On Sunday, Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom announced in a detailed article that the rumors are true: Pavel Datsyuk will retire from the Detroit Red Wings following this year’s playoffs. The Magic Man wants to return to Russia and spend more time with his family. Datsyuk admitted this to be a very difficult decision, but ultimately, his heart is in Russia and we cannot blame him for wanting to go home after an illustrious career.
In his 14 seasons with the Red Wings, Datsyuk has been a human highlight reel. His otherworldly dekes, dangles, snipes, and takeaways are unmatched not only in the NHL, but in the entire universe of hockey players. Red Wings fans have been lucky to be graced by his presence for so long.
More importantly, Datsyuk has carried on the tradition of strong, two-way hockey implemented by Scotty Bowman. Countless Red Wings have learned the defensive side of the game from the former Selke Trophy winner. Alongside Henrik Zetterberg, Datsyuk has led the team in the offensive zone, defensive zone, and in the locker room.
But of all the magical plays Datsyuk has made, which ones stand out as the best? Which dangles and snipes are most viewed on YouTube? Which dekes and takeaways are practiced most often by up-and-coming players? The Grind Line reminisces the best of Pavel Datsyuk:
Tony Wolak: Deke on Marty Turco
In 2003, Pavel Datsyuk joined the NHL’s elite. “The Datsyuk” was born and the move left Marty Turco having serious thoughts about his career.
On November 12, 2003, Pavel Datsyuk unleashed what would become his patented move on the Dallas goaltender in the dying moments in a 6-2 Detroit victory. Datsyuk faked a forehand shot far side, pulled the puck back toward his body, and fired the puck into an empty net with Turco still trying to block the original fake shot.
This was Datsyuk’s coming-out party as an NHL force. With Sergei Fedorov moving on to Anaheim and Steve Yzerman nearing the end of his career, Datsyuk stepped up his game, making the NHL All-Star Game and leading the Red Wings in scoring for the season. The 25-year old Datsyuk and 39-year old Brett Hull lead the Red Wings with 68 points during the 2003-04 season.
This coronation of the Premier of Danglestan was the top moment of his career in my book. Datsyuk’s fight with Corey Perry, the breaking of Logan Couture ankles, and his single-handed comeback versus St. Louis also stand out.
Best of luck, Pavel. Thank you for all the memories. And enjoy the much deserve family and relaxation time back home.
Brandon Peleshok: Ruining Logan Couture’s Birthday
Throughout his career, Pavel Datsyuk has established himself complete, two-way player. His commitment to playing on both sides of the puck and “team first” attitude are part of why he has earned respect throughout the National Hockey League.
Well, that and his ability to make the opposition – skaters and goaltenders alike – look downright silly at times. Even though his primary commitment was to playing intelligent, responsibly hockey, it never stopped him from wowing the masses with his “Datsyukian dekes”.
Personally, most of what Datsyuk did throughout his career impressed me. Whether it was the way he could strip the puck from an unsuspecting opponent, undressing a goaltender or delivering an intentionally (or unintentionally) hilarious quote to the media, Pavel always had me waiting to see what he would do next. If I’m being honest, though, it was the way he could appear to be on another level against opposing skaters that really got my attention.
One such instance occurred late in the 2012-13 season during a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks, when Datsyuk made birthday boy Logan Couture look… well, I’m sure you remember:
And for what it’s worth, Couture made the best out of the situation.
— Logan Couture (@Logancouture) March 29, 2013
Couture also had a great deal of praise for Datsyuk in a 2015, Player’s Tribune article about some of the elite centermen in the NHL:
Pavel is my favourite player in the NHL to watch. In my early years, we played against those guys a lot in the playoffs. I was on the ice against him for a lot of those series and it was a challenge. He made me a much better player.
At the end of the day, with all that Datsyuk had to offer the hockey world, his ability to impress the hockey world with his puck-handling capabilities is what I’ll remember the most.
Jacob Messing: Picking Jaromir Jagr’s Pocket
When you look back on a career as incredible as Pavel Datsyuk’s, you realize just how many favorite moments you’ve watched from #13. There’s no other reason to call a player “The Magic Man,” then because of watching and re-watching his shift-by-shift highlights and attempting to explain the seemingly inexplicable.
To select a true favorite moment, you have to narrow down a player in the way he plays each part of the game. Then, you have to narrow that down even further into exclusive plays that happen from within that area.
For me, one of my favorite parts of Datsyuk’s game is his ability to steal the puck.
When it comes to stealing the puck, Datsyuk is the master of takeaways. And, again, there are plenty of choices in Datsyuk’s resume to choose your favorite moment of robbery. Such as this one on Nashville’s Kevin Klein, this one on Colorado’s Jamie McGinn or this compilation tribute.
But even better, let’s go all the way back to Datsyuk’s sophomore year (2002-03), specifically February 22, 2003, when Datsyuk taught one of the best to ever play the game a valuable lesson in protecting the puck.
The player I’m speaking of is Jaromir Jagr, who back in 2003 was already a veteran. You know, the 44-year-old who scored 27 goals and 66 points for the Florida Panthers this season.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
The fun part here is the 6-foot-2, Czech Republic native has always been revered for his ability to keep the puck on his stick and away from opponents. But, Datsyuk isn’t just any opponent, even at 37, players need to be aware of his presence each and every shift.
So, let’s take a look at the highlight. Try to ignore the original uploader’s inability to spell the future first-ballot-Hall-of-Famer’s name correctly.
Yeah, Datsyuk is pretty smooth. That goalie he scored on is no slouch either. These types of plays will be missed in Hockeytown, as will Datsyuk and everything that comes with The King of Stickhandling.
What was your favorite Pavel Datsyuk memory with the Detroit Red Wings? Comment below!
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.