Erik Karlsson

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PHT Morning Skate: Diving into problems for Devils, Canadiens

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• William Douglas profiles the hockey journey of Joonas Oden in the latest edition of Douglas’ “Color of Hockey” series. Could Oden’s journey include playing with the Seattle expansion franchise? (NHL.com)

Connor McDavid recently turned 23, so Frank Seravalli put him in elite company. (TSN)

• NJ.com’s Steve Politi argues that Devils co-owner Josh Harris needs to “look in the mirror” when pondering the team’s problems. (NJ.com)

• Speaking of the Devils, there’s early evidence that they’ve improved during third periods after replacing John Hynes with Alain Nasreddine. (All About The Jersey)

• Sean “Down Goes Brown” McIndoe takes Erik Karlsson and other players to “contract court.” (The Athletic [sub required])

• Blackhawks fans should relax about the team’s negotiations with Robin Lehner. My take: he’s been fantastic, again … but what kind of package would a contender send to Chicago to land such a talented goalie? If Chicago isn’t asking that type of question, even if they prefer an extension, then I would be worried. (The Rink)

• On the subject of pending free agent goalies, Jimmy Howard‘s really struggling. With Jonathan Bernier injured, the Red Wings might lean on him even more. Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation, folks. Maybe they should put him in situations to succeed so (wait for it) they can trade him to a contender? Just saying, part II. (Detroit Free-Press)

• More goalie talk: Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin continue to dominate for the Stars. Can they keep it up? My feeling parallels that of the Islanders: if not, they should at least be commended for doing it for 1.5 seasons. Pretty tough to maintain such dominance in an unforgiving NHL. (Dallas Morning News)

• Brodie Brazil dares to wonder if the Sharks might be turning it around. (Goaltending ranks among his three reasons.) I dare to wonder if it’s already too late. (NBC Sports California)

• Andrew Berkshire breaks down what broke down for the Canadiens in 2019-20. (Sportsnet)

• The Blues Jackets keep defying those who assume they’re down for the count. (Jackets Cannon)

• Capitals fans vote on the team’s best jersey design. Allow an opinion: the general rule is: less bird, the better. (Nova Caps)

• More jersey design banter: Hockey By Design ranks the Maple Leafs sweaters from worst to first. (Hockey By Design)

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.

How Pavelski signing has impacted Sharks, Stars

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It’s going to be a big night in San Jose on Saturday as former captain Joe Pavelski will make his first return to the Shark Tank as a visiting player.

Pavelski and the Stars are rolling in on a six-game winning streak and have been one of the league’s best teams since a 1-7-1 start had them buried in the Western Conference standings.

The Sharks, meanwhile, have never really been able to get on track this season and are now in desperation mode as they look to salvage what has quickly become a lost and wasted season. They are going to need to do a complete 180 in the second half just to have even a fighting chance of making the playoffs.

With Pavelski set to make his return, let’s take a quick look how his departure from San Jose has impacted both teams so far this season.

The Sharks never replaced Pavelski’s production

Very little has gone right for the Sharks this season. The goaltending has been bad again, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have rapidly aged, a lot of forwards have taken a step back, and now Logan Couture is sidelined for weeks with an ankle injury.

They also had 38 goals from last year’s team walk out the door when Pavelski signed his three-year contract with the Stars. Even if you assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that Pavelski was going to regress from that number, that goal production from a year ago was still a significant part of the Sharks’ success. He was the leading goal-scorer on the second-highest scoring team in the league, and all of that production just suddenly disappeared. Add in the free agency departure of another underrated forward, Joonas Donskoi, and the Sharks lost nearly 20 percent of their goal total from last year’s team. The only meaningful addition they brought in from outside the organization was a reunion with 40-year-old Patrick Marleau four games into the season. That was never going to be enough. And it hasn’t been.

The Sharks were hoping that at least some of that production could be replaced from within with bigger roles for some of their young players, but it just hasn’t happened. At the halfway point of the season Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen, and even All-Star Tomas Hertl are all on pace for less production this season. The result is a team that is currently the sixth-lowest scoring team in the league (2.65 goals per game).

Maybe the Sharks were right to not match (or exceed) Pavelski’s offer from Dallas. Maybe it would have turned out to be another big contract for an aging, declining player on a team that now seems to have a few of them.

But those goals last year still happened and still need replaced. The Sharks not only lost them, they never found a way to replace them.

Pavelski’s impact with the Stars

Pavelski’s addition in Dallas was significant because he filled their biggest need — scoring depth.

The 2018-19 Stars were one of the most top-heavy teams in the league offensively (and the most top-heavy playoff team), relying almost entirely on Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov to carry the offense. They were so top-heavy that no other forward on the team scored more than 30 points over the full season. Finding someone that could provide a real secondary scoring threat was a must.

That is where Pavelski came in.

While no one should have expected a 35-year-old Pavelski to make a run at the 40-goal mark again, he at least provided some depth that did not previously exist. Whether or not he has provided that depends on how you want to look at it. From a raw numbers perspective, his production is probably viewed as a disappointment. He enters Saturday’s game with only eight goals and 18 total points in 44 games.

As down as those numbers are, it is important to keep in mind that is STILL better than what the Stars were getting a year ago from their depth players. Keep in mind, only four Stars forwards scored more than eight goals during the entire 2018-19 season. Pavelski’s numbers also include a brutal 13-game stretch to start the season where he was virtually invisible offensively. He has been been better since.

Once he started chipping in more offense, the wins followed.

Any intangible impact?

Pavelski has always been held in high regard as a leader, and both teams will probably have a reason to argue on behalf of that. San Jose could easily argue his departure has left a hole in their room. The Stars could argue they needed his sort of veteran presence. Sharks beat writer Kevin Kurz touched on this a little bit in his lead-up for Saturday’s game for The Athletic.

There very well could be something to that. But in the end it’s probably a lot more black-and-white than that.

The Stars were a good team last season without Pavelski and are a good team again this season with him. They are winning with a nearly identical recipe — good defense, great goaltending, offense when and where they can get it.

The Sharks were a good team with Pavelski that also had a huge flaw. They never fixed that flaw, then added to it by losing 52 goals from their lineup with almost none coming back in.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

 

Why things might get even worse for already-grim Sharks

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The San Jose Sharks look like they’re sinking. Unfortunately, most signs are pointing toward things getting even worse in 2020.

Boughner calls out unnamed Sharks who are probably Meier and Labanc (and maybe others)

Head coach Bob Boughner slammed unnamed players following Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He wondered how you could dress 12 players when only “eight or nine” showed up. Again, Boughner didn’t mention anyone by name, stating only that they know who they are.

Boughner made the sort of comments you’d hear from a coach when their team is … well, in a tailspin.

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz pointed out that Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc were benched for more than half of the third period, so they likely rank among those Boughner was hinting at.

No doubt, Labanc and Meier have been a bit disappointing this season, with Meier mired in a four-game scoreless drought, and Labanc at five games.

When your team is 1-8-2 in its last 11 games, there’s usually plenty of blame to spread around. Frighteningly, the Sharks’ schedule hints at things getting even worse, to the point that it may only matter so much even if efforts improve.

Sharks schedule could make a bad situation worse

Saturday ends a grim seven-game homestand for the Sharks where they’ve only managed three of a possible 12 standings points (1-4-1). Closing out a back-to-back set against a rested Flyers team that’s on a four-game winning streak won’t be easy.

Win or lose, the path only gets bumpier from there, with eight of the Sharks’ next 10 games on the road.

Zoom out and you’ll realize that the Flyers bookend what could be a nightmare two months, actually:

Dec. 28 vs. Philadelphia
Dec. 31 @ Detroit
Jan. 2 @ Pittsburgh
Jan. 4 @ Columbus
Jan. 5 @ Washington
Jan. 7 @ St. Louis
Jan. 9 vs. Columbus
Jan. 11 vs. Dallas
Jan. 14 @ Arizona
Jan. 16 @ Colorado
Jan. 18 @ Vancouver
Jan. 27 vs. Anaheim
Jan. 29 vs. Vancouver
Feb. 1 vs. Tampa Bay
Feb. 4 @ Calgary
Feb. 6 @ Edmonton
Feb. 10 vs. Calgary
Feb. 14 @ Winnipeg
Feb. 15 @ Minnesota
Feb. 17 vs. Florida
Feb. 20 @ New Jersey
Feb. 22 @ Rangers
Feb. 23 @ Islanders
Feb. 25 @ Philadelphia

Over their next 24 games, the Sharks play eight at home and 16 on the road. Yikes.

The Sharks have played five more games at home (22) than on the road (17) so far in 2019-20, so while things even out a bit from late February through April, this perilous stretch lines up almost perfectly with the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Sharks’ 6-9-2 road record doesn’t portend happy times, either.

A grim long-term future

The Sharks parallel the 2018-19 versions of their hated rivals the Kings in uncomfortable ways.

Like Los Angeles with Drew Doughty, the Sharks made a massive bet on an aging defenseman (in their case Erik Karlsson), figuring that short-term gains would justify likely long-term pains. In both cases, the pain instead essentially kicked in right as those contracts began.

Looking at the Sharks’ scary salary structure at Cap Friendly, they look mostly stuck. It’s not just Karlsson (29, $11.5M AAV through 2026-27) and Brent Burns (somehow already 34, $8M AAV through 2024-25) whose aging curves prompt indigestion. Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s play has plummeted, and the 32-year-old’s $7M AAV only expires after 2025-26. With Logan Couture at 30 and Evander Kane at 28, plenty of other core members are older than some might realize, too.

Should Sharks make trades?

Yes, that’s a very grim, remarkably Kings-like outlook. And, really, the Kings are a few promising prospects ahead of their disliked neighbors, to boot.

Looking at the few shorter-term contracts — assuming the Sharks are smart enough not to turn heel on a very good, if struggling, winger in Timo Meier — there are a few possibilities.

  • It would be odd to see the Sharks trade Kevin Labanc after he signed that sweetheart one-year, $1M deal. That said, he’s clearly in the doghouse, and maybe a contender would pay a pretty penny for such a cheap rental? Either way, he’s a pending RFA; even if this continues as a disaster season, he’s likely due a raise. Would San Jose really want to pay up if they keep fading?
  • Brenden Dillon is 29 and will see his $3.27M AAV expire. Elliotte Friedman already mentioned Dillon as a rental candidate in the Dec. 18 edition of “31 Thoughts,” and it’s easy to see why some teams would be interested in the pending UFA. That’s especially true if San Jose retained some of that salary.

Don’t get too tank-happy, though, Sharks fans. The Senators own the Sharks’ 2020 first-round draft pick, so while San Jose has incentive to stockpile futures, they don’t have the same incentive to lose as many games as possible as, well … the Senators do.

***

Overall, the Sharks’ outlook is troubling. Maybe things go swimmingly and they turn things around, but it seems far more likely that the Sharks will sink.

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.

NHL Power Rankings: Best players of the decade

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a look back at the best players of the past decade.

Just because it needs to be said, this is not a list of the best players in hockey right now.

It is a look at the best players over the course of the past 10 years as a whole. That means players that have played at a consistently high level for most of the decade (seven or more years) will get more attention over players that have dominated in more recent years (though there are always exceptions) as a means of limiting recency bias.

Who makes our list?

To the rankings!

The Elites

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a rocky start to the decade for Crosby as injuries robbed him of a significant chunk of his career when he was playing some of his best hockey. But he still finished the decade as the most dominant all-around player in the league. Of the 257 players that played at least 500 games in the decade, Crosby is one of only four players to average more than a point per game (his 1.23 average was by far the best) while he also won a goal-scoring crown, a scoring title, an MVP, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and captained the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups during the  2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals. The best goal scorer of all-time continued to dominate the league. Ovechkin’s 422 goals this decade (as of publication) are 79 more than the next closest player, while he won the goal scoring crown in six of the previous nine seasons (including six of the past seven). He is the foundation of the one of the decades most successful organizations with two Presidents’ Trophies and a Stanley Cup.

3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators/San Jose Sharks. One of the most impressive individual performances of the past decade was Karlsson dragging the 2017 Senators to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He was so dominant during that run he actually received Conn Smythe votes even though his team did not reach the Stanley Cup Final. He is a two-time Norris Trophy winner for the decade and a runner-up two other times. One of the most impactful defensemen ever.

4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. Bergeron is the player that a significant portion of the hockey world thought Jonathan Toews was this decade. An elite two-way player in the sense that he can take over a game and dominate a game offensively just as much as he can defensively.

5. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. This almost feels like it’s too low (and maybe it is!) given what McDavid has done since entering the league. But he’s also still only 23 and only played in half the decade. But what a half-decade it has been. McDavid is a lock for 100 points every year, is currently the most feared offensive player in the world, and is a one-man highlight reel every shift. He makes you want to watch the Oilers.

The second tier elites

6. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins. When he is at his best he sometimes looks like the best player in the world. Even when he is not at at that level is still one of the most game-changing forces in the league. He and Crosby were the foundation of a Penguins team that won the most regular season games in the decade, the second most playoff games (three behind Boston), played in three Eastern Conference Finals, and won two Stanley Cups. 

7. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. The best goalie of his generation and one of the best to ever play the sport. Lundqvist spent the past decade masking all of the Rangers’ many flaws on defense and taking them on several deep postseason runs that they otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. Don’t let the lack of a Stanley Cup take away from his dominant playoff performances, either. A .922 career save percentage in the playoffs and nearly unbeatable in Game 7s.

8. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings. The Western Conference version of Bergeron. When the Kings’ Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 are discussed it is usually Jonathan Quick‘s goaltending that gets mentioned first. Or Drew Doughty and their defensive play. But let’s not overthink it here — Kopitar was the best player on those teams, and by a wide margin. An underrated and sometimes overlooked part of his greatness: What he did for the Slovenia olympic team at the 2014 games. That team was far more competitive than it should have been, and Kopitar was the reason why.

9. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. The best goal scorer of his era not named Ovechkin. Had it not been for a couple of significant injuries taking away his age 23 and 26 seasons he might already be above the 500-goal mark for his career.

10. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins. When Chara and Bergeron were on the ice together, combined with whichever franchise goalie they had in net at the time (Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask) there was not a tougher team in the league to score against.

The rest of the best

11. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. The hype in his draft year was off the charts, and he has not only lived up to it, he may have even exceeded it. One of the league’s best defenseman from almost day one.

12. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks. The best player and the one driving the bus on those Blackhawks championship teams. In terms of individual and team hardware he has a Hall of Fame resume.

13. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals. An elite offensive player, an always underrated defensive player, and one of the best playmakers in the league.

14. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. If you ever argued that he was the best player in the world, you overrated him. Saying he wasn’t quite that good was also not disrespecting him. He was a top-five (maybe even top-three or four at times) center for a long time. There is nothing wrong with that.

15. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks. One of the best offensive players this decade. His problems off the ice will always detract from that and be a part of his story.

16. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. Hate him all you want, he has been one of the league’s best all-around players for five-plus years now. Even before that he was a key part of an elite Bruins team.

17. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings. There was a three or four year stretch where he might have been the best pure defensive player in the league.

18. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers’ consistent mediocrity during his career makes it easy to overlook how good he has been. He is not to blame for that consistent team-wide mediocrity, either.

19. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. When Price was healthy he consistently turned a mediocre-to-bad Canadiens team into something formidable. His 2014-15 season is one of the best individual goaltending performances in recent NHL history.

20. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens/Nashville Predators/New Jersey Devils. He appears to be well into a decline right now with the Devils, but for the first seven or eight years of the decade he was one of the league’s must-see players.

Just missing: Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Kris Letang, Sergei Bobrovsky, Pavel Datsyuk.

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

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Decade in Review: Top NHL players in fantasy hockey

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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, fantasy highlights, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

Welcome to our weekly fantasy hockey column where we usually recommend players you should consider adding and dropping. This time we’re going to do something a little different though. With the decade almost over, we’re going to take this opportunity to highlight the best fantasy players of the 2010s.

To make things interesting, we’ll look at this from two different angles. First we’ll highlight the best fantasy player from each season from 2010-11 through 2018-19 and then we’ll highlight the best overall fantasy players of the 2010s.

2010-11: Only one player reached the 100-point milestone and that was the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin, who scored 41 goals and 104 points. He won the Art Ross Trophy just a year after his twin brother, Henrik claimed it. However, unlike Henrik Sedin, Daniel didn’t collect the Hart Trophy along with the Art Ross. Instead the Hart went to the Ducks’ Corey Perry, who had 50 goals and 98 points. Tim Thomas claimed the Vezina Trophy with a 35-11-9 record, 2.00 GAA, and .938 save percentage in 57 contests in 57 games while Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy for the seventh and final time. Lidstrom had 16 goals and 62 points in 75 contests. However, none of them would be my pick for the best fantasy player of the year.

Carey Price, Canadiens – In terms of GAA and save percentage, Price lagged behind Thomas with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, but the advantage of Price was how much the Canadiens leaned on him. Price played in 72 games and being able to use your top goaltender that often is incredibly helpful in fantasy leagues. Those extra starts also led to Price topping Thomas in wins and shutouts with 38 and eight respectively. This is one of those cases where I’d argue Thomas was the better goaltender that season, but Price is the one I would have rather owned in fantasy leagues.

2011-12: Just like last season, there was only one player who reached the century mark. This time it was the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, who had 50 goals and 109 points in 75 games. He cleanly won the Art Ross by 12 points, but Tampa’s Steven Stamkos decisively won the Richard Trophy with an incredible 60 goals while Malkin finished second in that regard. Stamkos finished second in the overall scoring race. Between those two offensive stars, Malkin was picked as the Hart winner. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist won the Vezina with a 39-18-5 record, 1.97 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 62 starts. The Norris was claimed by the Senators’ Erik Karlsson, who had 19 goals and 78 points in 81 contests. Those are plenty of amazing players to choose from, but I think Malkin has the edge here.

Evgeni Malkin, Penguins – I was honestly initially leaning towards Stamkos given how rare it is to have a player score 60 goals in this era, but Malkin had the edge in every other major category that fantasy leagues care about at the time. Obviously, Malkin had more points, but he also had a solid edge in plus/minus (plus-18 to plus-7), power-play points (34 to 25), and SOG (339 to 303). Malkin also had few more penalty minutes (70 to 66), which was a pretty standard fantasy category at the time. None of those category leads alone made Malkin the better fantasy option that season, but put together Malkin is the clear choice.

2012-13: This was the lockout shortened season that was limited to 48 games. Tampa’s Martin St. Louis won the Art Ross with 17 goals and 60 points, but the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin won the Hart with 32 goals and 56 points. The Vezina was claimed by Sergei Bobrovsky, who posted a 21-11-6 record, 2.00 GAA, and .932 save percentage in 38 games. Montreal’s P.K. Subban was the Norris winner with 11 goals and 38 points in 42 contests. This time around, there is a decisive winner in my mind and that’s Ovechkin.

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – As noted above, Ovechkin had nearly double St. Louis’ goal total while only falling four points shy, so in that regard, Ovechkin is clearly the better fantasy option. Ovechkin also bested him in other big fantasy categories too including plus/minus (plus-two to neutral), penalty minutes (36 to 14), power-play points (27 to 20), and shots (220 to 112). So there really isn’t much wiggle room to say that you would have been better off having St. Louis that season. In fact, I’d argue that Stamkos was also better than St. Louis that season from a fantasy perspective. Stamkos had 29 goals, 57 points, 157 shots, and 32 penalty minutes, but did lag behind both St. Louis and Ovechkin in plus/minus (minus-four) and power-play points (18).

2013-14: The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby claimed both the Art Ross and the Hart with 36 goals and 104 points in 80 games. No other player even came close to him in the scoring race. The Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf taking second place with 31 goals and 87 points in 77 contests. Chicago’s Duncan Keith was the Norris winner with six goals and 61 points in 79 games and the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask won the Vezina with a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 58 starts. A season I chose Ovechkin as the best fantasy player, I’d give the edge to his main rival of the era, Crosby.

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – All-in-all, this was a pretty meh season when it came to fantasy standouts. Just one player with even 90 points, one player with at least 50 goals (Ovechkin), and not a single goaltender started in at least 65 games. Under these conditions, Crosby won almost by default. It’s worth adding that in addition to his decisive win in the scoring race, Crosby also contributed a plus-18 rating, 46 penalty minutes, 38 power-play points and 259 shots to fantasy owners. He was the leader in any of those categories, but the fact that he was able to help in all of them certainly helped his case. That contrasted Ovechkin, who did lead the league in goals (51) and edged out Crosby in power-play points (39), but was a major burden in terms of plus/minus (minus-35) and fell well behind in points (79).

2014-15: We’ve reached the campaign where Price pulled off the rare feat of winning both the Hart and Vezina. That’s quite the accomplishment, but it was due in part to the lack of competition from forwards. Dallas’ Jamie Benn won the scoring race with 35 goals and 87 points in 82 games and he was one of just five players to even record 80 points. Ovechkin did score 53 goals, but he managed an underwhelming 28 assists. So there wasn’t really a forward who seemed terribly deserving of the Hart. Defenseman Erik Karlsson did have a strong campaign with 21 goals and 66 points in 82 contests en route to winning the Norris, but he wasn’t a serious contender for the Hart either. That’s not to say Price didn’t have a fantastic season though. He certainly stood out from the crowd with a 44-16-6 record, 1.96 GAA, and .933 save percentage in 66 starts, which is why I’m also comfortable saying he was that season’s top fantasy option.

Carey Price, Canadiens – This is the second time in the span of five seasons I’m listing Price as my top fantasy choice. With the relatively weak state of forwards in 2014-15, Price’s main competition was other goaltenders. The Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby would have been my second choice. He had a 41-20-10 record, 2.22 GAA, and .923 save percentage in 72 starts. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne had as many wins and a slightly better GAA (2.18) compared to Holtby, but Holtby appeared in nine more games and also clearly led Rinne in terms of shutouts (nine to four), which is a big help from a fantasy perspective.

2015-16: Only one player managed to breach the 90-point milestone this season and that was the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, who finished with 46 goals and 106 points. His efforts led to him winning both the Art Ross and Hart. The Vezina was claimed by Braden Holtby who posted a 48-9-7 record, 2.20 GAA, and .922 save percentage in 66 starts. In terms of blueliners, Drew Doughty won the Norris with 14 goals and 51 points in 82 contests, but he arguably wasn’t even in the top-five in terms of best fantasy defensemen. For me the top blueliner from a fantasy perspective was the Sharks’ Brent Burns, who had 27 goals and 75 points in 82 contests. Karlsson did have the edge in points with 82, but it’s not often you can find a defenseman who will provide you with even close to 30 goals. At the end of the day though, I feel Holtby was the best fantasy option.

Braden Holtby, Capitals – It’s rare for a defenseman to get 27 goals and certainly Kane was a clear winner in the scoring race, but Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s NHL record with his 48 wins. No other goaltender gave you even close to that win total in 2015-16 with LA’s Jonathan Quick being the next best option at 40 victories. Holtby was also a strong contributor in GAA and save percentage too while finishing in a tie for second in starts, so he was far more than a goaltender who contributed in one category.

2016-17: And now, we enter the era of Connor McDavid. The Oilers forward actually made his debut in 2015-16, but he was limited to 45 games due to injury. This time around he played the full 82 games, contributing 30 goals and a league-best 100 points. With no other player reaching even the 90-point milestone and the Oilers making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, McDavid won the Hart. Bobrovsky won the Vezina for the second time with a 41-17-5 record, 2.06 GAA, and .931 save percentage in 63 starts. Burns was picked for the Norris with 29 goals and 76 points in 82 contests and it’s Burns I’ll ultimately select as my top fantasy choice for this season.

Brent Burns, Sharks – As I mentioned above, Burns was close to being my top choice in 2015-16, but Holtby’s record-tying wins total edged him out. This time around, no player had a similarly historic season and Burns was just as good. He finished just a single goal behind McDavid and 23 points, which is amazing numbers to get out a defenseman. Burns also led the league with 320 shots, had a strong plus-19 rating, and his 25 power-play points put him just three shy of McDavid. I also want to give an honorable mention to Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, who posted a 42-22-8 record, 2.39 GAA, and .919 save percentage over a staggering 73 starts. McDavid got the Hart, but I’d argue that Talbot was the single biggest factor in the Oilers’ making the playoffs. He gave them the stability in goal they desperately needed and when he faltered in 2017-18 and beyond, the Oilers fell with him.

2017-18: The Devils’ Taylor Hall won the Hart with 39 goals and 93 points in 76 games, but he wasn’t the league’s best fantasy forward. In fact there were several forwards I would have rather had over him, including the man I’ll pick as the 2017-18 campaign’s top fantasy option. Before I get to that though, I want to highlight Rinne, who won the Vezina with a 42-13-4 record, 2.31 GAA, and .927 save percentage and defenseman Victor Hedman, who won the Norris with 17 goals and 63 points in 77 contests.

Connor McDavid, Oilers – The primary reason why McDavid missed out on the Hart is because the Oilers missed the playoffs, but that’s not a factor in fantasy leagues. Instead, the factors are McDavid’s 41 goals, 108 points, plus-20 rating, 20 power-play points, and 274 shots in 82 games. Of those categories, the only one Hall was clearly the better player was power-play points, where he had 37. Hall also enjoyed the slightest of edges in shots (278 to 274). Neither of those makes up for McDavid’s lead in the other categories though, especially McDavid’s clear edge in points. In fact, I’d argue that McDavid’s closer competition was Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, who had 39 goals, 100 points, a plus-15 rating, 36 power-play points, and 279 shots. Between Kucherov and McDavid, the gap is actually razor thin.

2018-19: I mentioned a few times above that just one player reached the 90-point milestone that season. In the case of 2018-19, 14 different players got at least that many points. The leader among them was Kucherov, who finished with 41 goals and 128 points in 82 games en route to winning the Hart. His Lightning teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina with a 39-10-4 record, 2.40 GAA, and .925 save percentage in 53 starts. The Norris went to the Flames’ Mark Giordano, who scored 17 goals and 74 points in 78 games.

Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – With scoring on the rise in 2018-19, Kucherov had arguably the best fantasy season of any player over the decade. His 128 points gave him the clear edge over the second place McDavid (116 points). Kucherov also bested McDavid in plus/minus (plus-24 to plus-three), power-play points (48 to 33), and shots (246 to 240). Obviously the SOG totals were pretty close and they both finished with 41 goals, but Kucherov’s clear lead in the other major fantasy categories makes him the easy pick. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl deserves an honorable mention though, for finishing with 50 goals, 105 points, a plus-two rating, 29 power-play points, and 231 shots.

So with all that done, how do we pick the best player of the decade? The first question is if we’re looking for quantity or quality? From the start of 2010-11 to present (including this season), Patrick Kane leads the league with 754 points in 696 games, but I didn’t tap Kane as the fantasy leader in any single season. What Kane brought to the table was relative health and consistency. With the obvious exceptions of the lockout shortened 2013 campaign and the still in progress 2019-20 season, he recorded at least 64 points in every campaign. Meanwhile, Crosby averaged more points per game, but injuries resulted in him appearing in 107 fewer contests.

Kane also had the benefit of being in his prime entering the decade. What about those who entered the league during it? They’re at an obvious disadvantage if what we’re looking at are the totals. For example, there’s McDavid, who has only appeared in 326 games in the 2010s for obvious reasons, but he’s the clear decade leader in terms of points-per-game (min. 200 games played). In that category, the top-five are McDavid (1.33 PTS/G), Crosby (1.23), Malkin (1.15), Kane (1.08), and Stamkos (1.06).

This is just looking at skaters. There’s even more of a headache when evaluating goaltenders. When a forward declines for example, that just means that they’ll produce fewer points, but a goaltender has a GAA and save percentage that will be dragged down. Take Price, who is the only person I selected as the best fantasy option in two separate seasons. However, he also had a disastrous 2017-18 campaign where he posted a 3.11 GAA and .900 save percentage in 49 games and he’s been a mixed bag this season as well. That gives him a somewhat less impressive 2.42 GAA and .919 save percentage over the decade, though even then he’s still one of the best goaltenders over this 10-year period.

There’s no ideal way to pick a player, but ultimately the point of this is to make a choice and so I will:

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – If you participated in a fantasy draft over the last decade, there was one thing that was almost always true: Crosby was a clear top-five pick and sometimes the clear top pick overall. You can’t really say that for any other player over the last decade. The closest comparable to that over the same time frame is Ovechkin, but even Ovechkin had a brief period of time where it looked like his shine had worn off back in 2016-17 when he scored 33 goals and 69 points in 82 games and that came after a series of campaigns where he was still scoring goals, but posting underwhelming numbers in other categories. Crosby had disappointing seasons too, but when he disappointed, it was always due to injury and consequently, you knew that if he was healthy, he would be one of the league’s top players if not the very best. Even with the rise of McDavid and Kucherov, Crosby has managed to stay near the top of the pack, scoring 35 goals and 100 points in 79 contests last season. 

There are plenty of others that deserve honorable mentions though. Beyond Kane, Ovechkin, McDavid, and Price, who were all already mentioned, Phil Kessel deserves to be highlighted for being consistently near the top of the league even if he never was quite at the heights of those others. He has 269 goals and 663 points in 742 contests this decade. Stamkos and Malkin were other major standouts who were slowed somewhat by injuries. Stamkos has 332 goals and 655 points in 616 games while Malkin has 257 goals and 652 point in 566 contests. Meanwhile, there is one player you might not expect to find in the top-10 of this decade’s scoring leaders and that’s Blake Wheeler. Health and consistency have led to him scoring 213 goals and 643 points in 733 games, which is good for ninth place on the points list.

When it comes to defensemen, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns were the top two scorers with 564 and 537 points respectively. Keith Yandle might surprise you a bit in third place with 77 goals and 473 points in 741 contests.

In goal it’s hard to pick a standout for the entire decade, but I think Rask is the closest to it. Though he started the decade as Tim Thomas’ understudy, which means he has less overall games played than the likes of Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Price, but Rask has averaged out to be the best of them. He has a 253-151-57 record, 2.31 GAA, and .920 save percentage in 467 contests over that span. Bobrovsky isn’t quite the best goaltender of the decade, but he is the most interesting. He won the Vezina twice, but he also had some pretty underwhelming campaigns sprinkled in there. Taken as a whole, he has a 268-162-41 record, 2.50 GAA, and .918 save percentage in 485 games.

Next week we’ll be back to looking forward, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this look down memory lane.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey. 

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

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