Source: Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review
We're nearing the end of the decade, and the NHL has seen many talented players breakout and turn themselves into superstars while at the same time morph from superstars to legends. In my next few articles I hope to break down the decade’s best players by position. I'll start with the centremen of the hockey world.
This was an easy pick for the centre position. The decade started off with Crosby scoring one of the most iconic goals of all time in Vancouver winning gold for Canada.
However, the rest of the early 10's weren't as easy for the former number 1 pick. Crosby got a concussion during the 2011 winter classic against the Capitals and as a result missed the rest of the season, and would miss more games later stemming from the same injury. In total, Sid The Kid missed a total of 157 games during 2011-13.
While he was producing, Crosby would still miss games having concussion-like symptoms. The Penguins captain career seemed to be in Jeopardy. However, after the shortened lockout season, Crosby exploded with 104 points in 80 games. The first time he would hit the 100 point mark in 5 seasons. It helped him rack up the Art Ross, Ted Lindsey and won the Hart as the league's top player.
It got better for Crosby as two seasons later he'd hoist his second and third Stanley Cup, going back to back. Crosby for the first time in his career won the Conn Smythe trophy in back-to-back seasons. He was the first to do that since Mario Lemieux in 91’ and 92’. Sidney Crosby is second in scoring during the decade, second only to Patrick Kane, who only has 17 points more all while playing a hundred more games.
Stamkos has been one of the most elite goal scorers of the decade. The sniper started the decade having 45+ goals in the first three seasons including a whopping 60 goals in the 2011-12 season. He's the only player to have scored 60 goals in a season this decade. Entering in his early 20's and Stamkos was already challenging Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket trophy. Winning two in the first three seasons of this decade as the league's top goal scorer.
Stammer was nominated for the Hart trophy in 2012 in a year where the Lightning missed the playoffs despite Stamkos 60 goal performance. Stamkos went on the warpath during the lockout year with 57 points during the shortened season. Injuries would slow down Stammer for a few seasons in the middle of the decade, but Stamkos has been on the rebound the last two seasons, combining for 184 points.
Last season he notched 98 points, his highest since the 2012 season. He's seventh in scoring this decade but his goal scoring ability got him second in total goals, raking in the second most trailing only Ovechkin. So if you take away Ovechkin, Stamkos would be the best scorer of this decade and his era.
You can add another Penguins player to this list and it’s the Russian All-Star. Malkin already had some hardware in his first five seasons of the 2010’s, yet it wasn’t enough for Geno to add to his greatness.
On top of winning his second Art Ross trophy during the 2011-2012, Malkin snatched the Hart and Ted Lindsey award as well. Malkin hit 109 points that season, the highest he's hit this decade. Malkin has won two Stanley cups along with Sidney Crosby, playing an integral part for the Penguins during those Cup runs. He has missed his fair share of games over the past few seasons, and hasn't played a full season in over 10 years but has still to maintain a point per game scoring average.
He's third in points per game only being behind Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. While being one of the more elite scorers ranking fifth in goals per game, Malkin is also 8th in scoring and sixth in powerplay goals. If Malkin was healthy he'd be higher on those lists without a doubt. He's one of the most lethal scorers to grace the ice.
It was tough putting together the final entry of the starting lineup for Centres but Bergeron's name had to be on here. Even though he isn't one of the highest point producers at his position, Bergeron is no question the best two way forwards in the league. The longtime Bruin has collected the most Frank J Selke trophies this decade with 4, tying with Bob Gainey for the most all-time.
Bergeron is also one of the top faceoff men in the league and plays a big part on the Bruins special teams, whether it's playing on the powerplay or killing penalties. He's seventh in shorthanded goals with 13. This decade Bergeron has been a solid 55-70 point guy, and ranks twentieth in goals while just missing the top twenty in scoring. Bergeron though is one of the best all-around players.
While Bergeron isn’t the most flashy player this decade, you can add a King Clancy and a Stanley Cup to his resume along with a couple of gold medals. Despite getting older, Bergeron put up 79 points last season playing on the NHL's most feared line. It's the most Bergeron has hit in his career.
If you asked me half way through the decade if Toews would be on this team I would have guaranteed him a spot on this list. Yet the latter half of this decade Toews has dropped in production and his best days seemed to be behind him.
Toews at one point was one of the best all-around players in the game. He’s captained three Stanley Cup winning teams, and individually, he has a Selke and Conn Smythe under his belt. Compared to others, Toews’ drop off did cost him being in the starting lineup. He did bounce back last season but this year he seems to be struggling to find his game again. While his teammate Patrick Kane continues to soar.
Toews is one the best centres this decade. He's ranked 17th in points and 5th in plus minus. The Blackhawks captain has been one of the most clutch players with 51 game-winning goals, tied for third. Toews though, will have to settle for a reserve spot, as the latter half of his the decade has left something to be desired.
One of the more underappreciated players in the league, Backstrom has been one of best playmakers in the NHL for quite some time. Although, it does help he’s playing with Ovechkin on the same line.
Backstrom has been almost a point a game player, and his passing hasn't just helped Ovechkin soar, but numerous players over the years like Alexander Semin and TJ Oshie. When you play on the line with Backstrom, expect him to set you up. Backstrom this decade ranks ninth in scoring, but more impressively is second in assists nearing the 500 mark.
Leading the NHL in assists with a superb 60 helpers in the 2014-15 season. Backstrom surprisingly has made just one All-Star appearance despite being one of the most consistent players at his position. It also shows though how deep that position is and how a player like Backstrom could be overlooked. Backstrom placed in the top-10 of scoring 4 different years and got his Stanley Cup in 2018.
Kopitar might not get talked enough like the others on this list, but you can't deny what he has done this decade for the Kings. A two-time Stanley Cup champion, the Slovenian centreman has also won two Frank J Selke trophies, one of two that have won that award multiple times this decade (Patrice Bergeron), and also has a Lady Byne on the mantle as well.
Kopitar for the most part has been a 60-70 point player, but still ranks inside the top 10 of assists and just missed the top 10 of scoring. He's had three seasons where he's ranked inside the top 10 of assists in the league. The Kings All-Star has played in the NHL All-Star festivities three times this decade.
Simply on of the most consistent players in the league.