19 August 2009
Sergei Zubov, one of the premier defensemen of his era, has moved on to the KHL and is likely done with the NHL. And the fact that his moving on didn't garner more attention is a shame (It's also indicative of the xenophobic attitude still existent in hockey today, but that's a topic for another day.) An excellent passer with a killer slapshot and deceiving wrist shot, Zubov is 18th all time in points for a defenseman, and among the top 30 in points he's 15th in PPG @ .772PPG (just for comparison Chris Drury, a pretty good center, is at .730 ppg in his career). Making the accomplishment all the more impressive is that 13 of the 18 defensemen ahead of him on the list played in the high-scoring (i.e shitty goalie) 80's.
His place on the all-time playoff performers is even more impressive. He's 11th all-time in both points and PPG among defensemen in the playoffs. Again 9 of the 10 above him on the points list played significant portions of their careers in the 80s. And Zubov has better PPG numbers than all his contemporaries in the playoffs. That's better than these guys: Scott Neidermeyer, Chris Pronger, Scott Stevens, Rob Blake, Sergei Gonchar, and yes even Niklas Lidstrom.
In fact here's a list of all defensemen that have better PPG playoffs numbers that didn't play in the 80s:
Unlike some of the point scoring defensemen of the 80s, Zubov wasn't a one-dimesional player. Going back to 97-98 season (the first season NHL.com has avaialable) Zubov never averaged less than 2:30 time on ice short handed per game. When Richard Matvichuk and Derrian Hatcher left the team after the lockout, he increased his role and became the team's leading penalty killer.
Somehow Zubov has been under appreciated throughout his entire career. Despite pretty clearly being on of the three best defensemen of his era (Scott Niedermeyer and Niklas Lidstrom being the other 2) he only made 3 all-star games (which is an injustice of monumental proportions.) In 2006 he received his only Norris trophy final nomination.. again another injustice in his career.
Zubov started his career in New York with the Rangers, winning a cup his rookie season, before he was traded with Petr Nedved to the Penguins for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson. After that season the Pens traded him to Dallas for Kevin Hatcher. Both teams probably regret that trade now.
Zubov was the quiet anchor of a Dallas team that formed a big-4 of hockey in the 90s. I still maintain that the hardest loss to be a part of as an Avalanche fan was Game 6 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, in which Ray Borque hit the post with seconds to play in a 1-goal game, which sent Sergei Zubov and the Dallas Stars to the Finals, where they lost to the NJ Devils. (It was the second consecutive year Zubov and the Stars knocked the Avs out in the WCF).
His bowing out of the NHL deserves a lot more attention, but his career did as well, even when he was playing. Here's some highlights that demonstrate how good he was:
(Ed note: Edited out the Theo joke due to the horrible news about the passing of his 2-month old. Although Jokinen gets 4 goals, Zubov displays his brilliant passing skills on 2 of the goals. )
Well Done Mr. Zubov, and good luck.
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