Allow me to tell you a story. It’s about an offensively gifted player with the ability to score the most beautiful goals, the type of player who brings fans first to the ticket window and then to their feet. This talented young player, however, has a hole in his game. While he can dazzle and put pucks in the net, he is inefficient in his own zone. He’s not good defensively. It’s affecting other aspects of the game. The team is unhappy. The player is unhappy. Things have become so broken between player and team, that a potential trade is looming.
That player is, very obviously, Steve Yzerman.
In a well-known story in the annals of hockey, Yzerman was a consistent 100-point scorer with the Detroit Red Wings but played the game as if he were allergic to backchecking. Then Scotty Bowman arrived on the scene in 1993, asked his captain to work hard at both ends of the ice, and Stanley Cups rained down from the Detroit skies as Yzerman’s sacrifice and leadership brought joy to the men, women and children of Michigan.
What is sometimes forgotten is the Bowman/Yzerman relationship didn’t begin so swimmingly and got to the point rather quickly where Yzerman was within a breath of being traded to the Ottawa Senators. It seems unfathomable now, but one of the game’s best all-round players was nearly shipped out of town because he was a terrible defensive forward.
That brings us to, very obviously, Nail Yakupov. Read the rest of this entry »