(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.)
The player of the year isn’t the player with the best stats … although it nearly was. It’s about impact and mounting a memorable campaign in the last calendar year – and not just in the NHL.
Here are Puck Daddy’s Top 10 Hockey Players of 2014.
10. Tuukka Rask
The Boston Bruins goalie captured his first Vezina Trophy with 16 our of 30 votes by the NHL’s general managers, posting a 36-15-6 record and was the only goalie to rank in the top five in shutouts, save percentage, GAA and wins. Although the Bruins were ousted, he posted a 1.99 GAA and a .928 save percentage in the postseason. (It hasn’t been the best start for Rask in 2014-15, with the Bruins’ injuries leading to a .911 save percentage in 23 games.) He also shut out the Americans in the bronze medal game in Sochi.
9. Marie-Philip Poulin
Canada’s golden girl. Back in 2010, Poulin scored both goals in a 2-0 win over the U.S. for the gold medal. In 2014, Poulin led the Canadians’ dramatic rally with a goal in the final minute – 54.6 seconds left – and the gold-medal clinching tally in sudden-death overtime, on the power play at 8:10. That, and she was named captain of the Boston University women’s hockey team.
8. Ryan Getzlaf
An incredible year for the Anaheim Ducks star, as he posted a career high 31 goals and had his best points per game average since 2011. He finished second in the Hart voting, and continued that pace with 33 points in his first 31 games in 2014-15. He had three points in six games for Canada in Sochi. Some players are weighed down by the captaincy; Getzlaf, instead, answered the call.
7. Phil Kessel
The Toronto Maple Leafs sniper tallied 37 goals for the Maple Leafs and then added 15 in his first 30 games of the following season. He also had eight points in six games for Team USA, and was named the tournament’s best forward.
And now, in the spirit of equal time, a dissenting opinion from the Toronto media: “BLAH BLAH UNCOACHABLE BLAH BLAH NO LEADERSHIP BLAH WAH HE WON’T TALK TO ME BLAH WAH.”
6. Justin Williams
"Mr. Game 7" won his third Stanley Cup, this time collecting the Conn Smythe with a dominating effort in the 2014 playoffs. He had 9 goals and 15 assists, the game-winner in Game 1 and a key goal in Game 5 vs. the Rangers. He also had points in each of the Kings’ three Game 7 wins. Overall in the playoffs for his career: 78 points in 105 games. Clutch!
5. Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist finally cracked through to make the Stanley Cup Final, playing 63 games and winning 33 of them. He posted a 2.14 GAA and a .927 save percentage in 25 games played. Ha also backstopped the Swedes to the gold medal game in Sochi, including a 25-save effort to beat rival Finland in the semifinal. It was a real close but no cigar season for The King, but that’s OK; honestly, cigar smoke has no place near that fabulous beard.
4. Tyler Seguin
After the Boston Bruins cut ties with the former second overall pick, Seguin realized his potential with the Dallas Stars, to the tune of 37 goals and 47 assists in 80 games, finishing sixth for the Hart Trophy. He followed that with 23 goals in his first 29 games in 2014-15, and a 1.31 points-per-game average. Meanwhile, Loui Eriksson … well, he’s on the Boston roster. We’re pretty sure of that.
3. Shannon Szabados
The 28-year-old goalie already had a gold medal to her credit from the Vancouver Olympics, shutting out the Americans in 2010. In Sochi 2014, she won all three games she started, posting a 0.96 GAA and a .954 save percentage. That included the gold medal game that saw her make 27 saves to beat the U.S. again.
But her year took an historic turn after Sochi. A social media movement had the Edmonton Oilers considering her as an emergency backup in a March game. A few days later, she became the first woman to ever suit up and play for a Southern Professional Hockey League team. She returned to play again in 2014-15, and became the first woman goalie to win a game in the SPHL in November.
Could a higher minor league come calling next?
Ho-hum … another 100-point season for Crosby. And another Hart. And another Lindsay. The Pittsburgh Penguins star tallied 36 goals and a league-best 68 assists in 2013-14, leading the league in points with 104 in 80 games. He managed only one goal in the postseason, and nine points overall. Despite injuries to his lineup, Crosby’s still on the same points-per-game pace (1.30) has he was last season.
In Sochi, Crosby broke through with his first goal at the right time, giving Canada a 2-0 lead over Sweden before winning 3-0 in the gold medal game.
It was an amazing year for Sidney Crosby. But because he didn't bring his best in the playoffs and the Olympics, we’re putting one guy over him.
1. Drew Doughty
The Los Angeles Kings defenseman didn’t win the Norris; he was sixth. He didn’t win the Conn Smythe either. What he did win: The Stanley Cup and gold in Sochi, and he was a big reason why in both championship runs.
Doughty averaged 25:43 per game in 2013-14, amassing 37 points in 78 games and steadying the Kings’ defense. In the playoffs, Doughty set a new career high with 18 points, including five goals. He couldn’t overcome the Justin Williams lovefest, but there were those convinced Doughty deserved more MVP consideration.
But it was in Sochi where Doughty was at his best in 2014, including his two-goal effort in holding off the pesky Finns in the prelims. He joined Erik Karlsson on the all-tournament team, Canada’s lone representative.
Don Cherry yelled and screamed about Drew Doughty being Canada’s top athlete this season, with his combination gold medal and Stanley Cup. While he didn’t win that award, the least we can do is give him this one:
Drew Doughty, Hockey Player of the Year, 2014