Top 10 hockey people of 2015 (Puck Daddy Year in Hockey)

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(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)  

We started our look back at 2015 in hockey with the Top 10 Players, which examined on-ice achievement.

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The Top 10 Hockey People is the off-ice companion piece, bringing in media, executives and players that made hockey interesting in 2015. Keep in mind that “interesting” by and large means “in a positive way,” as we have another post later in the month that chronicles the people of hockey infamy.

Here are the Top 10 Hockey People of 2015. Please list anyone we missed, or your own list, in the comments!

10. Micah Blake McCurdy and Jen Lute Costella

While it’s never exactly ideal to start a Top 10 list with an entry that pushes it to 11 (despite what Spinal Tap taught us), both of these vanguards in hockey analytics deserve mention.

Costella, a.k.a. Jen LC on Twitter, turned smart and accessible analytics work online into a consulting firm called LCG Analytics. She had conversations with the Toronto Maple Leafs about joining their front office and was named to ESPN’s “most impressive people under 40” list for hockey. She also presented at the RIT Hockey Conference. A lot of smart, informed work in the last two years has paid off.  (Disclosure: Jen wrote for Puck Daddy last season.)

If you don’t know McCurdy (a.k.a. IneffectiveMath) by name, you know McCurdy’s work by sight: Those colorful graphical representations of hockey stats that your social media friends have no doubt shared. McCurdy’s site, HockeyViz, deals with a variety of analytics, including some fun predictive ones involving point projections.  McCurdy’s also moved into the Great Unknown for hockey analytics sites: monetization.

In another banner year for hockey analytics, Costella and McCurdy were at the forefront of where it’s headed next.

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 20, 2015, file photo, Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland addresses the media in Detroit to discuss the head coaching vacancy as coach Mike Babcock will now be the new head hockey coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goal-scoring is slipping once again in the NHL. Holland said the decline in scoring is tied to an uptick in competitive balance. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, May 20, 2015, file photo, Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland addresses the media in Detroit to discuss the head coaching vacancy as coach Mike Babcock will now be the new head hockey coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goal-scoring is slipping once again in the NHL. Holland said the decline in scoring is tied to an uptick in competitive balance. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

9. Ken Holland

The Detroit Red Wings general manager kept it classy as former coach Mike Babcock strung the team along before leaving for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Perhaps it’s because he knew these Wings were good enough to continue to thrive under new coach Jeff Blashill. But Holland makes the list because his annual calls to limit the shootout were finally answered with 3-on-3 overtime, which has been a welcome addition to the NHL and, for the most part, has decreased the skills competitions’ impact.

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Florida Panthers passes the puck during a game at BB&T Center on November 16, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Florida Panthers passes the puck during a game at BB&T Center on November 16, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

8. Jaromir Jagr

The ageless (OK, he’s 43) wonder continued to build his legacy on the ice (climbing up the goals and points all-time polls) and off, as Jagr’s crusty, humorous persona is the most interesting thing about the Florida Panthers. When Jagr speaks, hockey listens, even if it’s about re-growing his mullet.

Who else in hockey could turn a potentially embarrassing blackmail scandal into one of the season’s most hilarious stories, from telling his blackmailer “I don’t care” if the photos leak to then having the photos spark an Instagram meme?

ANN ARBOR, MI - DECEMBER 30: COO John Collins of the NHL attends the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Build-out on December 30, 2013 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI - DECEMBER 30: COO John Collins of the NHL attends the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Build-out on December 30, 2013 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

7. John Collins

The NHL COO left the League in November after seven seasons to start an events consulting firm, but the results from his work will continue for years.

On top of the thriving outdoor games series, Collins also worked to help create next year’s World Cup of Hockey and facilitated the MLB Advanced Media deal that could be revolutionary for the NHL’s digital properties and network.

He’d be a bit higher on the list were it not for spearheading one initiative on which the jury is very much out: The NHL’s analytics deal with SAP. But Collins will be missed as a visionary in NHL marketing and someone whose influence inside the League pushed those initiatives through.

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) looks on as Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley speaks during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) looks on as Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley speaks during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

6. Bill Foley

The billionaire had guided Las Vegas to the precipice of landing an NHL expansion team by doing some heavy lifting: Convincing the Board of Governors that Vegas won’t be a mistake in the desert. That included the 14,000 season ticket deposits he landed without having to tap the rich vein of the casino industry.

Vegas, at the moment, seems like a safe bet for an NHL team. And when the Black Knights hit the ice, Foley’s the reason they’re there.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 23: P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens attends the 2015 NHL Awards nominee media availability at MGM Grand Arena on June 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 23: P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens attends the 2015 NHL Awards nominee media availability at MGM Grand Arena on June 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

5. P.K. Subban

Subban continues to show the sports world how a superstar can promote his brand with charm and positivity. From his $10 million donation to a children’s hospital to crashing a street hockey game to doing a flawless Don Cherry impression, he’s turned even his biggest critics into P.K. Subban fans.

(Well, save for the ones in the French-language media.)

He’s the star the NHL needs. Can we clone him?

Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan, left, and Lou Lamoriello hold up a jersey at a news conference to announce Lamoriello has been named the new general manager of the Maple Leafs NHL hockey team in Toronto, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan, left, and Lou Lamoriello hold up a jersey at a news conference to announce Lamoriello has been named the new general manager of the Maple Leafs NHL hockey team in Toronto, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)

4. Brendan Shanahan

The one thing that could be said about Shanahan when he took over Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment was that he knew how to build an impressive team around him.

In the last year, the Leafs added the most coveted coaching free agent of all-time (Mike Babcock) and a legendary general manager (Lou Lamoriello) to an ever-growing brain trust that has given Toronto fans actual, palpable hope that the franchise is on the right track.

And that’s not easy.

NHL--Dan Carcillo talks about death of Steve Montador
NHL--Dan Carcillo talks about death of Steve Montador

3. Dan Carcillo

“Car Bomb” retired from the NHL in 2015 after last playing for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The death of his friend Steve Montador shook him, and Carcillo decided to end his career to dedicate himself to helping players and ex-players that aren’t getting enough of it.

As he wrote on the Players’ Tribune:

I’m retiring from the National Hockey League. My immediate goal is to help athletes transition to the next phase of their life — whether it’s continuing education, finding internships with companies, or networking with other athletes who are dealing with the same issues. My mission is to help guys who are dealing with anxiety, depression, and uncertainty about their future. Not down the line, not next week, but right now.

As the NHL faces a concussion lawsuit from former players that didn’t feel they received enough support after their careers were done, Carcillo boldly took the first step towards making sure the next generations receive it. In the process, one of the League's most notorious players become one of its most inspiring figures. 

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: General Manager Dani Rylan of the New York Riveters of the National Womens Hockey League speaks with the media at the Aviator Sports & Events Center on September 16, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The NWHL will commence its first season of play on October 11. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: General Manager Dani Rylan of the New York Riveters of the National Womens Hockey League speaks with the media at the Aviator Sports & Events Center on September 16, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The NWHL will commence its first season of play on October 11. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

2. Dani Rylan

A former collegiate hockey player, Rylan, 28, tried to land an expansion team for New York in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2014.

That didn’t work out. So in 2015, she helped start a league of her own with Angela Ruggiero: The four-team National Women’s Hockey League, the first women’s pro league to pay its players.

Rylan serves as commissioner and GM of the New York Riveters. The NWHL has managed to secure major hype, a couple of TV deal, a Dunkin’ Donuts sponsorship since launching and the high ground over its detractors. 

But more than that, it’s managed to inspire countless fans who now see a league they can aspire to compete in one day.

1. Bryan Murray

Bryan Murray doesn’t have to do this. But Bryan Murray needs to do this.

The 73-year-old general manager continues to operate the Ottawa Senators despite an ongoing battle with Stage 4 cancer – diagnosed a year and a half ago – that began in his colon and spread to his liver and lungs.

"Being around the young people, being mentally involved, it helps, I think. My family has been great, my wife has been great, but I think they understand that I like doing this,” he told the LA Times.

Hockey is many things to many people. It’s a hobby. It’s a passion. It’s friends. It’s family. For Murray, hockey is his life, and he’s damn well going to live it as long as he can.

A true inspiration … and hopefully one that gets you to the doctor for a check-up, as Murray has hoped it would.

Tomorrow: Top 10 social media moments of 2015. 

Previously on the Year in Hockey 2015

Top 10 players of 2015

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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