Ten Best NHL Players of the Last Decade
The last decade has been a tumultuous one for the NHL.
A complete season (2004-05) was lost to lock-out. Some all-time great players like Mario Lemieux, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque, Joe Sakic, and Steve Yzerman saw their careers come to an end.
Future and present greats like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, Henrik Zetterburg, and Mike Green got their careers off to rousing starts.
Who had the best decade, though? Who had the best ten-year career from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2009?
It was an era that saw two cups each awarded to perennial playoff teams in Detroit and New Jersey. However, newcomers Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Anaheim also won their first and only Stanley Cups.
Alex Ovechkin was the only two time winner of the Hart Trophy during the decade, but he's also only played 365 games and scored 470 points.
Generally speaking, the best performers for any decade are going to have established themselves a year or two before the decade starts and play their prime seasons through that decade.
My list doesn't exactly conform to that criteria, but mostly those are the type of players that I landed on my best ten NHLers of the 2000's list.
11. Just Missed
There were a number of great players who didn't make my top 10 list. There were three that I agonized over though.
Marian Hossa had the fourth most regular season points of the decade. He played in 94 playoff games and had 74 playoff points. If he'd won one cup he'd probably have made my top ten.
Patrik Elias was the ninth leading regular season scorer of the decade and was a key member of New Jersey teams that won two Stanley Cups. His 102 playoff points bump him to seventh overall in scoring and were the highest playoff total for the last 10 years.
If he'd been a little healthier or won a Conn Smythe trophy he'd have made my top ten.
Brian Rafalski was a key contributor to two cup wins in New Jersey and to another in Detroit. He was the third leading scoring defenseman of the decade. I just had trouble putting four defensemen in my top ten.
10. 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)
Here is a player whose best decade was probably the 90's. Even as his skills diminished and he played for three different teams, he managed two +120 point seasons and two +50 goal seasons.
Despite not playing the last season and a half in the NHL, Jagr was the fifth leading scorer of the decade. He was the highest point per game player of the last ten years among the players who played at least 500 games.
Jagr won the first two scoring titles of the decade and two Lester B. Pearson trophy's as the players association MVP for the 1999-2000 and 2005-06 seasons.
The skilled Czech was also chosen three times as the end of season first All-star team right winger in nine NHL seasons. Jaromir Jagr was my 10th best NHL player of the 2000's.
9. Daniel Alfredsson RW - Ottawa Senators
Regular Season (GP 681 G 281 A 441) Playoffs (GP 79 G 30 A 31)
The often-maligned Swede is the third leading regular season scorer of the decade. Throw in playoff numbers and he's second only to Joe Thornton.
The only NHL award he's managed in the last nine seasons was being chosen as the end of season second team all-star right winger for the 2005-06 season, but he's been a star on his Senator team for the decade.
The consistent scorer managed to average 1.036 points per game for the last nine seasons and playoffs.
He helped lead his team to one Stanley Cup final appearance in 2006-07. Daniel Alfredsson is my ninth best NHL player of the 2000's.
8. Vincent Lecavalier C- Tampa Bay Lightning
Regular Season (GP- 710 G- 287 A- 367) Playoffs (GP- 45 G-18 A-15)
The feisty Stanley Cup-winning captain is the fifth highest scorer of the decade. The talented center led the league in goal scoring in 2006-07, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy.
He was chosen second All-star team center once in the last nine seasons. Vincent Lecavalier was my 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)
Burnaby Joe was another player, like Jagr, whose best decade was probably the 90s. Despite that, Joe still had enough in the tank this decade to finish seventh overall in regular season scoring.
His forty-six playoff goals were the most of any player during the last ten years. He won a Hart trophy, Lady Byng, and Lester B. Pearson trophy for the 2000-01 season.
He led Colorado to their last Stanley Cup victory in 2001 with 26 points in 21 games. He had 19 points in 21 games when Colorado lost in seven in the Western final to Detroit the next year.
Joe was a 1.1-point a game player that last nine seasons until injury and age finally stopped him. Sakic was chosen three times in nine seasons as the first All-star team center at the end of the year.
Joe Sakic is my seventh best player of the 2000's.
6. Joe Thornton C- Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks
Regular Season (GP-704 G-248 A-569) Playoffs (GP-59 G-9 A-44)
Joe Thornton is the leading point scorer of the decade. His 1.128 points per game (regular season and playoffs) is second only to Jaromir Jagr among players who played at least 500 games this decade.
He won the Art Ross trophy as the league's leading scorer and the Hart trophy as league MVP the year Boston traded him to San Jose.
He was chosen the first All-star team center at the end of that year and was second All-star team center at the end of the 2002-03 season and 2007-08.
Normally, these numbers would have a player in contention for the best player of the decade.
The big playmaker, however, has never played on a team that has gotten out of the second round of the playoffs.
He has 1.16 points per game in the regular season but that shrinks to .746 points per game in the playoffs.
Joe needs to win a cup in the next decade to secure his legacy as a great NHL player. All that said, Joe Thornton is still my sixth-best NHL player of the 2000's.
5. Chris Pronger D - St Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers
Regular Season (GP- 593 G- 91 A-326) Playoffs (GP-105 G-18 A-61 )
Chris Pronger was perhaps the best shut-down defenseman of the decade. He's physical and mobile with a great pass out of the zone and good shot.
He won a controversial Hart Trophy with St Louis to start the decade. He also won a well-deserved James Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman that year.
While known for his defensive play, he was also the fourth leading scoring defenseman of the decade. He led the Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2005-06, leading the team in playoff scoring with 21 points.
He was a key member of the Duck team that won the cup the next year. He was chosen to the first All-star team once and the second team twice in the last nine seasons.
While playing on four different teams in nine seasons, Chris Pronger is my fifth-best NHL player of the 2000's.
4. Jarome Iginla RW - Calgary Flames
Regular Season (GP-713 G-360 A-377) Playoffs (GP-52 G-27 A 20)
Jarome was the second leading scorer of the last ten years and the leading goal scorer of the decade.
He won the 2001-02 Rocket Richard trophy (most goals), Art Ross trophy (most points), and Lester B. Pearson trophy (players association MVP). He was chosen the first All-star team right winger three times and second team right winger once in nine seasons.
In 2004, he shared the Richard trophy with Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk. Iginla lead his team to a Stanley cup final loss to Tampa Bay in 2004 where he had 22 points in 26 games.
Iginla is another player who needs to win a cup to establish his credentials as a great player.
He's a little longer in the tooth then Thornton and as a power forward he probably has a shorter shelf life. Still, Jarome Iginla was my fourth best player of the 2000's.
3. Scott Niedermayer D - New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks
Regular Season (GP-660 G-100 A-318) Playoffs (GP-134 G-16 A-57)
Scott Niedermayer was an important member of both Stanley Cup-winning teams in New Jersey this decade.
He tied Jamie Langenbrunner for the team playoff scoring lead during the 2002-03 cup run. He won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP when the Ducks won their cup.
He won a James Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman for 2003-04. He was chosen three times to the end of season first All-Star team in the last nine seasons.
Though considered primarily an offensive defenseman, Niedermayer only had the fifth most points among defenseman for the decade.
However, he also played a prime shut-down role in Anaheim and his offensive and puck-moving skills are undeniable.
That combined with his playoff success makes Scott Niedermayer my third best NHL player of the 2000's.
2. Martin Brodeur G - New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur was the only goalie to make my list and he was an easy choice. He led the league in wins and shutouts for the decade. He was consistently great throughout.
He won four Vezina trophies during the decade as the league's best goalie. No other goalie in the decade won more than one.
His team lead the league in goals against average in 2003 and 2004. He was obviously key in both of New Jersey's Stanley Cup victories.
He lost the Conn Smythe to Scott Stevens in 2000 and JS Giguere in 2003. His 1.65 GAA, seven shutouts, and .934 save percentage lost out to Giguere's 1.62 GAA, five shut-outs, and .945 save percentage.
Martin Brodeur was easily the best goalie of the decade and arguably one of the best goalies of all time.
His save percentage was never less than .906 for a season, and he broke .920 three times.
His highest goals against average for a season was 2.57. Martin Brodeur was my second best player of the 2000's.
1/Nicklas Lidstrom D-Detroit Red Wings
Regular Season (GP-719 G-120 A-443) Playoffs (GP-121 G-22 A-66)
Nicklas Lidstrom was the consensus number one defenseman of the decade. He won six James Norris trophies in nine seasons. No other of the great defensemen of the era won more than one.
He started the decade winning the cup and the Conn Smythe in 2002. He finished winning a cup in 2007-08 and barely losing to Pittsburgh last year. He was chosen as an end of year first All-star seven times and a second All-star once, in nine seasons.
He was the leading scoring defenseman of the decade and Detroit's shut-down defenseman for those nine seasons.
He's fourth in playoff point scoring over-all behind only Elias, Sakic, and Rafalski. Rafalski's four more points came in 38 more playoff games.
The aging Lidstrom (39) is approaching the end of a great NHL career and he is my best player of the 2000's.