Blackhawks and beyond: Best NHL teams of the decade

As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

Personally, it’s more impressive to see a team mix quality and quantity (winning titles and dominating regular seasons) than it is to merely see one or the other. Only special teams reach the top of the hill and then manage to stay there for a long time.

With that in mind, this list of the decade’s best teams focuses on the best franchises. In my opinion, these franchises put together the best bodies of work since Jan. 1, 2010. In other words, these are the best NHL teams of the decade.

They were the champions

Chicago Blackhawks

  • Three Stanley Cup wins. Lost to the Kings in Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Final.
  • Won the 2012-13 Presidents’ Trophy.
  • Collected three division titles.
  • Made it to the playoffs eight times.

Recent seasons sullied things a bit, but what a run for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. The Blackhawks never faced elimination during that 2009-10 run, and only needed one Game 7 win in each of their other two Cup runs. Combining a Presidents’ Trophy with a Stanley Cup is a rare feat in this age of parity, but Chicago managed that, too.

This list isn’t in order of greatness, except here. The Blackhawks rank as my number one choice on the list of the best NHL teams of the decade.

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Won Stanley Cups in back-to-back years.
  • Collected two division titles.
  • Made it to the playoffs all 10 years. Finished with zero Presidents’ Trophies.
  • Joined the Capitals as the only teams to generate 1,000+ points during the decade.

Pittsburgh did things the hard way so often over the years, it’s almost surprising that the Penguins won two division titles. Frequent injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang ratched up the drama, but those stars usually pulled through when it mattered. That franchise keeps finding ways to win, even if Crosby and/or Malkin are always part of the formula.

Los Angeles Kings

  • Won two Stanley Cups in a three-year span. Fell to the Blackhawks in Game 5 of the 2013 Western Conference Final.
  • Appeared in the playoffs seven times.
  • Failed to win a division title, and in fact only finished second on two occasions. Naturally, no Presidents’ Trophies, either.

It’s still funny that the Kings won two Stanley Cups without winning a division title. Simply put, their style translated better to rugged playoff battles than dominating the standings. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty became experts at bringing a ton to the table while taking the least away from it. The Kings are paying for those magical runs now, but you can bet their fans agree that it was worth to finally win it all — twice.

Washington Capitals

  • Won their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2017-18.
  • Collected three Presidents’ Trophies, the most of any team in the decade.
  • Nabbed an impressive seven division titles, winning four in a row.
  • Made the playoffs in all but one season.
  • Joined the Penguins as the only teams to generate 1,000+ points during the decade.

Imagine how obnoxious people would be about the Capitals if they fell short of that glorious, booze-soaked Stanley Cup win. Alex Ovechkin & Co. accomplished incredible things, with only a brief identity crisis mucking things up. From the look of the 2019-20 Capitals, they could start the next decade with a bang.

Boston Bruins

  • Broke their Stanley Cup drought in 2010-11. Also lost to the Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final and dropped Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the Blues.
  • Won the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy.
  • Managed three division titles early in the decade.
  • Reached the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons.

The Bruins echo the Penguins and Capitals in finding enough talent to essentially have two or more “versions” of great teams. After Tim Thomas retired and Zdeno Chara showed at least some age, the Bruins pivoted to Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to remain a fixture. As much as people have gotten wise about Patrice Bergeron, it still feels like he deserves even more hype. It’s pretty unbelievable that this franchise could thrive after losing Tyler Seguin and other prominent players, but the Bruins are a remarkable team.

St. Louis Blues

  • Won their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018-19.
  • Failed to win a Presidents’ Trophy, but took their division twice, and finished second on three occasions.
  • Reached the playoffs in seven of 10 seasons.

How perfect is it that the Blues followed up the Capitals finally winning a Stanley Cup by bringing the glorious “Gloria” to St. Louis? The Blues feel like they were the sultans of snakebitten before the Caps and Sharks took that mantle, so it was refreshing — and stunning — to watch their turnaround. Beyond that win, Doug Armstrong shrewdly guided this team to strong work, usually without the type of premiere draft picks others rely on to form dynasties.

Great teams who didn’t win titles

  • Vancouver Canucks – The team dominated the early part of the decade, winning consecutive Presidents’ Trophies. It’s still a little staggering that Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins fell just short of a Stanley Cup … but they fit in on this list.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning – My guess is a chill atmosphere and that Martin St. Louis/Vincent Lecavalier Cup win eased excessive “choker” talk following the historic 2018-19 team’s stunning sweep. The “What if?” questions are painful, but shine a light on how great this team has been. The Lightning lost in a Stanley Cup Final, and also fell in three Eastern Conference Final rounds, all in Game 7s. That strikes me as the work of a team that’s merely been agonizingly close to the promised land, not one that chokes.
  • San Jose Sharks – It’s awkward, but thank goodness the Sharks at least made it to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. The seemingly eternal power won two division titles and hasn’t been this-decade-Lightning-level close so often since Joe Thornton came on the scene.
  • Nashville Predators – These last two teams lag behind the others a bit, but deserve a mention. The Predators won a Presidents’ Trophy, receiving a ton of grief for raising a banner. Nashville made it to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final as well. They also collected two division titles and only missed the playoffs twice. David Poile also ranks as one of the shrewdest GMs of the decade, especially in the no titles version.
  • New York Rangers – The rebuilding Rangers enjoyed some nice years during Henrik Lundqvist‘s peak. They won the 2014-15 Presidents’ Trophy before losing in Round 3. The Rangers collected two division titles, and fell in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. It will be fascinating to see if the Rangers’ refreshingly honest rebuild pays off in the next decade.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Top NHL players in fantasy hockey
• Most significant goals
• Best players of the decade
• Favorite goals, best/worst jerseys
Best NHL teams of the decade
Biggest NHL trades

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.