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|18 декабря 2007
Respect? It's a little overrated. Stars defenceman Zubov regarded as one of NHL's best, but has yet to win Norris Trophy // The Ottawa Citizen
EDMONTON - Some NHLers make plenty of noise, but Sergei Zubov has never been one to blow his own horn. In fact, he doesn't really care if anybody sings his praises.
When the all-star defenceman earned his 600th career assist last Friday, Hall of Fame builder Jim Gregory was brought into Dallas to acknowledge the milestone.
Zubov should have won a Norris Trophy sometime in the last dozen years, but he's playing in the same era as perennial all-stars Nick Lidstrom, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. The same thing happened to former New York Ranger Brad Park, who played at the same time as Boston Bruins superstar Bobby Orr and never once was voted the NHL's best defenceman.
Not that Zubov lays awake at night wondering why he gets no respect.
"Norris Trophy? Doesn't matter. It's a team game," shrugged Zubov, who won a Stanley Cup as defence partner of current Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe with the Rangers in 1994, his first full year in the NHL, and again in 1999 with the Stars.
In the last 15 years, Zubov is plus-150 and has averaged 55 points a season while playing almost 26 minutes a game.
On the ice, it looks as if he has no pulse. If he's sweating, you'd need a magnifying glass to find it.
He's the closest thing to the ageless Red Wing Chris Chelios in Detroit. Maybe he'll play into his 40s as well.
"No, no," chuckled Zubov. "I'm running out of time ... pretty quick. Once in a while I have nights when I'm tired."
"Really? Then when he's given an optional (practice), he should take a few of them off," laughed Dallas head coach Dave Tippett.
Instead, Zubov was on the ice for an hour on Monday at Rexall Place, playing keepaway in a circle with a few other Dallas players at the end of practice. Looking, for all the world, like a seven-year-old. Not a man approaching 40.
"Cheli (Chelios) is a freak of nature, fitness-wise. Zubie (Zubov) is a freak of nature smarts-wise," said Tippett, pointing to his head.
Nobody is any craftier, or makes a crisper, long first-pass out of his end than Zubov. Nobody is as adept at faking an onrushing checker while holding onto the puck until he wants to move it, or skate around the opposing player. His feet anchored, his body feinting, left to right, ever so slightly.
"He's like a sailing ship, listing from side to side," Dallas TV colourman Darryl Reaugh once said.
Zubov has eight points in the last four games and leads all defencemen with 32, five more than Lidstrom. He had four points in the Stars' 5-4 win over the Oilers last week, including a bullet feed to Dallas captain Brenden Morrow for an overtime redirect on Mathieu Garon.
Pretty routine stuff for Zubov, who makes it all look awfully easy, like the great ones all do.
"A lot more people other than Zubie would like to see him win it (Norris)," said Tippett, "but it's (award) inconsequential to him."
Zubov has no problem with Lidstrom, whom he admires, or Niedermayer or anybody else who's won. But, he doesn't care to look in the record book when he's retired and see his name under NORRIS TROPHY. "A lot of guys play under their own agenda," he said.
"I think Zubie could take it or leave it,:" said Dallas centre Mike Modano. "Maybe at home he thinks about it, but he doesn't lead on that an accomplishment is important to him. He's won a couple of Cups, had a long career."
Modano has been around long enough to know how players are perceived, how voting goes, and with the unbalanced schedule a lot of Eastern voters don't pay Zubov much mind. It's Lidstrom or Niedermayer or Pronger, most years.
"Once you get your foot in there once, you get that reputation," said Modano. "It's tough competition when Lidstrom's at the height of his career, Niedermayer, Pronger, (Zdeno) Chara. But Zubie's right up there in our eyes."
He's seldom out of control. Like Lidstrom. The great ones do that. The more minutes you play, it opens a D-man up to mistakes. Not that Zubov makes many. "He logs a lot of ice but doesn't seem affected by it," said Modano. "He's like a lot of Russians. You wonder what they were going as kids over there. They're either ungodly strong but don't look it, or they have this stamina. But they've got a population over there with a lot of kids playing hockey and you get the best of the best coming over here."
True, but Zubov unbelievably was traded twice before he got to Dallas in 1996. He played expertly with Brian Leetch on the Rangers power play in '94 but was dealt to the Penguins along with centre Petr Nedved for Luc Robitaille and Ulfie Samuelsson after the next season. "I'd gone to Philadelphia (after the Cup win)," said Zubov's Ranger teammate Craig Mactavish, "and I know we (Flyers) had a powerful team in terms of physical pop and Jersey played an aggressive team game. I think the Rangers wanted more beef (ergo, Samuelsson) back there."
Zubov doesn't know about that. Only that he was gone, very quickly. He left a team he loved playing on. "Leetch was like Lidstrom or Bourque or Coffey," he said, also applauding his partner Lowe.
"Nobody could compete like Kevin did," said Zubov.
He only stayed one season in Pittsburgh even though he had 66 points, and was moved to the Stars.
"For whom?" asked MacTavish.
"Kevin Hatcher," he was told.
Hatcher quit seven years ago.