As long as there’s been hockey, there’s been the question of whose the best. In the 80s and 90s it was Lemieux vs Gretzky. Before that you had Plante vs Sawchuk, LaFluer vs Rocket Richard, the list goes on. Now in the modern era there is another battle for the title of best, the only difference is this could be the first 5 way battle for the best as far as pure talent and ability go. Three of them reside in Pennsylvania, causing one of the most heated rivalries hockey has seen in years. This would of course be Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, and Evgeni Malkin. Alex Ovechkin is playing in our nations capital, and did have a fierce rivalry with Crosby that hasn’t been the same since Crosbys injuries and Ovechkins new found struggles to score. The last is someone you might not expect, he’s not in a hockey market, and last year, he wasn’t even on a winning team. It is lethal goal scorer Steven Stamkos.
There are some big differences between these players, Crosby is one of the most interesting in the league, from a fans standpoint, you either love him or hate him. He is often criticized for diving and being cheap. He has the best hockey sense we’ve seen in decades. Probably most comparable to Gretzky for his ability to make players around him better and to make something happen out of nothing.
Crosby’s teammate Evgeni Malkin is an interesting player. He has had knee issues, and only seems to play up to his potential when Crosby is injured. Malkin wants to be the go to guy. He is also criticized for being cheap, and in the past people have questioned his effort.
Claude Giroux is one of the newest stars in the league. A member of the Flyers, he is a tough player, with tremendous offensive ability and is a game changer. He is right in the middle of the Pittsburgh Philadelphia rivalry. He can be borderline dirty/cheap, something the fans in Philly love. Some in Philly consider him the modern eras Bobby Clarke.
Alex Ovechkin has oodles of pure goal scoring ability, and absolutely loves scoring goals. In the last 2 years his production has rapidly declined, and he is now heavily criticized for a lack of effort and leadership. Possibly the most physical of the 5 players, he is also the most explosive, dynamic player when on top of his game.
Steven Stamkos isn’t often thought of as one of the best players in the world, mostly due to playing in Tampa Bay, where he doesn’t get a lot of exposure to the hockey world, another interesting thing about Stamkos is he and his team don’t seem to have a big rivalry with any teams. Nonetheless he is an amazing player who can score from anywhere on the ice, is already a leader on the team, and is one of the hardest workers, and fittest players in the league. After a disappointing rookie season he exploded onto the scene and hasn’t looked back. You can try as hard as you can but you wont find anybody that can say something negative about him.
The debate is still wide open, and we won’t know for another 15-20 years who is the best of this decade, But my money is on Stamkos. He has shown amazing consistancy, and his fitness level will allow him to play for a long, long time. It should also reduce his injuries, something that Crosby, and Malkin have already had problems with. Claude Giroux will probably end up with quite a few injuries too, as he plays a physical game and isn’t scared to get in there and throw his weight around. Ovechkin would be at the top of the list but has shown difficulty adapting to new systems and coaches, leadership and work ethic issues, and has been inconsistent.