A lot has changed in the past decade. Then again, a lot hasn’t.
As the 2010s come to a close, we identified the players who would take home trophies for their bodies of work over the course of the past 10 seasons. Since the decade was dominated by the Blackhawks, Penguins and Kings each winning multiple Stanley Cups, a lot of the individual nominees reflect that success. Interestingly, that didn’t apply to the goalies — our decade-long Vezina nominees are a bunch of guys who carried the load for their team in regular seasons but couldn’t win that elusive championship … yet.
Here’s how our ballot for all of the decade-long major awards would shake out, as well as some fun, made-up awards like best and worst trade of the decade, best goal, and best ambassador for NHL hockey:
No player has accumulated more points since 2009-10 than Sidney Crosby’s 922 (Alex Ovechkin is second, with 901). Perhaps more impressive is Crosby’s 1.26 points per game, which is topped by only Connor McDavid‘s 1.30. McDavid’s smaller sample (just 287 games) keeps him off the list. Ovechkin has 100 more goals than any other player in this time, and it could be argued that he is perhaps the single player who helped buoy his team through this decade — through President Trophies, playoff disappointments and, finally, a Stanley Cup.
Henrik Lundqvist has started more games (654) and faced more shots (19,492) than any other goalie in this span. Among all goalies who have played at least 300 games, Lundqvist has the second-best save percentage (.919). The trio of Bobrovsky, Price and Rinne is so close in stats — with .918, .918 and .919 save percentages, respectively, though Rinne leads with 55 shutouts — that it was hard to differentiate our pick for No. 2 on the list.
We have a pair of two-time Norris winners here: Chicago’s Keith and (then) Ottawa’s Karlsson. Keith — with a 53.61 Corsi for percentage — has played significantly more minutes (roughly 21,000 to 17,500) while leading Chicago to three first-place Central Division finishes and, of course, two Stanley Cups. Doughty, the 2016 Norris winner, was consistently excellent while putting up monster minutes for Los Angeles. But Karlsson embodies the shift in this decade toward smaller, puck-moving defensemen, so we’ll give him the nod.
This one is a no-brainer. Boston’s Bergeron has won four out of 10 awards this decade and has set the standard for the elite two-way forward in the game. Heck, he’s even mentioned for the award when he misses significant time in a season. Bergeron owned this decade. Kopitar (two Selkes in three years) is a natural runner-up, and Toews gets the nod for third.
Best rookie season
It’s going to be hard to match Barzal’s production (87 points in 85 games) for the Islanders in 2017-18. Both McDavid and Elias Petterson were on similar paces, though injuries derailed their freshman campaigns. Matthews is the only rookie 40-goal scorer, and his four-goal debut for a thirsty Toronto franchise was perhaps the best single game by a rookie this decade. Panarin’s 30-goal, 77-point debut with the Blackhawks — his first season in North America — was spectacular.
Winner: Barry Trotz
Runners-up: Joel Quenneville, John Tortorella
Trotz began the decade in Nashville but did his best work guiding the Capitals to unprecedented regular-season success and a long-awaited Stanley Cup. His one-year turnaround for the New York Islanders in 2018-19 (specifically installing sound defensive structure with limited personnel) gives him the edge for our Jack Adams award of the decade.
And now, for some fun …
This one sent shockwaves through the NHL: Two All-Star, top-pairing defensemen swapped in a one-for-one trade for a change of scenery. Nashville won the trade early, making the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. Subban has since been traded again (to New Jersey), while Weber remains with the Canadiens.
Somehow, this trade happened on … the same day: June 29, 2016, will live on in NHL infamy.
Trade is one for one: Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall.
— Bobby Margarita (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 29, 2016
This deal was also one-for-one and was absolutely one-sided. A disgruntled Hall of course blossomed into an MVP for the Devils. Larsson, meanwhile, is toiling for an Oilers team that has spiraled. A shout-out to 2013’s Filip Forsberg-for-Martin Erat and Michael Latta as a very close runner-up in this category.
Best goal: Crosby’s golden goal
The most memorable goal scored by an NHL player this decade was Sidney Crosby’s gold-medal overtime winner in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. It capped an epic game between Canada and the U.S. with a spectacular finish. We’re not trying to troll the NHL here — it no longer sends players to the Olympics — but it was a really big goal.
Highest Q rating: Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin
This has to be a tie between Crosby and Ovechkin — no coincidence since the NHL and NBC marketing machine liked to play up their rivalry. Ask any random stranger over the past 10 years to name an NHL player, and these two guys had the best chances of being identified. Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews should surpass the duo over the next decade, but it doesn’t help that they play in Canadian markets.
The Bruins’ jerseys are by far the most improved (from the weird Winnie the Pooh thing from the turn of the millennium to the current retro-style crest and more distinguished bear on the prowl). Colorado’s are consistently nice, but the winner here is Ottawa. Yes, this is one of the things the Senators have done right lately: a stately, throwback, striped look inspired by their original jerseys. The sharp look debuted in 2011 and got a tweak for 2018.
Worst third jersey: New York Islanders (2011-14) and Buffalo Sabres (2013-15)
While the trend of a blue jersey with a circle in the center featuring the logo became a bit tired — looking at you, Blues, Blue Jackets and Panthers — those are actually fine jerseys and definitely not the worst. That distinction should go to the Islanders from 2011-14 or Buffalo’s yellow disaster.
Best ambassador for NHL hockey: Gritty
How could a mascot who debuted in late 2018 make such an impact that he lands on a “best of the decade” list? Witness the power of Gritty.
The orange fuzzy creature has done the late night circuit, amassed a strong social media presence, been reappropriated as a meme and generally done so much media that he has become ubiquitous. Some of the other 30 teams aren’t crazy about Gritty’s preferred treatment, but there’s no question that he has helped everyone up their game.