Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Here’s a handy litmus test to decide who the goalie of the decade was: Did the NHL invent a rule to subvert one of the vital facets of that goalie’s game because he was just too damn good at it?
No, they didn’t ban the five-hole because of Dan Cloutier; but the NHL did put a geometric shape in back of the goal because Marty Brodeur had reinvented the wheel as a puck-moving “third defenseman” in a defensive system.
And all Marty did was win a couple of Vezina’s after they did it.
He’s gotten better with age even if he’s faltered at times in the postseason. The argument could be made that he deserved the Conn Smythe in 2003, but we really don’t have the time or the necessary amount of scotch to really open that old wound.
Honestly, and I say this as a complete and total Devils homer, a case could be made for Roberto Luongo if it hadn’t been for the fact that the entirety of his Stanley Cup playoffs experience is 12 games. But Brodeur is the best goalie since Patrick Roy, and the last decade was when he affirmed that legend.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings.
When you’ve won so many Norris Trophies than you can play a game of Jenga with them, I’d say that warrants inclusion on this list.
Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues/Edmonton Oilers/Anaheim Ducks
Yes, he’s a human suspension machine that somehow has thus avoided mandatory anger management. Yes, his egotistical (or cuckolded, depending on what you believe) departure from Edmonton was insulting. Yes, he looks like a goon for a Swedish Bond villain.
But he’s also one of the most physically gifted players in the NHL; a rare combination of physical play, solid skating and offensive flourish. He’s also a workhorse, averaging over 27 minutes per night in most of his seasons this decade.
This slot on the team comes down to Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. Nieds is a better offensive player, a better technical defenseman and has better intangibles. But you have to admit that, love him or hate him, Pronger put that Oilers team that made the Cup finals on his back in a way few defensemen have in the last 20 years. That was astonishing, and probably Conn-worthy even in defeat.
Joe Thornton, Boston Bruins/San Jose Sharks
I really wanted to justify putting Vincent Leavalier here, because I believe he’s the more talented of the two. But Thornton’s numbers can’t be denied: Three seasons with over 100 points, compared to one for Vinny and two for Joe Sakic. His passing ability is incredible, and his goal scoring in the regular season is underrated.
And enough with the playoff choker malarkey. He’s got 30 points in his last 35 playoff games. Even if he’s not a center that can carry his team to a Cup, he’s not someone that will cost them one, either.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
The consummate professional, a fantastic leader and a player who hasn’t dipped below 30 goals in a season during the decade. The only knock on Jarome is that he played the last decade in Calgary, forcing the mainstream media to laud him at arm’s length rather than deifying him as a megastar.
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Not enough of a sample? Please.
Sure, this pick would look better if he added an Art Ross and a Hart to his collection this season. But no other winger has had the offensive impact Ovechkin has for the Capitals. No other winger is as physically gifted. Ovechkin has improved on defense and his passing, though sometimes forced, is underrated. He’s a game-changer, a leader and the embodiment of an MVP. In four seasons, he’s become the best winger, potentially the best player, in hockey.
Dude’s a force of nature the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jagr in his prime. Speaking of which …
Jagr’s decade included some really off years with the Capitals and a dud of a final season in New York. He’s the closest competition here, but I’d give the edge to Ovechkin.
I think Sean Avery wrapped this one up in the last 365 days, don’t you?