The Red Wings may have a new candidate for “Most Frustrated Player of the Season”. According to the Russian media outlet RSport, Team Russia may look at the possibility of replacing Pavel Datsyuk on the Men’s Olympic hockey team if he isn’t feeling 100% from a groin injury that has plagued him for the past month. This is particularly interesting since it’s been rather well-documented that Datsyuk had missed 14 games this year due to knee injury rather than groin injury. To be fair to RSport, however, it has also been described as a “leg injury” and “mysterious lower-body injury“. Also given what the Red Wings’ luck has been with groin injuries this year, Datsyuk having one isn’t exactly farfetched.
The speculation that he may not end up playing came from an interview with Team Russia’s Head Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, a coach whose name may or may not have been the reason the “copy and paste” function was invented. Bilyaletdinov had this to say:
“When Datsyuk arrives, we will talk and make a decision,” Bilyaletdinov said. “Tomorrow is only the 10th and everything is possible.”
On the surface, you have to believe that is Datsyuk didn’t feel up to the challenge, he wouldn’t have indadvertedly caused such a ruckus about going to the Olympics, healthy or not. It’s been mentioned how much this would affect Team Russia and the fine folks here at Octopus Thrower have mentioned how much the Olympics mean to Datsyuk, possibly more than the Red Wings do right now, once before. But on an individual level, regardless on how you feel about Datsyuk’s priorities, you’ve got to feel awful for him if he doesn’t get to play.
These days, Pavel Datsyuk isn’t feeling as much breeze as he used to because his window is closing. At age 35, this may be his last chance to compete in the Olympics, and it’s certainly the only opportunity he’ll have in his lifetime to play for an Olympic team while his native country gets to play host. Datsyuk also had the honor of captain bestowed upon him, where essentially gives him two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in one tournament. It’s entirely understandable that competing for gold in Sochi could mean more than all the Stanley Cups he’s ever competed for put together. And now they’re talking about replacing him before he even shows up. Ouch!
Datsyuk should arrive in Sochi tomorrow and will probably have a long talk with the coaching staff shortly thereafter. He didn’t look any worse for wear against the Panthers or the Lightning before he left, so I wouldn’t expect him to be left off based on that. However, Team Russia’s coaching staff isn’t tasked with making this a memorable experience for Datsyuk, they’re tasked with doing everything humanly possible to help Russia win gold. If they determine a replacement is the way to go, Datsyuk will have to trust their judgement.
Roster changes can still be made up until Wednesday, so there will be some time before Team Russia has to pull the trigger. As much as it may benefit the Red Wings to have Pavel Datsyuk (and a number of others for that matter) rest for a couple of weeks before grinding it out for a playoff spot, asking Datsyuk to give up captaining this host-nation team would be a pretty tall order. Let’s hope there’s good news for him in the next couple days.