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Rambler's Top100

17 2009 . 
Pavel Datsyuk has game, not acclaim // The Detroit News

Gregg Krupa. 

On the annual night for the brightest luminaries in the NHL, its stars and superstars will gather Thursday in Las Vegas, where spotlights traditionally shine on the talented and famous.

One of the acknowledged superstars in the league, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, is a finalist for two awards. Another, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is shut out.

Pavel Datsyuk is a finalist for four awards, two more than any other player in the league.

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So, why is it that the soft-spoken dynamo from Yekaterinburg, Russia, is not mentioned in the same breath as Ovechkin and Crosby? Why is he so infrequently -- if at all -- dubbed "superstar"?

"I don't know," said Rich Winter, an agent who has represented the likes of Marian Hossa and Dominik Hasek. "I think it's part of being a big machine, like the Detroit Red Wings. That sometimes masks an incredible talent of guys like that."

Like many observers, players, coaches and fans, Winter thinks that Datsyuk is one of the very best players in the NHL. But when it comes to some of the other intangibles that are the necessary elements of superstardom, he falls a bit short.

"He will never come off as a superstar," said Gary Greenstin, Datsyuk's agent, as his client decompressed from the dramatic, seventh-game loss in the Stanley Cup Finals to Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins and prepared for Las Vegas. "He will never think of himself as that. If you were to ask, he just doesn't think it's important. He is a team player.

"But I feel, right now, over the last few years, I myself think he has become a superstar," Greenstin said. "He is one of the best two-way players in the league, and I believe he will get the awards, Thursday."

Not that Red Wings fans need it, but the evidence of Datsyuk's ability abounds. He is a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy as Most Valuable Player, as voted by the writers. He's a finalist for the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most outstanding player, as voted by the players.

He's a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward, as voted by the writers. If he wins again, it will be two Selkes in a row.

And, he's a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, for the most gentlemanly player. When Datsyuk received it last year, it was his third Lady Byng in succession. Four have been garnered consecutively only once in NHL history.

So, how is this guy not a superstar?

"Well, you ask anybody in the league, he's a top-notch guy, and one of the best players," Darren McCarty said, shrugging his shoulders. "But he goes about his business. He saves his personality for the dressing room, and we all know what a great character he is.

"He's not the sort of guy that jumps out. He's not an Ovechkin, or an excitable guy. But he's consistently one of the top five players in the league."

As Winter suggested, by playing with the Wings, Datsyuk's offensive number are not as gaudy as Ovechkin's or Crosby's, whose teams rely on them for a considerably greater proportion of offensive punch. One of the Wings' great strengths is an offense that comes from multiple sources. It requires a degree of unselfishness.

It has been since Sergei Fedorov's Hart-winning season in 1993-94 that a Wings player has put up such numbers -- before two guys named Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock showed up in town and branded "Thou shalt play defense every shift" into the behinds of great offensive players like Fedorov and Steve Yzerman.

Indeed, it's quite nearly un-Red-Wing-like now to garner 100 points. And although Datsyuk had 97 points in each of the last two seasons, there's something about 100 points that helps garner the title "superstar."

Ovechkin has 106, 92, 112 and 110 in his four-year career. Crosby has gone 102, 120, 72 (in 53 games played in 2007-08) and 103.

Meanwhile, although Datsyuk performs what broadcaster Ken Daniels has dubbed "Datsyukian Dekes," he never leaps into the glass after goals or skates the ice with Ovechkin's wild, Rocket Richard-like eyes.

And Crosby is the chauvinistic hero of all of Canada.

Such elements help drive the fame that makes Ovechkin and Crosby "superstars."

Ovechkin and Crosby are first and second in the 15 top-selling jerseys on Shop.NHL.com for July 1, 2008, through April. Datsyuk ranks 10th, behind teammates Henrik Zetterberg (seventh) and Nicklas Lidstrom (eighth).

Crosby generates 300 percent more hits on the Internet than Ovechkin and nearly 400 times more than Datsyuk, according to Google.

So, what gives? It's just Pav being Pav, really.

What's his favorite part of the game he has mastered? Passing, Datsyuk frequently says.

What kind of superstar enjoys the subtleties of passing -- over goal scoring?

That's no way to court superstardom. Not in the NHL.

Stanley Cups? Sure. A gym bag full of annual awards? Probably.

Superstardom? Nope! 

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