Detroit Red Wings Editorials: Fedorov vs Datsyuk


Over the course of the last ten to fifteen years, hockey fans have had the pleasure (or displeasure, depending on your allegiance) to watch highly skilled Russian-born players such as Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk.

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While watching these three elite players, it might be easy to forget that Russians have only been playing in the NHL for less than the 30 years.

According to last year’s NHL statistics

, there were only 64 Russian players in the league last season.

If you ask a hockey fan who their favorite player is, you most likely won’t hear a Russian name. Now, if you ask a fan of the Detroit Red Wings who their favorite player is, you might have a better shot of hearing a Russian name. Before Detroit hockey fans had developed their love for Swedish players, Hockeytown loved their Russians. More specifically, they loved five of them.

I’m willing to bet, if you ask any die-hard Detroit Red Wings fan who their all-time favorite Russian player is, you’ll most likely get either one of two names, Sergei Fedorov or Pavel Datsyuk.

So what makes Fedorov and Datsyuk so legendary in Detroit? Is it even possible to pick who is the better Detroit Russian Red Wing? Well comrades, let’s break it down and have a civil discussion.

Sergei Fedorov:

What can I say about Sergei Fedorov that I haven’t already said before? Sergei was part of the initial wave of defecting Russian-players to jump ship into the NHL during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. From his first season in 1991, until his final season with Detroit in 2002, Fedorov was an electrifying player.

Sergei was a speedy, dominating, two-way playing, thrilling, hockey machine. When Yzerman and the rest of the Red Wings were having an off night, #91 could lead the team to a victory. Fedorov was part of the legendary “Russian Five” that helped the Red Wings win back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 97 & 98, helping to restore Detroit back to a hockey powerhouse.

So how does Sergei Fedorov rank all-time amongst Russian-born NHL players?  To quote Larry David, “Pretty, pretty, pretty good.” Fedorov is currently number 1 in goals (483), assists (696) and points (1179). Alexander Ovechkin currently is only 8 goals away from tying Fedorov for most goals by a Russian NHL’er, but for now, #91 is the great one.

When it comes to playoff stats, Sergei is number 1 across the board. No other Russian-born NHL player has played in more playoff games (183), scored more goals (52) or assists (124) than Sergei Fedorov.

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The only thing that could hurt Fedorov in being crowned “Detroit’s Favorite Russian Red Wing” is that he didn’t finish his career in Detroit. After leaving Detroit, Fedorov played with Anaheim, Columbus and Washington, but he was never able to replicate the success that he had with the Red Wings.

Which brings us to “The Magic Man”.

Pavel Datsyuk:

Pavel “The Magician” Datsyuk may be the most respected Russian player in the NHL today. Don’t believe me? Check out Datsyuk’s 4 consecutive Lady Byng Trophies from 2006-2009. It’s not only Pavel’s otherworldly puck-handling skills that earn him respect and praise, it’s also his gentlemanly style of play.

But it’s Datsyuk’s “Datsyukian” dekes and dangles that make him a fan-favorite. Even as he approaches age 37, Pavel Datsyuk can still make NHL players, of any age or experience, look like an amateur. He might not be the goal-scoring machine that Fedorov was, but Datsyuk’s goals are always timely and often very memorable. One of my favorite live hockey memories was sitting in the lower bowl of Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and watching Datsyuk go end-to-end between the entire Predators’ team and scoring a late game-tying goal.

Datsyuk currently ranks fifth all-time in points (869) scored by Russian-born players, while also currently ranking 3rd all-time in playoff games played (152) and points (113). When it comes to active Russian-born players, Pavel is ranked 2nd in games played (887), goals (298), assists (571) and points (869).

Like Fedorov before him, Datsyuk is an excellent two-way player. Both players have been recognized for their defensive skills by winning multiple Selke Trophies. Pavel won three consecutive Selke Trophies (2008, 2009, 2010), and Fedorov won two non-consecutive in 1994 and 1996.

Personally, I don’t know if I could choose between Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk. Fedorov was my first favorite Detroit Red Wing, and I have Pavel Datsyuk’s #13 jersey hanging in my closet as I type this. I’m going to let all of you wonderful Wing-Nuts choose and debate this one.

Evgeni Svechnikov, you are on notice.

Next: Dear Kenny: Don't Sign Cleary. Regards, Wings Fan Base

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