Each year, the experts get together and vote on the best players in the game. As part of my decade in review, I'd like to look back at the last 10 years and award the Vezina, Norris, and Hart Trophies to best candidates, covering their play over the entire decade. Some worthy candidates were passed over in these categories, because they only played a handful of seasons, either at the start or the end of the decade.
This one is basically a no-brainer. Brodeur won 4 of the 9 Vezinas awarded this decade, and was the runner up once. No other goaltender won more than 1. Choosing a runner up is a much harder task.
Because Brodeur was so dominant, it makes it hard to rank the rest. For the most part, the other goalies to win the Vezina weren't much of a factor outside of a couple of seasons this decade (Thomas, Theodore, Hasek, Kolzig).
1. Evgeni Nabokov
Yes, he still has yet to win a single Vezina, but he was one of the few goalies who were consistently great for the whole decade. He was finally honored as the runner up in 2008. Only twice did his GAA exceed 2.5 in those nine seasons. In terms of consistency, he's the next best thing to Brodeur.
2. Marty Turco
Much like Nabokov, Turco didn't claim the trophy, but was amazingly consistent. His worst GAA was 2.81 last season. He finished below 2.00 three times. He also amassed 36 shutouts over the past 10 years.
3. Miikka Kiprusoff
Kiprusoff is just a step behind Nabokov in his body of work, as he was when he backed up Nabokov in the early third of the decade. He has the advantage of having won a Vezina in 2006, but his numbers aren't quite up to Nabokov's standard.
This is another no-brainer category. Lidstrom was by far the best defenseman of the past 10 years, collecting 6 of the 9 trophies awarded. Nobody even comes close.
Once again, settling on a runner up is more of a challenge. There were 3 other players to receive the Norris this past decade, and all 3 are worthy of consideration for their performance throughout the decade.
1. Scott Niedermeyer
Niedermeyer won his hardware in 2004 and was runner up to Lidstrom in 06 and 07. Had there been a season in 2005, it's a fair bet that he and Lidstrom would have battled it out that year, too. Both in New Jersey and in Anaheim, the teams he has played on have been quite successful, particularly defensively. He was consistently one of the best for the past 10 years.
2. Zdeno Chara
From the day he left New York and joined the Senators in 2001, Chara has been a giant force on the ice. Defensively, he's been one of toughest players to compete against. He's physical and has average more than 10 goals a season. In addition to his trophy in 2009, he was runner up in 2004.
3. Chris Pronger
Though not a fan favorite in most towns (including those he formerly played in), it's hard to ignore the impact Pronger has had on his teams over the past decade. He led an otherwise forgettable Edmonton team to the finals in 2006, and won a Cup with Anaheim in 2007. He won the Norris in 2000, along with the Hart. He hasn't been in the Norris running in last few years, but he's still one of the top defensemen in the game.
The Hart is a much tougher trophy to award, in part because it's hard to compare the value of players across the three positions. In addition, only Ovechkin has won the Hart more than once, and he didn't play in the first half of the decade. So, after much deliberation, the Hart Trophy for this past decade belongs to…
True, he's never won the Hart for a single season, but that's mostly due to bias. More often than not, the trophy goes to the leading scorer each season, regardless of circumstance. No team was more successful this decade than the Redwings, and no player was more important to that team than Lidstrom. It's not even close on that front. Just look at the few times that Lidstrom was out for extended periods this decade. The Wings struggled mightily without him. He's the undisputed best defenseman of the decade, and in my book, the League MVP over that time.
1. Martin Brodeur
Again, like Lidstrom, it's hard to believe that he has never taken home the Hart Trophy, or even been runner up; however, like Lidstrom, he was clearly the most dominant at his position. Years from now, when hockey fans and experts look back on this decade, Brodeur's name should be one of the first to come to mind. No goalie and few other players have been as consistently good during the past 10 years.
2. Jaromir Jagr
Only two players finished in the top 10 scorers on 5 occasions during the past decade, and Jagr was one of them. He led the league in scoring in 2000 and 2001 and was runner up for the Hart on 2 occasions. He's one of the few players to be in the scoring race both before and after the lockout. Had he not left for Europe, he may have made a more definitive case for the decade's MVP. As it stands, he was the best offensive player over the past 10 years.
3. Joe Sakic
Sakic was the other player to crack the top 10 in 5 seasons. He did it in 00, 01, 02 and 04, and again post-lockout in 2007. Sakic also captained his team to a Stanley Cup during the past decade, which gives him an edge over other possible contenders for the title, such as Iginla, Ovechkin, and Thornton. It's hard to find a more respected leader and player over the past 10 years than Sakic.