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Top five NHL forwards of the 2000s
Coming up with a list of the top five NHL forwards of the 2000s was a huge challenge. The decade marked the twilight of careers of huge stars like Joe Sakic(notes), Jaromir Jagr(notes) and Steve Yzerman and the emergence of young snipers like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby(notes). I've done my best to find a balance between the two demographics and narrow it down to just five. Read on for my picks.
No. 5 - Joe Sakic
Edging out both Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) and Pavel Datsyuk(notes) by the narrowest of margins is the man nicknamed "Burnaby Joe". This former Colorado Avalanche captain is widely considered one of the classiest players in the history of the sport. Though the mid-90s might have been the so-called prime of his career, it is hard to tell by looking at the numbers he continued to put up well into his 30s.
In 2000-01 Sakic set a career high in goals with 54, and posted the second highest point total of his career with 118. His spectacular regular season would earn him the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. His dominance would continue into the playoffs where he scored 13 goals and 26 points to help the Avs win their second Stanley Cup.
Sakic would continue to be a dominant player in the seasons to come, registering better than a point a game for the next several years. In 2006-07 he did his best Gordie Howe impression, becoming the second oldest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a single season. The magical season would be the last hurrah of his career, and a rash of injuries in the years following would see the classy captain hang the skates up.
No. 4 - Sidney Crosby
This guy would be battling for the number one spot except for the fact that he only played his first NHL season in 2005-06. Still, despite the fact that he only had half of the decade to compile a body of work, Sid the Kid is a no-brainer for a spot on the list of the top five NHL forwards of the 2000s.
Crosby, much like Mario Lemieux before him, resurrected a dying Penguins franchise. He was a runner-up to Alexander Ovechkin for the Calder Trophy in his first season, amassing 102 points that year. The following year he earned both the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross after a spectacular 120 point campaign. Twice he captained his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, winning it all in 2009 and becoming the youngest captain in NHL history to do so.
No. 3 - Alexander Ovechkin
Another player who only played the latter half of the decade, Ovechkin quickly established himself as one of the most dominant players the game has ever seen over that span. Ovie didn't waste any time making an impact in the NHL, scoring 52 goals and 106 points on his way to earning the Calder Trophy.
Ovechkin only got better in the years to come, winning an Art Ross Trophy and back to back Hart Trophies in 2008 and 2009. In addition to his scoring prowess he swiftly became known as one of the NHL's most punishing hitters, and his domination in the offensive zone was second to none.
Jumbo Joe Thornton may get routinely bashed for his tendency to disappear come playoff time, but no one can question the incredible stats this guy put up in the decade gone by. Three times during the decade he eclipsed the 100 point plateau, including a magical year in 2005-06 when he racked up a whopping 92 assists and 125 points. That performance earned him both the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart.
Not only was Thornton arguably the most gifted passer in the game during the 2000s he was also a nightmare for opposing defenders on the down low cycle. Using his big body and his long reach Thornton could eat the clock like few other forwards in the league.
The most compelling argument for Thornton's inclusion on the list is the amazing impact he had on the club. He single-handedly turned the Sharks from a middle-of-the-pack club to a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Though he never managed to deliver the hardware for them, they wouldn't have even been in the mix if not for his dominating presence.
Despite some tight competition, in my mind there was no player more deserving of the number one spot on the list of the top five NHL forwards of the 2000s than Jarome Iginla. Night in and night out Iggy was Mr. Everything for the Flames, scoring goals, hitting, and even getting in his fair share of scraps.
Twice during the decade Iginla eclipsed the 50 goal mark, and twice he had his name inscribed on the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal scorer. In the 2003-04 he led his Flames to within a whisker of winning the Stanley Cup before suffering a devastating game seven loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Nobody scored more goals in the 2000s than Jarome Iginla. Only Joe Thornton had more points than Iginla's 724 over that span. His statistics, his dominant physical play, and his already legendary leadership ability make him an easy choice as best NHL forward of the decade.
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