|All-Decade Team: NHL|
|By Michael Farber, SI.com|
|For those of you who adore symmetry, the NHL decade was neatly bifurcated: 4½ seasons of pre-lockout (a.k.a. The Rodeo) and 4½ seasons of post-lockout hockey (a.k.a. The Enlightenment). Not that everything was bad prior to the day the NHLPA took a salary cap, a 24 percent haircut and slunk back to work. Raymond Bourque won a Stanley Cup in 2001, the 2001-02 Red Wings were a team for the ages, and Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier engaged in the Fight of the Decade during the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. Not that everything was grand thereafter, but the post-lockout era provided generally better hockey and produced two players who could be called once-in-a-generation guys if they hadn't happened to arrive in the same year.
In the fall of 2005, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby crashed the NHL. They are not and probably never will be Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but in these days of lowered expectations, they will do. So on SI.com's All-Decade Team, why is Ovechkin on the first line and Crosby on the second? Three reasons: position, quality of competition and longevity. Crosby cedes some virtual ice time to Joe Sakic, the elegant Avalanche center with the wrist shot of the gods. Eight seasons of Sakic trumps four and a half of Sid, plain and simple.
As you will divine from the lines, there was no attempt to create this team in any sort of a conventional hockey sense. If we had, John Madden might have made it as the checking center and Ty Conklin could have replaced Jean-Sébastien Giguère as the No. 2 goalie. (And you know how much Jiggy loves being a backup.) No, these are simply the most accomplished players of the decade, in our opinion.