In about one month, we will be gearing up for training camps and exhibition games. After a great ending to last season, the 2011-2012 season will finally begin.
As the summer winds down to an end, we take the time to look back at seasons that have passed. In this case, we look at the decade that has passed.
This slideshow was tough to do, because it looks at a decade worth of centers. Some of them were in their prime, some of them were fading in to the end of their careers, while some of them only started part way through and are on the rise.
I definitely will not claim this to be perfect, but should be good for discussion. Leave a comment regarding anyone I missed or your favorite memories of the players on the list.
Sergei Fedorov qualifies on the career body of work program. Yes, he spent time at other positions and yes, his production declined throughout the decade.
Overall, Fedorov was one of the most gifted centers at both ends of the ice to ever play the game.
Statistics of note: four seasons of 30 or more goals in the decade, won 2002 Stanley Cup with Detroit Red Wings.
While Mario Lemieux's overall resume would rank much higher, he only played five seasons in the 2000s. Three of which were plagued by injury, but the other two still showed that Le Magnifique had it.
Statistic of note: scored 91 points in 2002-2003.
Another player who has an overall body of work that puts him among the all-time greats, Ron Francis played in five years of the 2000s.
Statistic of note: Four seasons of 35 or more assists.
With Bobby Holik making the list, some you may scratch your head while others will just "get it". The game of hockey is not always about numbers.
Holik was a competent offensive player, but his main skill was being an incredible defensive center. That helps get him on the list in my book.
Statistic of note: scored more than 10 goals in every season he played in the decade except one.
Unlike some of our players at the beginning of the slide, Backstrom's career has spanned the second half of the decade. If not for Alexander Ovechkin, he would get much more attention for his skill and production.
Statistic of note: scored 101 points in 2009-2010.
Steve Yzerman is another player who saw his playing days end in the decade of the 2000s. That does not mean he still was not a presence in terms of both play and what he meant to the league.
Statistic of note: won 2002 Stanley Cup with Detroit Red Wings.
Peter Forsberg always reminded me of a human wolf because of his piercing stare and facial hair. He spent much of the decade toggling between dominant and injured.
Forsberg even tried to return to play last season, but he physically was unable.
Statistic of note: won the 2001 Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche; scored 106 points in the 2002-2003 season.
Anze Kopitar does switch between center and wing, so he may not fully qualify in your eyes. His 138 goals in five seasons would seem to be a qualifier though.
Statistic of note: has never scored less than 20 goals in any of his NHL seasons.
Despite a rough end to his time in Philly, Mike Richards had a very productive time there. He will now take his abilities and leadership to Los Angeles (pairing with our last slide member, Anze Kopitar).
Statistic of note: has four NHL season with 20 or more goals.
Ryan Getzlaf was the 19th overall pick of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He has scored 415 points in his NHL career.
Statistics of note: scored 91 points in 2008-2009; won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Henrik Sedin has racked up 666 points in his NHL career to date. During the 2000s, he has proven to be one of the most skilled players in the league.
Statistic of note: scored 112 points in the 2009-2010 season.
Joe Thornton has played in over 1,000 NHL games if you include the playoffs. He has been a premier talent for the league for the majority of his career.
Statistic of note: has 1,001 career points.
Mats Sundin was a force in the NHL over both the 1990s and the 2000s. Unfortunately for him, this personal success never translated in to a Stanley Cup.
Statistic of note: with the exception of his last season, scored 72 or more points every season he played in the decade.
Joe Sakic is another player whose greatness spanned both the 1990s and 2000s. While his franchise may have moved, he is one of the rare great players to have played his entire career for the same organization.
Statistics of note: scored 87 or more points in four seasons during this decade; won the 2001 Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.
Evgeni Malkin is another player that splits time between center and wing, but his greatest NHL success has come as a center. Despite playing on a team with Sidney Crosby, while at the top of his game, he can certainly step out of his shadow.
Statistics of note: has two seasons of 100 or more points; won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The young Captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews was the third overall selection of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Entering the NHL at a very young age, he has shown to play beyond his years and seems a likely candidate for the "Top Centers of the 2010 Decade" as well.
Statistics of note: scored 20 or more goals in each of his four NHL seasons; won the 2010 Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Eric Staal was the second overall pick of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He entered the league relatively quickly after that and has not looked back as one of the best players in the sport today.
Statistics of note: has scored 29 or more goals in each of his NHL seasons; won the 2006 Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Sidney Crosby has his list of detractors. One thing nobody should question is the man's dedication to the sport of hockey.
In his short career, whether forced or not, he has become the face of the NHL. Unfortunately, speculation over his return from post-concussion syndrome continue.
Even if currently baseless, the questions will likely linger for the rest of his career. For more issues beyond Crosby from a Penguins standpoint, please check out this article I recently completed.
Statistics of note: has four career seasons of 100 or more points; won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Vincent Lecavalier was the number one overall pick of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. With apologies to Steven Stamkos, many consider him to be the face of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise.
Statistics of note: scored 20 or more goals every season of the decade; won the 2004 Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Pavel Datsyuk was the 171st overall pick of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. His career and draft slot have gone on to make many general managers look ridiculous for passing up on him multiple times.
Statistics of note: five seasons of 70 or more points in the decade; won the 2002 and 2008 Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.