defenseman has scored a point per game average since the 1992-1993 season when Brian Leetch accomplished the feat.
He also is one of seven defense men to ever score over 30 goals in a season, as well as set an NHL record for most consecutive games with a goal for a defensemen with eight games.
Although many think his game is in decline and maybe his heart isn't what it used to, Datsyuk has still been one of the best players in the game. He leads his team in points with 32 has lead the team in points every year since the lockout.
He is one of the best danglers in the league and has the softest hands. Datysuk seems like a boy amongst men on the ice with his stature but he's one of the most talented as well and makes many players look silly.
The fact he was a Hart nominee last year is an amazing feat in of itself as the Red Wings haven't had one player nominated in years due to the fact there are so many stars that have filled its roster constantly.
Lidstrom has accomplished more than any other defense man since the lockout with being the first European born captain to win a Stanley Cup and win three straight Norris and being a finalists last year.
Although this may be his last year, the first five years since the lockout no one has been better than Lidstrom on the blue line consistently. In 354 games Lidstrom has recorded 288 points, that's pretty impressive for a defense man, let alone one who has been over 35 since the lockout ended.
Malkin showed last year that he doesn't play second fiddle to anyone which has sparked a debate of who really is the better player on the Penguins: Malkin or Crosby?
Probably not since the Colorado Avalanche of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg as well as Detroit's Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov has there been talks of who is the better center on the team.
Malkin lead the league last year in points and as well in the playoffs capturing the Conn Smyth for playoff MVP and helped his team win Lord Stanley.
In the 2008 finals there was talks of Malkin not being consistent and clutch player but he shut all those people up in 2009.
He also lead the team to it's only Atlantic division crown since the lockout when Crosby was out with an injury for most of the 2008 tail end of the season.
Iggy is probably the best complete player in the NHL today. While that is debatable his talents and game are not. Iggy is the staple of the Flames offense and is the most important player on their team. He leads the franchise in games, goals, and points.
If he has it his way he'll retire a Flame but hopefully he doesn't have to do a Bourque and leave his team in his twilight years to win a Cup. He leads his team in points like he's done every year since the lockout and in goals in every year except lasts.
Iggy is a world class player and one of the best captains in the league and will most likely have a letter on his jersey at the Olympics this year.
Iggy does it all, he scores, fights, makes plays, wins the one on one battles, plays in traffic, a true leader amongst men and should finish his career with a Hall of Fame call in his first year of eligibility.
I'm really surprised he doesn't have more Hart nominations in his career, the Flames wouldn't be a contender like it has for years without this man.
Brodeur is one of the greatest to ever play the game and he's been one of the best goaltenders since the lockout. In the 2006-2007 he set an NHL record for wins with 48 as well has won 180 games since the lockout. Except the injury season last year, Brodeur hasn't had less than 43 wins since the lockout.
He's currently on pace to break his own record with 53 wins this year. Although I doubt he'll break 50 wins to end the season, he'll finish with at least 45. No player has been more important to a team than Brodeur.
Top players leave every year such as Gomez, Gionta, Rafalski to name a few but Brodeur remains the constant and is why the Devils haven't taken that predicted fall yet.
At age 26 Kovalchuk already has 322 goals and he's never had a bonafide center to set up his goals for him.
As he'll be likely heading out of Atlanta by the deadline (If he was going to re-sign he'd have done it by now) Kovalchuk may finally get that chance. With a set up man it'll be scary to see the kind of goals Kovy gets with a true No. 1 center. In 353 games since the lockout he was 215 goals.
Kovalchuk is probably the second most exciting player in the world next to Ovechkin or he could be his equal, we'll find out when he has that center like Ovechkin has in Backstrom.
Jumbo Joe as he's referred to but I refer to him now as Gentle Joe. Thornton had the best start to the new NHL by leading the league in points the first season with 125 points and won the Lester B.
Person for the players choice of MVP and the Hart trophy for league MVP. No team in recent memory has traded a player in the midst of an MVP season like the Bruins did in November of 2005.
Gentle Joe made a huge impact with the Sharks recording 72 assists and 92 points in 58 games in the Sharks uniform. No player has had more assists then Gentle Joe since the lockout, he leads the NHL with 365 assists in 369 games.
I'm going to start that I'm probably the biggest Crosby hater of all hockey fans, however, I can't deny what this kid has accomplished and the kind of player he is.
Crosby is the youngest captain ever, as well to win a Stanley Cup and the youngest player to ever score a 100 points in a season. He has the highest points per game average since the lockout, leads his team in goals and points, and is top five again for the third time of the five seasons since the lockout.
Crosby is one of the best playmakers in the league and is becoming one of the best goal scorers too. The fact he's shooting more makes him more difficult to defend against because now you don't know if he'll shoot or make the pass.
Although he's not one of the biggest players in the league he's great in front of the net and in the corners and will battle with the biggest and strongest of them and come out with the puck.
I still hate the guy and no matter what will think the "C" on his jersey stands for crybaby than captain. But I can't take anything he has done in the NHL and for the NHL. Sid is a class act, and I feel sick to my stomach saying that, but it's true.
No player has scored more goals than Ovechkin has since the Lock out ended. In 356 games he has 245 goals. The next closest person to him is Ilya Kovalchuk with 214. That's 31 more goals to the second most prolific goal scorer. Only a handful of players score more than 31 goals in a season.
Ovechkin has sparked some debates whether or not he's a dirty player or not. Regardless, no player scores with his kind of consistency or plays with the same energy he does. It's not a debate whether or not Ovechkin is the most exciting player or not in the NHL as his highlights litter and rule YouTube.
Two Harts, Two Lester's, Two Maurice Richards, one Art Ross, and the Calder for top rookie, no player has won more individual awards than Ovechkin since the lockout making him the number one regardless that Lord Stanley still has eluded him.