Adam Gretz of NHLonNBCSports and Yardbreaker constructed a top-10 players of the decade list which omitted Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, causing both confusion and subsequent ridicule.
Gretz’ list reads as follows:
One would be forgiven for wondering how Kane, who ranks third in NHL history in points per game by an American-born player with 1.046 points per contest, was excluded from such a list. One might also be absolved for questioning how the points leader for the first modern-day NHL dynasty was passed up in favor of measurably inferior players such as Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar, who ranked fourth and eighth on Gretz’ list, respectively.
First, it’s important to note that this list is whimsical and simply doesn’t make much sense. While Bergeron and Kopitar are both great players in their own right, Bergeron is a complementary piece while Kopitar has made a career hovering around the superstar threshold. Sure, Bergeron is arguably the best two-way player in the world today but, similar to Jonathan Toews, without elite offensive counterparts surrounding him, Bergeron’s defensive prowess would likely go unrewarded.
The ability to manufacture scoring chances is the most elusive skill in hockey, which is why premier offensive talents like Kane are such valuable commodities. Since the start of the 2010 calendar year, the Blackhawks’ right winger leads all NHL players with 797 points, outpacing Anze Kopitar’s 678 points by a full 119 point margin despite playing in 27 fewer games since the beginning of the 2010-2011 regular season.
One Twitter user called Gretz’ list “the worst in NHL history.” Matthew Skipper commented, “Patrick Kane is the NHL leading scorer from 2010-2019. Three Stanley Cups, an Art Ross, Conn Smythe. Yeah, 10 other guys are better than him this decade” before adding an eye roll emoji to emphasize the sarcastic nature of his comment.
Perhaps Gretz’ article is predicated on the idea that an elite two-way player is more valuable than an comparably skilled offensive talent. This argument holds slightly more weight, as Kopitar’s plus/minus, a statistic that measures how often a player is on the ice when his team scores against how often he or she is on the ice when his or her team is scored against, more than doubles Kane’s (108-to-51 in favor of Kopitar). Furthermore, Bergeron’s plus/minus over that same time frame is an ethereal plus-198, which would place him 70th in NHL history alongside former NHL defenseman Eric Desjardins.
Nevertheless, penalizing an elite offensive player for defensive deficiencies is the equivalent of dismissing NHL Hall of Famer Scott Stevens’ for his inability to produce points. Kane is among the very best at what he does, as his offensive prowess spearheaded the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups over a five-year window.
Gretz’ defended his list by contended that point production wasn’t a defining factor in his rankings, claiming that if it had been, Toews’ wouldn’t even be under consideration. Such an assertion insinuates that Gretz’ doesn’t consistently watch Blackhawks hockey. While Chicago fans celebrate Toews’ leadership as a driving force behind the franchise’s Stanley Cup title window, most Blackhawks fans wouldn’t argue that Toews’ belongs on any list ranking the top ten players of the 2010s.
Blackhawks fans have reluctantly accepted Toews’ prime as abbreviated, a glorious flash that left a lasting mark on a proud franchise. However, inconsistencies and an inability to lead the first line in the same manner that Kane has engineered his own line have knocked Toews’ from the upper echelon of NHL players to a defensively responsible two-way player that serves as a secondary or tertiary scoring option.
On the other hand, Kane has not only increased his production as the decade wore on, but somehow managed to reinforce his place among the NHL elite during the Blackhawks’ recent decline into mediocrity.
So Blackhawks fans, what do you think? Did Gretz get it right or is Kane deserving of a place on the top 10 NHL players of the decades ranking?