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Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

It should have been the year of Crosby or the year of Ovechkin. Instead, 2011 was the year of the geezer. Two players on this list are over 40. Only four are under 30. And neither Crosby nor Ovechkin are on it at all.

Who'd have predicted that?

A few years ago, these two were auto-inserted into this list before it began. This year, they're not on it. But it's where we are. Crosby missed all but a tiny handful of games in 2011, and while Alex Ovechkin played in most of them, he still managed to miss far too many as well.

But the NHL didn't suffer like you might think they would. Some guys had absolutely incredibly years in 2011. Here are Puck Daddy's top 10.

10. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

Selanne closed out the 2010-11 season with 31 goals and 80 points, and he's got 36 points in 36 games in 2011-12. Far from a swansong, Selanne used 2011 to remind people that 40 is the new 20.

Or maybe it's 41? I don't know, his age keeps going up and his production stays the same.

9. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

He captained the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. Is that enough for you?

If you want more, Chara was also the lynchpin of the stingiest defense in the league, the NHL's truest enforcer, and the major reason the Sedins disappeared in the Stanley Cup Final, despite the fact that there are two of them and one of him.

Thus far, he's been just as good if not better in 2011-12, and so have the Bruins. Through the first three months of the season, they've looked like Stanley Cup champions, and Chara remains a major reason.

He's also terrifying and I was afraid if I didn't include him, he'd come for me.

8. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

I love Marty because he's a permanent excuse to use the adjective "diminutive." The dude's tiny. That said, he plays massive, and 2011 was no exception. St. Louis led the Lightning in scoring with 99 points, good for second in the NHL.

Along with partner Steven Stamkos, he led the Lightning back into the playoffs for the first time in three years, and then to within a game of the Stanley Cup Final. Understandably, he was also a Hart finalist.  He didn't win it, but he did win the Lady Byng. That's impressive, right?

St. Louis has been plenty impressive to open the 2011-12 season as well, with 27 points in 31 games.

7. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

The centre scored 41 goals in the 2010-11 season, a career-high, tying him for the team-lead, then he put in a Conn Smythe calibre performance to lead them through the postseason. He was a wrecking ball versus the Nashville Predators, in on 11 of the 14 goals Vancouver scored in the series.

He won the Selke. He garnered Hart discussion. There were some that said he was the best player on his team -- a team that includes Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Kesler's had breakout year before, but it's hard to call the 2010-11 season anything but a breakout year.

How do you follow a year like that? You pose nude. And you return from offseason surgery at nearly a point per game pace, propelling the Canucks back to where they were to end 2010: at the top of the league.

6. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

He was the rightful Norris trophy winner for many, but even though he didn't win it, 2011 was the year Shea Weber made it a near certainty that he'd be winning one in the future. Weber was a beast in 2011, captaining the Predators to their first ever trip to the second round of the postseason, and spearheading the league's most formidable trifecta of goal prevention, with partner Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne.

Three months into 2011, they're just as formidable. Weber has them where they always seem to be: in the playoff picture, despite the annual prediction that the Predators would tumble from contention.

Also, he grew the best beard of 2011. And that's a factor.

5. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

Giroux didn't win any major awards. Heck, he wasn't even nominated for any major awards. But what he did in 2011 was almost as impressive. He showed Paul Holmgren enough during a 76-point sophomore season to convince the General Manager that he was the future of the Flyers. And then, with the trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, Holmgren announced him as such.

Giroux didn't disappoint. He leads the NHL in points with 45 and is the only player scoring at an 100-point pace. Giroux didn't just establish himself as a local lynchpin in Philly; 2011 was his emergence as one of the league's premier players.

4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

Lidstrom didn't do anything new in 2011. He simply remained the best defenseman on the planet at the ripe old age of 41, leading the Detroit Red Wings to yet another great season and winning the Norris trophy for the seventh time.

And then he returned for another season, and he looks like he could play a few more. Lidstrom has 23 points through his first 36 games, good for eighth in league scoring among defensemen. We're all in agreement he's a robot, right?

3. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

The back half of 2011 hasn't gone quite as well, but the first half more than covers the ground.

Perry ended the 2010-11 season with a run like no other, sparing fans a season without a 50-goal scorer by scoring 19 goals in his final 14 games, including a hat trick to reach the half-century mark. He led the Ducks into the playoffs, won the Rocket Richard and the Hart.

2. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

A year after his brother took advantage of his six-week absence and won the Art Ross, Daniel Sedin stuck around all year to match the feat, winning the NHL scoring title with 41 goals and 104 points. He was the only player in the league to reach the century mark. His accomplishment earned him the first Ted Lindsay award of his career as well.

Oh. Also, he played in the Stanley Cup Final, and came within a game of winning it.

The 2011-12 season has seen Daniel right back where he left off at the end of the last: near the top of the league in scoring, and perpetrating acts of Sedinery on a nightly basis. He's got 43 points through his first 37 games, good for fourth in the NHL.

1. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Puck Daddy’s 10 best players of 2011

Thomas had a calendar year unlike any other, establishing himself as the league's best goaltender at the age of 37.

He won the Vezina with 35 wins, a GAA of 2.00 and a .938 save percentage. He led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final and then was the biggest reason they won it, shutting the Canucks out twice, including in game 7, and allowing only 8 goals in the series. He's been among the best goalies of the 2011-12 season as well.

Why did I choose this photo? Because Tim Thomas wins 2011 walking away.

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