The 2010s offered one of the best decades in hockey. From the Chicago Blackhawks' early domination to Alex Ovechkin's goal-scoring to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships for the Pittsburgh Penguins, rarely in years past has the sport been more thrilling.
However, one player stands out more than others as the best player to lace 'em up during the past decade — and it was an easy, and unanimous vote among the Sporting News' hockey staff: Sidney Crosby, NHL Athlete of the Decade.
The Penguins' captain dominated the 2010s — labeled "The Next One" before he even played an NHL game, he's filled that role in many ways over the span of 10 years. Kicking the decade off with his "Golden Goal" that won the Canadians the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, Crosby didn't stop rolling.
Despite battling concussions and multiple injuries over the course of 10 years, he's still managed to produce at more than a point-per-game pace in each season, while accumulating a number of individual and collective accolades. After hoisting the Stanley Cup back in 2009, he went on to lead Pittsburgh to two more titles in 2016 and 2017 while winning the Conn Smythe as the MVP in both Stanley Cup campaigns. Beyond his championship trophies, he's also added two Rocket Richards, an Art Ross, a Hart and more.
In 670 games since the beginning of the 2009-10 campaign, he's recorded 319 goals and 517 assists, good for 836 points, which leads all skaters. He even has more than second-place holder Patrick Kane (through Dec. 8) — and in 100 fewer games.
That being said, when thinking of the best player throughout the 2010s, the decision is unanimous and obvious, as "Sid the Kid" continues to defy expectations, overcoming adversity and revolutionizing the game of hockey.
MORE: SN's NHL All-Decade team
By the numbers
2 Stanley Cups
2 Conn Smythe Trophies
2 Rocket Richard Trophies
1 Art Ross Trophy
1 Hart Memorial Trophy
1 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award
3 First All-Star Team selections
3 Second All-Star Team selections
3 All-Star Games
What they're saying:
"You look at the things he's accomplished both as an individual and with his team; that's something I don't think many people are going to argue with. He's a special player, he's a generational player and how he carries himself too is something that I think goes a long way and how he represents himself and the Penguins and in a broader scheme of things, the NHL, he's a role model for kids and you see no matter where kids are they're wearing Crosby jerseys. That's something that transcends whatever team he plays for." — Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
"I have a ton of respect for him. I think he's elevated the game of hockey and he's been the face of the NHL for the past 15 years. Obviously, he's the best player in the league, and what he's done in Pittsburgh. Just playing against him in the playoff series with Ottawa, I think we played them twice in the playoffs, and all the times in the regular season — he battles, he competes but he's a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and always respected him and thankful for the opportunity I had to play against him." — Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators
"Sidney Crosby missed so much time with concussions and other injuries but still came out of the decade with two Olympic gold medals and two Stanley Cup rings. When his team — Canada or the Penguins — needed him, Sid was clutch. Crosby had the “golden goal,” the 2016 and 2017 Conn Smythe Trophies and the distinction as the best hockey player in the world." — Stephen Whyno, Associated Press
"Sid has been the best player in the last decade because of his ability to adapt and become even more complete in his all-around game. The skillset and offensive numbers came at a time when scoring was down league-wide. The NHL needed a player like 87. The rules and gameplay have changed numerous times over his career. It affected most, but Sid redefined himself and found how to adjust, and become the most complete player this generation has seen.” — NHL Network analyst/former teammate, Mike Rupp
"He's obviously I guy that I looked up to when I was younger and what he's done and how he plays, I feel like he does it all. The leadership he brings, you can tell just the way he's playing. Tough opponent and a tough player to play against but I would say fun challenge. It's every time you step out on the ice against him you want to make sure you raise your level of compete and it's always a fun challenge, always fun to go against one of the best." — Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers
"Tough, not fun [to play against him]. ... He's an unbelievable player, one of the best to ever play the game. Just playing against him, it's so hard as a defenseman to play against him. He does everything well, there's nothing he can't do so that's well deserved. Everything he's accomplished is pretty unbelievable." — Roman Josi, Nashville Predators.
Next decade belongs to: Connor McDavid, center, Oilers
This one's just as obvious: Connor McDavid. Why? Well, he's Connor McDavid.
The Oilers captain — and the youngest to wear the "C" in NHL history — is an all-around player with multiple traits that make him one of the best players, and superstars, in the National Hockey League at just 22-years-old. His lightning-fast speed, playmaking ability, vision and scoring ability has led him to two Art Ross Trophies, one Hart and three NHL All-Star Games and First All-Star Team selections.
Not to mention, McDavid's been a point-per-game player since his rookie year in the league; even during his rookie season when he suffered a broken clavicle early on in the 2015-16 season, he still managed 48 points in 45 games and has since followed up with three-straight 100-plus point campaigns. This year, he became the first player to hit the 50-point mark, accomplishing said feat in less than 30 games while putting him on pace for 133 points.