Welcome to the internet, official home of the dichotomy. Twitter commentary and the gratification that comes with instantaneous analysis means the middle ground has been eradicated from our lives. We can glue the goat horns on anyone well before a game is lost. We can praise a player for a step forward well before they take their two steps back. And we love it.

What follows from this is all players are lumped into a love ‘em or hate ‘em category. Think of the best players in the world. You will find that 99.9999% of them fall well short of a unanimous opinion. Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, the Sedin twins, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, etc. Go down the list and it is apparent that there are plenty of human beings who are not ‘avin what these guys are bringin’.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em? Do or do not. There is no try.

I would like to posit, however, that there is one throwback left. The one player left in this generation who we can all agree on. Who we all watch while we sit back and smirk and think “Yeah, this guy. He’s awesome.”

Pavel Datsyuk.

Have you ever met someone with vitriol for Pavel Datsyuk? I haven’t. You get moments where you’ll find an emotionally distraught individual furious that Datsyuk skated through their entire team to tie the game with a minute left and then put their goalie’s jockstrap in Row Q for the shootout game winner, but the narrative never leaves the “Damn him, I want him,” story arc.

Ironically enough, the Red Wings seem to breed these guys. Nick Lidstrom got nothing but admiration from fans and it appears that he won’t be leaving any void beyond that of “absolutely immaculate defenceman in every way possible.” Datsyuk will be there to soak up the love.

The reality of Datsyuk as an NHLer is that he is among the top 1% in talent, he is among the top 1% in decoration and he is absolutely well liked by everyone. He comes across as nothing but a top notch human being.

For those of you who would like a little insight into Datsyuk — “The Man” — The Hockey News’ Rory Boylen did a great series on Datsyuk’s camp in Ekaterinburg, Russia — Datsyuk’s hometown — which pulled back the veil on an otherwise reticent individual.

Here’s a clip from part one to give you a sense of how the man, myth, legend goes about his business:

And it was all made possible by Datsyuk. Ask anyone here about him and you’ll quickly get an idea of his selfless, down-to-earth nature. He doesn’t seek to be treated like an NHL superstar – on the contrary, he just wants to be one of the guys.

Which he is, making the experience not just special for the kids, but enlightening for the instructors as well.

“Just a couple months ago Pav was at a Bass Pro Shop in Detroit and he saw some kid there who looked like me,” said T.J. Aubrecht, a former American high school varsity player who also played a year with the Minnesota Junior League’s Hudson Crusaders.

“He asked the kid if he could take a picture with him and sent it to me with the caption ‘I didn’t know you were working at the Pro Bass Shop in Detroit.’ That was pretty cool for me because I didn’t expect him to be thinking about me throughout the year. I’ll remember that for a while.”

All of this underscores how spectacular Datsyuk, as a figure, is. Let’s flash back to my earlier point. We currently live in an age of analysis that spontaneously anoints titles and changes opinion without hesitation.

To invoke an example from another sport, consider that baseball’s Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels was written off by several drive-by analysts as a ‘bust’ after a tough first week in the majors this year. As of today, he could become the third person to ever hit 30 home runs and steal 50 bases in a season. Did I mention he recently turned 21? There was definitely no hope for this guy and thanks to the prophet in my fantasy league who believed the panning and dropped him.

Online mediums that express thoughts and opinions bring about truly spectacular levels of spontaneity and vindictiveness. Sports can crank that to 11.

Yet somehow Datsyuk has found a way to emerge from all of this unscathed after vanquishing his one-time reputation as a playoff phantom. Much of his former distinction can be attributed to the stereotypical Russian xenophobic garbage many North American analysts spew. Mercifully, for those of us who know better, we have passed it with Datsyuk. We’re at a point where we can just sit back, watch and smile.

How his career is ultimately seen in the context of history will need to be sorted out by time. Right now he is easily one of the most spectacular players of this generation and surely a hall of fame lock. The best part? We all agree on it. There is no caveat. Crosby is phenomenal but a crybaby. Ovechkin is dynamic but a clown. Datsyuk is Datsyuk and that’s all we need to know.

There are certain players which lend themselves to anecdotes passed down from parent to child. The “Now this guy, this was a hell of a player, it’s too bad you missed him,” line of storytelling. I can surely speak to what it was like being reminded I never had a chance to watch a Bobby Orr or Borje Salming or Mike Bossy.

It certainly looks as though the next generation will rue the fact that they missed the chance to see Pavel Datsyuk. Luckily YouTube should still be around to document all the times he went Backhand Shelf… shorthanded no less.

In philosophy, ‘the sublime’ in the discussion of aesthetics generally refers to a greatness beyond the grasp of reason or calculation. Hit the replay button a few more times and you’ll understand that is very much what we’re dealing with here. Pavel Datsyuk carries a something with him that is beyond our reasoning or ability to work it out.

Pavel is greatness. You know it. I know it. Long live Pavel.

Comments (37)

  1. And, he is clearly faster than Hal Gill.

  2. Well even though Pav is one of the best 2 way players in the league, that i would agree with. He is no Stevie Y. I believe he isnt a game breaker or can take a game and control it like like Stevie did….not to many times in Pav’s career he took the team on the shoulders and carried them to another level day in and day out.

  3. ***Slow Clap***

  4. It is a weird thing – even though I’ve always hated the Red Wings, it is very hard to hate their stars (Yzerman, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, etc). Nothing but respect for those guys.

  5. Not that there needs to be one, but for the sake of discussion, would Zach Parise be a decent North American counterpart to Datsyuk? From the stand point of great hockey player, seems like a quality individual, what is there not to like about him kind of way?

    • Yeah, though I’d say Parise’s success has more to do with his work ethic than skill (he’s very talented, but half of what he does is outwork the opponent). I’d say Datsyuk has a little more “flair” to his game.

    • Parise is a good example of a North American equivalent, but I was also trying to factor in guys who have the “wrong team” problem. While Parise may be largely liked league wide, there are still probably droves of Rangers, Isles, etc. faithful who are bugged by him from his time in New Jersey, not to mention there are undoubtedly YouTube jersey burners kicking around somewhere in NJ.

      With the Datsyuk idea, I tried to key in on the idea that even fans of Detroit’s rivals can’t be put off by him because he’s just excellent. The only guy who comes to mind for me that would be comparable in this way would be Teemu Selanne, who could very well be an equivalent example.

  6. as a sharks fan i agree- the guy is a class act. but i think you missed posting the absolute sickest goal i’ve ever seen.

    youtube this ?v=LGngMwhZsbI

    • Supposedly after that game, all the Sharks players could talk about was how ridiculous that goal was.

  7. To Chris Lund:

    “Crosby is phenomenal but a crybaby.” Really? That’s why he’s not in the argument? Because he’s a crybaby? I love Datsyuk as much as the next guy, but Crosby’s stats and accomplishments are superior to Datsyuk’s, and that’s all we should be considering. He’s a crybaby! lol Do you know him personally? Or are you going off the same media outlets you lambasted for flip-flopping?

    • What hes most likely going off of is Crosby’s tendency to fly off the handle when he gets frustrated, like in the Philly series, or the numerous times hes tried to hack off Zetterbergs ankle, or jumping Gregory Campbell, or nutpunching Boris Valabik, or numerous other incidents where he would come off that way. The author is not comparing talent, as both are world-class players. his whole point is that datsyuk’s style of play and personality leaves him with few, if any enemies. You just chose to ignore the intended point of the article.

      • Point well taken, and dully noted.

      • It’s time for people to leave “the nut punch” be. It was clearly a wild punch that just so happened to connect with the jewels. No rational person that’s ever paid close attention to Crosby over the years could say with a straight face that he intentionally tried to go for the balls.

        Now, he IS chippy and has always given as well as he’s gotten. That goes all the way back to his days at Shattuck. You slash him, he’s certainly not above giving it right back. Not his fault the league and media have tried to sell you a “golden boy” image. He didn’t ask for it.

        And it’s unfair to point out the Philly series, as that really was the first time he really lost his composure on and off the ice and gave legitimate ammo to his irrational detractors.

        And can we please finally stop acting like Zetterberg is Prince Clean out there. Weber smashed his head into the glass because Hank came in high with an elbow at Weber’s head. He got what he deserved. And that’s not the only instance.

    • Dude, I’m a Pens fan and even I can admit that he is more than a little dirty in his play. He’s no head hunter, but if you watch closely you’ll see a lot of slashes and elbow jabs. I have no problem with it, I like that he is phenomenally skilled but still plays with that edge. If he didn’t play for the Pens I’d probably hate him, just like I hated Ulf Samuelsson and Darius Kasparaitis before they were Penguins.

    • Also, he’s not saying that he thinks Crosby is a crybaby. He’s saying that’s what people who don’t like him say. That’s their excuse for not liking him, just like some people don’t like Ovechkin because he’s a “clown.”

    • I’m not referring to my thoughts on Crosby specifically, as I’m rather fond of watching him play. I’m addressing the caricaturization of how pundits and fans see him. This goes back to his first season in the NHL with the head snapping and yapping at officials. As he’s matured and largely grown out of it, the rep has stuck around, regardless of how accurate it is. Though perhaps the Philadelphia series showed he still has a fair amount of that left in him.

      Also, to nitpick, while Crosby’s stats are indisputably better, accomplishments are much more up for debate.

      I also don’t think Ovechkin is a clown, which is another caricature I cite in the above passage.

    • Apparently you missed the point of the article, which is that Datsyuk is the type of player that nobody openly hates. Crosby, on the other hand, may have better stats, but he has more than his share of fans that loathe him. I’m so sick of people taking EVERYTHING hockey related and making it about Sid. And for the record, I am a Crosby fan.

      With that said, thank you for the nice article on Datsyuk. Its always nice to see him get the recognition he deserves.

  8. is crosby on the PK? does he take last minute def. zone faceoffs? is he tasked with shadowing another player? answer to all is NO…..he’s not a complete player in my mind.

    • I agree that Crosby is not a penalty-killer. However, he does take last-,minute draws (when healthy, he took more draws than anyone) and can play in any situation. And why would you have him waste his time shadowing someone — he’s an elite offensive player, not a third-line center. He was note a complete player when he came up; when healthy now, he is.

      • why not on PK if a complete player then? he is a gifted offensive player that’s why (psst..sid that guy with the big pads on his name is Marc-Andre). nobody is above shadowing/playing defense IMO which is part of a complete player that plays in all situations.

        • Why risk Crosby on the penalty kill when the Penguins have other options? Why would you take the chance that a slapshot from the point could break his foot? Just because he could play on the PK doesn’t mean he should.

  9. Datsyuk is the Emmett Smith – or Jerry Rice – of hockey. Detroit does tend to breed those, I bet it has a lot to with their “this is a team, you wouldn’t be doing anything if you were out there alone” attitude.

  10. Can we all also agree that all Red Wings hook, hold and interfere better than all other teams.

  11. I thought we all agreed on Teemu already, though!

    • See, I realized Teemu was there as well after I wrote it. But I didn’t actively try to include him because in my mind he was semi-retired, and we tend to sweeten on older/retired players which is why the likes of a Lidstrom or Sakic wouldn’t count. That being said, Teemu is very much agreed upon.

  12. Yup. Pavel, Teemu and Patrice Bergeron. Even though the Bruins are a love em or hate em team, everyone agrees on Patrice.

    • Beat me to it. Teemu and Patrice were the only other names I could come up with. Maaaaybe Jonathan Toews. Younger guys are trickier, though, since they don’t yet have that appealing aura of inevitability that a Teemu or a Nick Lidstrom gets.

  13. One things Detroiters won’t stand for are “fakes”. They want hard working, sincere, humble players in general, and admire them to no end. Detroiters appreciate Datsyuk the way they appreciate Lidstrom, Yzerman, Howe, Zetterberg. To other sports, Al Kaline, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Barry Sanders, Joe Dumars, Chris Spielman. I know there are exceptions to the list (and everyone might not agree with the list), and that there are great, humble players in any city, but there is certainly no lack of appreciation for Datsyuk among Wings fans. Like Barry Sanders, your jaw drops watching him, and you dread the last day to watch him on the ice.

  14. Who hates Stamkos?

  15. The fact that people agree on Datsyuk and instead are arguing about Crosby (or others) just proves the point of the article.

    Nobody hates Datsyuk.

  16. Pasha is the best.

    I would seriously judge anyone who hates Datsyuk. That is simply not possible.

  17. Goalies……….

  18. Datsyuk and the Wings are class act all the way….respect is synonymous with the REDWINGS organization. These are the role models all professional athletes should strive to be like….both on and off the ice.
    As for Crosby…..the missed handshake at the Stanley Cup playoffs with the likes of Lidstrom will not be forgotten….where were his manners…..

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