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Rambler's Top100

15 октября 2002 года
With Captain out, Fedorov's time is now - Detroit Free Press


Somewhere along the way, Sergei Fedorov let go. Others might never stop comparing him to when he was Sergei Fedorov unplugged, when he was Sergei Fedorov the human trophy case, but he had to douse the fire until only an ember remained.

He collected himself, accepted the fact other forwards would gain more renown, and instead relished rewards of a different kind. There would not be another season in which he would win both the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Selke acknowledging him as the top defensive forward. But there would be Stanley Cups, first two in a row, and four years later, a third.

And yet always, always, there was a little nagging inside Fedorov that questioned what might be if he were to see another opportunity like he did in 1993-94.

Nine years ago, Steve Yzerman missed 26 games because of a herniated disk, and his absence transformed Fedorov from being part of a sensational 1-2 punch at center for the Red Wings to being a one-man TKO. He roamed offensive zones with such dominance that he scored 56 goals and set up 64, and policed his own zone with a fierce defense. The reward was the Hart, the Selke -- and a reputation so loaded with superlatives it taunted disappointment.

Fedorov reached 107 points during the 1995-96 season, but has finished every full season since in the 60s. Now Yzerman is sidelined again -- definitely for more than 26 games, possibly the entire season -- and an old question reappears for Fedorov, one he used to ruminate over often: Can he deliver another season like the one nine years ago?

"Right after that year, I thought about it," he said. "I wondered why not, but obviously I was not going to see so many minutes of ice time, so there was no way I was going to win awards like that again. So it was just slow down and set a different pace and play a team game. It was hard because it was a different routine for me.

"I'm not a selfish player. I got used to playing less, but always something burns inside of me that I think I can do a little bit more."

He knows he has another chance now. Before this season began, coach Dave Lewis pulled him aside and told him: We need you.

"When he indicated to me I would play a few more minutes, that brought some excitement to my thinking," Fedorov said. "With extra time, I just feel I am in better rhythm, that overall my game rises."

But Fedorov has yet to play more than 22:38 in any of the Wings' three games entering Thursday night's home opener against Montreal. That's about what he usually plays, but it is early, and Lewis is experimenting with different lines. Fedorov's own ideal falls closer to an exhibition game last month at Chicago, when he played 25:34.

"That was exciting," he said with a wide grin. "I felt I was in a good rhythm."

The notion of rhythm is a favorite of Fedorov's -- he uses it often to describe himself when he thinks he is playing well, and rues its absence when he isn't. But if anything, he has proved that good rhythm isn't dependent on time. Witness last spring, when he played well with Yzerman in the lineup and superbly with Yzerman as a linemate.

An ailing right knee that eventually required major surgery limited Yzerman's ability to skate. Yzerman and then-coach Scotty Bowman decided Yzerman would switch to playing right wing with Fedorov at center two games into the playoffs.

The move didn't provide Fedorov with more minutes, but it sent a different message: The team needed him at his best. Badly. Fedorov's response can't be measured by his 19 points in 23 games alone, but also in the way he played so well defensively that opposing stars left games flustered and frustrated.

"Sergei had an outstanding playoffs," Lewis said. "I can't think of a stronger skater in the league, particularly with the puck. He can skate it out of trouble. That's one of his biggest strengths, but also he's got a tremendous shot. Anytime you can throw Sergei Fedorov on the ice you feel pretty comfortable in any situation at any time of the season."

Fedorov played so well in every playoff game that on the night it was all over, amid the exultant atmosphere of Joe Louis Arena as it was transformed by confetti and cheers and music, on a night when his spirits already soared, something happened during the team picture that left Fedorov overjoyed.

"Stevie told me, 'This is the best I've ever seen you play.' That's the best compliment I've ever received," Fedorov said. "Coming from my teammate, my captain, a guy who has been the leader of this team for such a long time . . . it was great to hear that."

It was gratifying for many people to hear that. John Wharton, the team's longtime trainer who resigned this summer and is a friend of Fedorov's, often has lamented Fedorov's public perception as a flighty floater more interested in a fast lifestyle than exploiting his innate hockey talents.

"Sergei's gotten questioned a lot for different reasons," Wharton said. "His life away from the rink, whether he plays through injuries -- it's bunk. I know how badly he wants to play and wants to win. For him to be as maligned as he sometimes is, I don't get it. I see something totally different. He is all class all the time.

"We'd all like to date Anna Kournikova and drive Ferraris, but that's not in the cards. So there's jealousy involved, and people have based their opinion of him before getting to know him. I know he's been upset by it, but he's never complained because he knows it's part of his life."

The irony is that these questions have been put to rest at a time when Fedorov, 32, might well leave the team. His six-year, $38-million contract expires next summer, and there have been no negotiations for a new one. Fedorov's agent, Mike Liut, has said nothing should be read into that, yet the last time the Wings faced losing a superstar -- when Nick Lidstrom was in the last year of a contract -- negotiations began in August and were over the first week of December.

"Obviously we want Sergei back," general manager Ken Holland said. "He's been a great player for our team since the first day he showed up. He's one of the most talented players and one of the most exciting in the sport. He's played a major, major role in the success that we've had here.

"With the injury to Steve and the somewhat possible uncertainty that it's not an absolute given that Steve is going to come back, it does put even more importance on trying to keep Sergei. But in the end, Sergei is in the driver's seat."

The Wings know that Fedorov's new annual salary will fall somewhere in the $10-million range. For his part, Fedorov has shunned the issue, saying it "seems to me every contract negotiation, for some reason it's very difficult for both sides. But I would like to stay here."

And yet, Fedorov at times has grumbled about wanting a bigger role -- and he knows he never will get 25-26 minutes a game on a team loaded with stars. He knows what he did nine years ago when there weren't so many big names around, and he knows he doesn't rate the same fame as, for example, Peter Forsberg of Colorado.

"But let's put it this way," he said, "if I play the same amount of minutes that Peter plays, then I'd say I'd be very close to him, if not on the same level. But I did not play those minutes; only once I had the chance."

Fedorov established himself as a superstar that one time, and now, when a second chance seemingly has been granted him, an old question arises: Can he once again be Sergei Fedorov, simply the best?

Страничка Сергея Фёдорова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


15 ноября. Сергей Федоров: из «могучих уток» в «синие жакеты».

3 октября. Сергей Федоров: "Мне опять 21" - Спорт-Экспресс

12 июня. Уживется ли Федоров-средний с Браяном Бурком?

25 июля. Сергей Федоров: "Нам все отрезали и обрубили" - Спорт-Экспресс

22 февраля. Сергей Федоров: "Ностальгия по России есть. Ностальгии по хоккею нет" - Спорт-Экспресс.

15 декабря. Сергей Федоров: "Был готов отдать Бэттмэну $2.000.000. Не помогло" - Спорт-Экспресс

14 декабря. Сергей Федоров: Больше волосы не крашу - "Советский Спорт"

11 декабря. Центрфорвард «Анахайма» Сергей Федоров: Хочу играть в России. Но не могу // "Советский Спорт"

13 августа. Федоров, Буре-младший официально отказались от участия на Кубке Мира. 

5 марта. Сергей Федоров - "Вскоре буду выбирать между Суперлигой и ВХА" - Спорт-Экспресс


"ЗВЁЗДЫ С ВОСТОКА" @ c 1997 года