Another decade of hockey is wrapping up as the 2010s come to a close when the clock strikes midnight Dec. 31. In the past 10 years, hockey has become a more skilled, faster, stronger and more exciting global game with countless superstars rising to the top.
It all started with Sidney Crosby's "Golden Goal" at the 2010 Winter Olympics and went on to see four teams dominate the landscape in the NHL as the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins each won multiple Stanley Cup titles and the Boston Bruins won one in their three trips to the Final. It was also one of firsts as the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues ended decades-long droughts to win the Cup and the Golden Knights set up shop in Vegas before reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their first season.
So, as we get set to toast in a new year and a new chapter in hockey, Sporting News' hockey staff selected — some unanimously, some not — the NHL's all-decade team.
(Note: All statistics are from the start of the 2009-10 season through games played on Dec. 16 unless otherwise stated.)
Forward: Sidney Crosby
Why he's here: Crosby has played more than 100 fewer games than Patrick Kane, but he is level with him in points over the past decade with 836 in just 670 games. Kane should jump him before the calendar flips to 2020, but that's only because Crosby is once again out with an injury — something that has plagued him, but not stopped him, throughout his career. Anointed "The Next One" long before he wore a Penguins jersey, Crosby dominated the landscape in the 2010s with the ability to score from anywhere, mystifying on-ice vision, an unrelenting drive and a backhand that is unmatched in the game today — while also missing considerable time with injury.
He added to his Hall of Fame resume with his second and third Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017 — taking home the Conn Smythe in both instances — and the second Hart Trophy of his career as the league's MVP in 2014 — an award he was also a finalist for five other times in the decade. In 115 playoff games, he scored 123 points (42 goals, 81 assists) and sits atop the leaderboard with an impressive 1.07 points-per-game mark, which is the best among players who have skated in at least 30 postseason games.
The Penguins captain not only captured two Rocket Richard Trophies and an Art Ross Trophy, two Olympic gold medals (one, of course, powered by his "Golden Goal"), a World Championship and a World Cup in the past 10 years but has also elevated the games of all his teammates that have suited up alongside him. Add in his community work and dedication to growing the game, and it's easy to say Sidney Crosby has been a trailblazer in the game on and off the ice in the past decade.
By the numbers: Three NHL All-Star Games. Three NHL First All-Star Teams. Three NHL Second All-Star Teams. Two Stanley Cups. Two Conn Smythe Trophies. Two Rocket Richard Trophies. One Art Ross Trophy. One Hart Memorial Trophy.
Forward: Connor McDavid
Why he's here: A generational talent who's playing in just his fifth NHL season, the 2015 first-overall pick creates highlight-reel plays on a nightly basis. In 323 games, he has netted 431 points (148 goals and 283 assists) along with an NHL-best 1.33 points-per-game number that blows everyone else on this list out of the water. When Wayne Gretzky was on the ice, the fans, his teammates and the opposition alike couldn't help but watch in awe, and the same can be said for McDavid. His ability to go from 0-to-60 with impeccable edge work is unprecedented and is elevated to another level with his exceptional on-ice vision and hockey sense.
The youngest captain in NHL history, McDavid was also the third-youngest player to win the Art Ross Trophy in 2017 when he led the NHL with 100 points; the same year he won the Hart Trophy. He followed that season up with 108 points and another Art Ross Trophy in 2018. His rookie season, the superstar finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy, despite only playing in 45 games due to a broken clavicle.
One of the most dynamic players in the game, he also led Canada to gold at the U18 world championship (2013), the U20 world championship (2015) and the men's world championship in 2016. The highest-paid player (cap hit) in the league is well worth his salary ten-fold; this season he leads the NHL in points (59) and his name is already in the mix — as it is every year — for the Hart Trophy.
By the numbers: Three NHL All-Star Games. Two Art Ross Trophies. Two Ted Lindsay Awards. Two NHL First All-Star Teams. One Hart Trophy. One NHL All-Rookie Team.
Foward: Alex Ovechkin
Why he's here: While Gretzky's office was behind the net, "The Great 8" has built his in the left faceoff dot. A pure sniper, Ovechkin not only brings a nose for the net but can also play the role of a grinder, leveling big hits on a consistent basis. While he's not the greatest backchecker in the history of the game, he dominates on the offensive end — with 460 goals in 795 games. In the past 10 years, Ovi has captured six Rocket Richard Trophies as the league's top goal scorer, brought a Stanley Cup to Washington, D.C. (and partied like a champ), while also winning the Conn Smythe and Hart Trophies.
Another member of the point-per-game club (1.04), Ovechkin's 824 points in the past decade includes 177 power-play goals and 302 total points on the man advantage — he leads the league in both categories. The 34-year-old has also racked up a league-leading 74 game-winners, including 16 overtime tallies. How Ovi's arms aren't tired is shocking, considering he has almost 900 more shots on net (3,608) than the No. 2 shot-taker Phil Kessel and has a top-10 shooting percentage of 12.8 percent. He's also proud to represent Russia and has led the national team to six medals in the past 10 years — two golds, two silvers and two bronzes — at the IIHF World Championships.
By the numbers: Six Rocket Richard Trophies. Four NHL All-Star Games. Four NHL Second All-Star Teams. Three NHL First All-Star Teams. One Stanley Cup. One Conn Smythe Trophy. One Ted Lindsay Award. One Hart Trophy.
Defense: Drew Doughty
Why he's here: Physical, defensive with an offensive upside — who is always good for a bulletin board quote too — Doughty has built an impressive resume over the past decade. In 806 games, he posted 110 goals and 462 points, good for fifth among NHL defensemen. He's not far behind the other blueliner on this all-decade list when it comes to special teams (198 power-play points) but he's also tallied 26 game-winners, with some being more memorable than others. During the Kings' 2012 Cup run he was tied atop the league with 12 assists and led all defensemen in scoring (18 points) the year the Kings won in 2014.
While he entered the NHL as an offensive-defenseman, the 2016 Norris Trophy winner — and three-time finalist — has become one of the games' top shut-down defenders. From 2009-10 to 2018-19, Doughty averaged an oiSV% of 91.82 — meaning the Kings' goaltenders posted a .918 save percentage at even strength when he was on the ice. That's not a bad stat for a guy who also led the team in average ice time at a whopping 26 minutes and 31 seconds for the decade. Add in that he also finished with a CF% below 53.2 just once (in 2018-19), and it's easy to say the two-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold-medal winner and 2016 World Cup champ has solidified his position as a top defenseman in the past 10 years.
By the numbers: Five NHL All-Star Games. Two Stanley Cups. Two NHL First All-Star Teams. Two NHL Second All-Star Teams. One Norris Trophy.
Defense: Erik Karlsson
Why he's here: A throwback to the days of Bobby Orr, Karlsson has dominated the offensive defenseman game in the past decade. In 714 career games, the longtime Ottawa Senator and current San Jose Shark posted 132 goals and 588 points — 222 of those coming on the power play. Karlsson is the third-highest scorer in Senators franchise history and he leads Ottawa in games (627), goals (126), points (518) and power-play points (195) since the puck dropped on the 2009-10 season. A two-time Norris Trophy winner over the past decade, his 2012 title saw him become just the third defenseman to win the award under the age of 23 as he finished tied for 11th in the NHL with 78 points (26 goals, 52 assists).
Over the course of nine seasons in Ottawa, Karlsson led the squad in points five times, including his past year in 2017-18 when he finished tied with Mark Stone at 62. Two years prior, he bested all-decade defenseman and fellow finalist Doughty for the Norris when he led all NHL blueliners with 66 points. Doughty got him the following year despite Karlsson finishing in the top-four for scoring in the entire league with 82 points and becoming the first D-man to end the season in the top-five in scoring since Hall of Famer Paul Coffey in 1985-86. His 66 assists that year led the NHL, making him the first to do so since Orr in 1974-75.
A six-time All-Star Game selectee and the top vote-getter in 2012, his trade to San Jose in September 2018 sits among the biggest stories in hockey in the past decade. While groin injuries plagued him past season, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist and the tournament's best defenseman, still collected 45 points while averaging almost 25 minutes a night.
By the numbers: Six NHL All-Star Games. Four NHL First All-Star Teams. Two Norris Trophies.
Goaltender: Pekka Rinne
Why he's here: A big debate brewed among the SN staff when it came to between the pipes as this one could have easily gone to someone like a Marc-Andre Fleury or a Henrik Lundqvist; however when you delve into it Rinne is the top choice. Over the course of 586 games in the 2010s, he posted 321 wins (second-most), a .918 save percentage (tied for third-best), a 2.39 goals-against average (third) and an NHL-best 51 shutouts.
The 2018 Vezina Trophy winner after finishing 42-13-4 with a 2.31 GAA and a .927 save percentage, he was also a three-time finalist. In 2011-12, the Finn was a wall in net leading the league with 43 wins, 1,987 saves and 73 games — and was an offensive juggernaut with five points. One season prior he was not only the runner-up for the top prize among goaltenders, but he was also fourth in Hart Trophy voting after ending the year second among NHL goalies in save percentage (.930) and third in GAA (2.12). That season he backstopped Nashville to its first playoff series victory.
A finalist in 2014-15 after he tied for second with 41 wins along with a .923 save percentage, the butterfly goaltender who stands at an impressive 6-5, led the Predators to their first — and only — Stanley Cup Final in 2017. During the regular season, he boasted another 40-plus win season (42 to be exact) but it was during the team's playoff run where he shined. Rinne went 14-8 with a 1.96 GAA and .930 save percentage in 22 playoff games, before falling to Crosby's Penguins in six games.
The MVP of the 2014 IIHF Men's World Championship he led Finland to a silver medal posting a 1.88 GAA, .928 save percentage and three shutouts.
By the numbers: Three NHL All-Star Games. One Vezina Trophy. One NHL First All-Star Team. One NHL Second All-Star Team.
Coach: Joel Quenneville
The current Florida Panthers head coach, Quenneville made a name for himself in the "Windy City" as he led the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups in the 2010s. In 719 games with Chicago since the 2009-10 season started, he compiled a 407-227-85 in the regular season and a 67-44 postseason record. A 2013 finalist for the Jack Adams Award, Quenneville led the Blackhawks to the Presidents' Trophy that season.
Tied for fourth in coaching wins in the 2010s with 423 total wins (with Alain Vigneault) between the Blackhawks and Panthers, his 407 victories with Chicago is the third-most by any franchise during his tenure (start of the 2009-10 season to his firing on Nov. 6, 2018). With a team powered by Kane and Jonathan Toews, the club was also fourth in win percentage (.625), goals-for-per-game (2.97) and shots-per-game (32.4) during that stretch. Quenneville was only the second coach in Blackhawks history to win 400 games and this season, after enjoying his time off, he's back as a head coach, steering the upstart Florida Panthers.
By the numbers: Three Stanley Cups.