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10-30-2008, 11:09 AM
I voted for Kodos
Sturminator's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: West Egg, New York
Country: Ukraine
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Notes and comments on Kharlamov's career:

- and here we have the other side of the Petrov coin: a giant incongruity between MVP and scoring finishes in which a guy does much better than his scoring would indicate. Again we ask: what gives? I see four possible answers:

1) Playmaking. The Soviet League awarded only first assists. There is a reason the NHL introduced the 2nd assist: without it, a lot of offensive production falls through the cracks. Kharlamov was a dynamic player who was capable of controlling the tempo of a game, and was easily the most creative player on the Army line. Perhaps the Soviet voters credited Kharlamov for a high level of offensive production that did not show up in the stats?

2) Two-way play. From what I remember of Kharlamov, he did give a fair amount of effort on the backcheck, and he was capable of controlling the puck for long periods of time. I don't think anyone would call Kharlamov a great defensive forward, but he wasn't a floater, either, as far as I can remember.

3) Leadership. Seems unlikely, given that Mikhailov was the captain and always viewed as the leader of both CSKA and the Red Army team.

4) Style. It is possible that the Soviet voters simply found Kharlamov's game more aesthetically pleasing or that he was lionized by the Soviet propaganda machine and that politics entered into the MVP voting. I think this is false, but it is at least worth entertaining given what is known about Soviet politics at the time.

My opinion as to why Kharlamov's scoring is so much lower than Petrov's and his MVP voting results so much better is a combination of 1 and 2. Kharlamov was always a reliable 2-way player, while Petrov likely began his career as guy who liked to stand in front of the net and pick up his teammates' garbage, and struggled with his poor skating throughout. Kharlamov's MVP results probably also reflect a large element of "hidden offense" that is stripped out of the scoring results by the exclusion of the 2nd assist.

Even crediting MVP voting results more highly than scoring (which I think is fair), it is difficult to call his career much better than Mikhailov's when looked at from afar. They have the same number of Soviet League all-star selections. Their MVP results are quite similar. Their IIHF results are roughly equal, with Kharlamov getting more all-star nods, but Mikhailov picking up two Best Forward awards. Kharlamov was easily the better Olympian and better in the Summit Series, but Mikhailov was MVP of the 1979 Challenge Cup. Edge to Kharlamov in terms of international play, but edge to Mikhailov in terms of Soviet League play, for the raw scoring and for winning two MVPs, if nothing else.

The lion's share of Kharlamov's success is restricted to a narrower timeframe - basically six dominant years from 1971 until his first car crash in 1976 - and I think it is quite clear that he peaked higher than any Russian before or since. Mikhailov gets the edge in terms of career value, though. In the final analysis, I don't think the two men are far apart.

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