Bests, whether of all-time, right now or the decade, always make for fun debates.
NHL Tonight had analyst Mike Johnson name his all-decade first and second teams — plus, just to make things interesting — his first team for the next 10 years. The Lightning made a couple of appearances, but perhaps not where expected.
No one from Tampa Bay cracked the first team and it’s hard to argue there.
All-decade first team
• LW: Alex Ovechkin, Washington
• C: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
• RW: Patrick Kane, Chicago
• LD: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa/San Jose
• RD: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
• G: Henrik Lundqvist, NY Rangers
Ovechkin and Crosby are the top players at left wing and center in the past decade without question. There could be some debate on the rest of the team. For the most part, putting anyone from the Lightning on that list would be a stretch.
One argument could be made for Victor Hedman, but he’s had a better past five years to Karlsson’s decade. The Swedes entered the league at the same time, but Karlsson took off faster, as evidenced by his Norris Trophies in 2012 and 2015.
Two Lightning players did make the second team, though. Tampa Bay is one of two teams to make the total list twice.
All-decade second team
• LW: Brad Marchand, Boston
• C: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
• RW: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay
• LD: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay
• RD: Brent Burns, San Jose
• G: Carey Price, Montreal
Johnson acknowledged some recency bias with Hedman and called him one of the best defensemen in the NHL of the last five or six years. He considered putting Chicago’s Duncan Keith here instead.
There’s an argument to be made there. Where Hedman has been one of the best for the past five or six years, Keith was for the first half of the decade.
Kucherov’s selection also carries some recency bias. He has been the league’s best right wing for the past three seasons. Kane definitely has him beat on the decade. Phil Kessel may as well.
Kucherov’s age counts against him in this comparison. He only played half of the decade in question, but this is an all-decade team. Do you take the better play for fewer years or the lower level (but still elite) sustained over the whole decade?
Johnson went for overall level of talent in this case. Kucherov ranks sixth with 462 points since Jan. 1, 2010, but he’s done so with 215 fewer games than anyone ahead of him.
The surprising part of these lists comes in Johnson’s predictions for the next decade.
2020-29 all-decade team
• LW: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton
• C: Connor McDavid, Edmonton
• RW: Mikko Rantanen, Colorado
• LD: Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo
• RD: Miro Heiskanen, Dallas
• G: John Gibson, Anaheim
There’s no argument with Draisaitl and McDavid, especially because they’ll be linemates for the foreseeable future. Dahlin and Heiskanen are two of the most exciting young defensemen.
But would you take Rantanen’s next 10 years over Kucherov’s?
Rantanen has incredible potential and his big body makes him all the more exciting. But he fits the big body stereotype of less-than-elite skating. That could hinder him going forward.
Kucherov may not have a full decade at his current level but the Lightning bet on him playing near it for the next eight years as his extension kicks in this season.
Perhaps this raises a similar question to Kucherov vs. Kessel above, but Kucherov is likely to be the top right wing for more of the next decade than he was the past 10 seasons.
And now for goalie. Andrei Vasilevskiy just won the Vezina Trophy in his second year as a full-time starter. That’s a high level for someone settling into the increased role.
Similar to Kucherov, the Lightning are likewise betting on Vasilevskiy for the next nine years (his eight-year extension has another season before kicking in). So is Anaheim on Gibson, though. Both goalies start eight-year contracts at 26.
Because he plays for a worse (less-exciting) team, Gibson doesn’t get much attention. Vasilevskiy is a more dynamic goalie his style comes with the eye-catching flashy saves and his team wins more.
Looking at the past two years combined, they have rather similar stats (save percentage and goals-against average within .04 of each other).
This one doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. It will be fun to see it play out on the ice over the next 10 years.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.