When I originally thought about this idea, I wanted to involve a few criteria as to hat makes a player valuable?
Well, I think it comes down to three questions:
- How valuable is the player from an off-ice standpoint?
- If the player was out of the lineup, how would that affect the team?
- How does that player impact the game when he's on the ice?
I left off some players because they're missing something from one of the three questions listed. So, without further ado:
10. Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews
A pair of rooks tie for the No. 10 spot on the list, for a few reasons. They are valuable in the NHL's youth campaign—two exciting young stars who are helping to bring the NHL back into the spotlight.
Without them, the Blackhawks, who were close to a playoff spot, would be lowly basement dwellers and have almost no hope. After the youngsters, star Martin Havlat can't stay healthy, the defense lacks a stud (now Brian Campbell is there, but he is not a stud), and the team features a highly overpaid, overrated goaltender in Nikolai Khabibulin.
On the ice, they are electric. Kane is a shifty little speedster with tremendous scoring ability, alwys able to make something out of nothing. Toews is the two-way star, combining good scoring ability with defensive responsibility.
Throw in the leadership skills of these two and you have some very valuable NHLers.
9. Robert Luongo
Luongo, arguably the best goaltender in the game, is a one-man force in Vancouver. He's the team's lone "star" player—all due respect to the Sedin twins.
Without him, the Canucks wouldn't stand a chance in the ultra-competitive Northwest Division. He's a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate for a reason.
When he is on the ice, the Canucks have a chance to win every single night, no matter how putrid their offense may be. He's helped lead them to the playoffs both seasons in Vancouver and could be the catalyst behind bigger and better things should the offense improve.
8. Carey Price
Price is what the NHL needs—a fresh-faced, great goaltender to take over where Patrick Roy left off. It doesn't hurt that this goalie just happened to end up in Montreal, either.
'rice took the league by storm last season, though he was a bit shaky in the playoffs. Still, he could be the next big thing.
Here's where Price's value drops a bit: when he isn't in the crease, the Habs aren't that much worse off. Halak's performance in last year's playoffs was on par with Price's—though Carey was lights out during the regular season.
What he does bring to the table is a sense of calm. He doesn't worry after a bad goal—he just goes back to work. He has a tremendous skill set, and the demeanor a goalie needs to flourish in the NHL.
7. Martin Brodeur
Brodeur, the goaltending ironman and face of consistency, brings a charming presence and a veteran touch as well as giving the Devils and the NHL a viable star to hang their hats on.
Where would the Devils be without him? For years, many believed Brodeur's success was a product of the trap and a solid defense in front of him. But after Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Brian Rafalski left town, Brodeur continued to flourish, evening set an NHL record for victories in a single season.
Simply put, the Devils may not even be a playoff team without him—and are probably far worse than that.
On the ice, Brodeur is still just as good as ever. He hasn't lost a step and does his job with a flair that only Patrick Roy could match. He keeps nearing milestone after milestone, and will soon be the greatest goaltender in history, at least statistically.
6. Joe Thornton
Jumbo Joe is another star whose personality is something the NHL sorely needs. A big, goofy character, Thornton has brought the Bay Area alive—as well as helped the Sharks' fan base grow.
Without him, the Sharks would probably be a playoff team, as they have tremendous goaltending in Nabokov and a deep talent pool. One could also point to Thornton when talking about their recent playoff failures.
What he does bring to the Sharks, however, is one-of-a-kind playmaking skills. He is arguably the game's best passer and hard to derail when he gets going. He is always a threat to win the Art Ross and Hart trophies as well.
5. Nicklas Lidstrom
Maybe the game's best leader, Lidstrom is approaching storied ground. He is a near-legend in Motown, and a great example of how the game should be played. While not the most outspoken guy, he has displayed class and dignity in all aspects of his career.
Without Lidstrom, the Wings wouldn't be the dominant defensive team they are. Sure, they still have a tremendous cast but Lidstrom, the captain, makes things go.
On the ice, Lidstrom is the key cog. He shuts down anyone who gets near him as efficiently as anyone can. He still quarterbacks the power play as well as anybody in the league, and hasn't shown signs of slowing down, despite his age (38).
Lidstrom should add at least one more Norris Trophy (he has six already) to his collection before it's all said and done.
4. Dion Phaneuf
Though not as accomplished and perhaps not quite as complete as Lidstrom, Phaneuf is still an elite defender. For the Flames, he provides great offensive ability with lethal hits and, with Jarome Iginla, is the face of the organization. He also is one of a few players who is at the forefront of the NHL's youth movement.
Without Phaneuf patrolling the back end, Miikka Kiprusoff would be a lot busier, and his stats might be a little worse for wear. The Flames' offensive struggles would also be further magnified without Phaneuf cleaning up the defensive end.
Dion brings "oomph" to the Flames. He lays some of the most thunderous checks in hockey. He's a quarterback of the power play, with his booming slapshot being the key.
Phaneuf's a great skater and can electrify a crowd. He's the complete defensive package and should dominate the league for many years.
3. Evgeni Malkin
Robin to Sidney Crosby's "Batman", Geno is soft-spoken without much to say—but his presence is felt everywhere. He became a superstar last season, picking up the slack in Crosby's absence, giving Pittsburgh not one, but two of the most marketable hockey players in the world.
It's hard to say what would happen with him out of the lineup as it hasn't really happened thus far, but the team would take a step back a bit. Malkin makes Crosby and those around him better, simply by his presence alone.
Malkin showed last season what he's capable of on the ice. A big, young lad with good skating ability and tremendous scoring touch, Malkin was the man when Crosby went down with an ankle injury. He showed his ability to dominate the competition and placed himself as one of the best players in the game.
2. Alexander Ovechkin
AO is the most charismatic player in the league—and that's even with his poor English skills. Imagine what he could do if he were a good 'ol Canadian boy. His exuberant celebrations and passion for the game are rare and something that should be coveted.
What can you say about the Caps without Ovechkin? They'd be vying for the top pick in the draft. There is no one on that roster than can make up for him should he miss time, nor could the team sell tickets without him.
On the ice, Ovechkin is a ball of fire. He scores goals in a fast and furious attack, celebrating each one like it may be his last. He carries the Caps on his back and takes them as far as he can, while bringing the NHL to new heights.
1. Sidney Crosby
With all due respect to Ovechkin, Crosby is the face of the NHL. Everyone knows who he is. He's charming and personable, an asset in any sport. Most of all, he's a once-in-a-lifetime talent who draws fans—even the casual ones—to the sport.
We all saw the answer to the "What are the Pens like without Crosby?" question last season when he went down with an ankle sprain. The Pens, lucky for them, had Malkin there to step up and take over games, so they didn't slip much. But by no means do the Pens want Crosby out of the lineup for even a second.
On the ice, he combines rare vision, tremendous skating, deft passing skills, a good shot, and a nasty edge. He changes games all by himself, coming up big in moments when he's needed most.
He is simply the best player in the game today—both on the ice and off.