Pavel Datsyuk And The Myth Of The KHL Allure

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks

For my money (and there isn’t much of it) Pavel Datsyuk is by far the best hockey player on the planet. It’s not very often that a player of his caliber can generate the buzz between his colleagues in the NHL and generate so little buzz with the leagues fan base. When Datsyuk was in his late twenties and early thirties he seemed to be Detroit’s best kept secret. Sure, he was scouted heavily by teams, and players were always adjusting to him, but that doesn’t equal Nation or North Continental attention. He was simply a Detroit Red Wing, a faceless player to many around the league. For Datsyuk that seemed to be ideal. While people like Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Illya Kovalchuk were getting all the hype Datsyuk was quietly becoming on the league’s best two way forwards and a perennial Selke Trophy finalist (and three time winner).

But, the story of Datsyuk with the Red Wings was really never about hype, or publicity, it was about skill, leadership and determination. Pavel Datsyuk got into the Red Wings line up when it boasted Hall of Fame players like Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, and Nicklas Lidstrom. All Datsyuk had to do back then was play a simple game, and he thrived doing so. He helped the Red Wings win a Stanley Cup in the 2002 season. As time went on and players retired, or left for other teams the old guard of leadership slowly faded away. For many Detroit fans, an apocalypse was predicted when Steve Yzerman retired, and columnist, critics, and fans would all wonder is this it for Detroit? Two seasons later they won the Stanley Cup with Datsyuk as one of the three most important players on the team. A season later with hired gun Marian Hossa the Wings found themselves within a game of another Stanley Cup, but the talents of fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby were too much to overcome. When Hossa left, again fans would wonder how much longer can the Wings compete, they keep losing, not gaining talent. But, they kept winning.

Then the inevitable thing happened, Nicklas Lidstrom  retired after the 2012 season. Many people believed that, that would truly be the finally thing that would make the Wings ship finally sink. It didn’t, and as a matter of fact they thrived in a lock out shortened season. It could have been for many reasons, but it seemed that for Pavel Datsyuk he seemed like he was ten years younger after playing in Russia, and that’s when the rumors started swirling.  They started out as whispers, Datsyuk was becoming a free agent after the 2013-14 season and there were no talks of an extension. But, after Datsyuk was paired with Justin Abdelkader those whispers became louder by the day. The rumors would not go away and many believed that Datsyuk would bolt to the KHL at the first chance he had.

As the season wore on and the team went into the playoffs all reports were that Datsyuk enjoyed playing with Abdelkader, and that the pairing was what Datsyuk wanted. The rumors that were swirling seemed to be different then the reports coming from the team. Yet, still there were the rumblings, how much longer does a 35 year old Datsyuk have left in the NHL? Datsyuk himself has stated himself that he wants to finish his career in Russia and play in the KHL.

Courtesy of SBNation

“This is my goal, but you never know how this go. I would love to finish (in Russia), give back to my friends and fans in Russia. I hope so I’ll be in good shape (then).”

With the season over fans hotly anticipated what the Red Wings and Datsyuk would do. Would he sign the extension that fans were hoping for, or would he return to Russia and play in the KHL to give back to his family and fans in Russia? For Datsyuk the answer does seem to be much more simple and straight forward then all of the fans were thinking it would be.

“It’s not 100 percent, but I hope we agree and sign more. I’m looking forward (to signing with the Red Wings). I would love to stay.’

It wasn’t just that Datsyuk wanted to play in the NHL longer, he wanted to play in Detroit and get better. The words don’t come directly from Datsyuk himself, but rather from former Red Wing and fellow Russian Sergei Fedorov.

Courtesy of NBCSports

“Unfortunately for us, Pavel extended his contract with Detroit. I had a meeting with him a few days before the signing.” Fedorov didn’t stop there, “We had the chance to get Pavel in a year’s time, but as a person who knows what the NHL is all about, I understand perfectly well why he did what he did.”

Right there should be everything we need to know about why Datsyuk is staying in the NHL, it’s the best league on the planet Earth. Unfortunately for the KHL, and his family and friends Datsyuk is foregoing living in Russia near all of them to get better and play in the NHL and hopefully for another Stanley Cup championship.

Fedorov went on, “I want to grow as a player and I think that for me the best option is to stay in the NHL.”

So there you have it, while many people thought, and spread rumors about Datsyuk leaving, and they were all wrong. Datsyuk wanted to stay in the NHL, he wanted to be a Detroit Red Wing for as long as he could and still give some time back to the KHL and Russia. That’s why Datsyuk signed a three year $22.5 million contract just a few weeks ago. What will the future for hold for Datsyuk in the NHL? Honestly nobody knows, but I do feel like Datsyuk will retire a Wing (in the NHL), get his number retired, and of course make it to the Hall of Fame, but what else would anyone suspect from possibly the most underrated NHL player of all time?

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