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Evaluating the place in history of current Russian NHLers...

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12-07-2012, 11:53 AM
  #1
MastuhNinks
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Evaluating the place in history of current Russian NHLers...

Obviously Russia's hockey history is rich outside of the NHL, but how exactly do we compare today's NHLers to Russia's hockey greats? And where do you guys think the likes of Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Malkin, even Datsyuk could place in Russian hockey history? Forgive me if this has been done before, but it's a topic that has always puzzled me. I don't know a whole lot about Russian hockey history, I know some major names, but I have no idea how we'd compare these current superstars to them.

Here's the top scoring Russian NHLer of all time, with current players in the top 25:
1. Sergei Fedorov - 1179 points

6. Ilya Kovalchuk - 785 points - age 29
10. Sergei Gonchar - 748 points - age 38
12. Pavel Datsyuk - 718 points - age 34
13. Alex Ovechkin - 679 points - age 27
20. Evgeni Malkin - 527 points - age 26
24. Alexander Semin - 408 points - age 28

Here's the top 6 in points per game, featuring a lot of those guys:
1. Alex Ovechkin
2. Evgeni Malkin
3. Pavel Bure
4. Alexander Mogilny
5. Ilya Kovalchuk
6. Pavel Datsyuk

To me, it looks a lot like Kovalchuk, Malkin and Ovechkin could potentially crush Fedorov's number, so where would that place them in Russian hockey history?

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12-07-2012, 12:58 PM
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jigglysquishy
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I think at the top (of NHL Russians) there exists a three person tier of Federov, Malkin and Ovechkin. They are the only three Russians to win the Hart and all have demonstrated an ability to dominate the game.

As much as Kovalchuck and Datsyuk are a treat to watch, neither have come close to the domination of the first three.

On the Federov/Ovechkin/Malkin tier I find it hard to rank them. Ovechkin has the 2 Harts/1 Art Ross/3 Pearsons. Federov has the best individual season out of anyone (94) and was consistently the best playoff performer. Malkin has the Hart/Smythe/Pearson and 2 Art Rosses. You could make a valid argument for any of them to be anywhere on that three man list.

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12-07-2012, 01:06 PM
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I think the categories of best goalie (Tretiak) and best defenseman (Fetisov) are capably filled for the time being, so at least it's a relatively easy matter of ranking forwards.

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12-07-2012, 01:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
I think at the top (of NHL Russians) there exists a three person tier of Federov, Malkin and Ovechkin. They are the only three Russians to win the Hart and all have demonstrated an ability to dominate the game.

As much as Kovalchuck and Datsyuk are a treat to watch, neither have come close to the domination of the first three.

On the Federov/Ovechkin/Malkin tier I find it hard to rank them. Ovechkin has the 2 Harts/1 Art Ross/3 Pearsons. Federov has the best individual season out of anyone (94) and was consistently the best playoff performer. Malkin has the Hart/Smythe/Pearson and 2 Art Rosses. You could make a valid argument for any of them to be anywhere on that three man list.
I'm more wondering where the Malkins and Ovechkins of the World could rank among all Russian hockey players, not just NHLers. Was there a given stretch of time where you could say a Russian hockey player was the best in the World? Or even top 3 like Malkin and Ovechkin have arguably been throughout their careers? I know Fedorov and maybe Bure have had claims to that title in individual years, but I'm more talking about a couple year stretch

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12-07-2012, 01:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MastuhNinks View Post
I'm more wondering where the Malkins and Ovechkins of the World could rank among all Russian hockey players, not just NHLers. Was there a given stretch of time where you could say a Russian hockey player was the best in the World? Or even top 3 like Malkin and Ovechkin have arguably been throughout their careers? I know Fedorov and maybe Bure have had claims to that title in individual years, but I'm more talking about a couple year stretch
OV is about the only one, from 07/08-09/10 and even then he's dealing with Crosby as a 1a, 1b kinda thing.
The only other time where's there's a window is the late 70's.
Was there a Russian that could be considered the best in the world for multiple years between 1976 and 1980?
Kharlamov maybe but is he really ahead of the likes of Lafleur, Dionne, Bossy or Trottier for 3 years straight?

I hope I don't have to go into detail why the '69-'75 and '80-'01 time frames are off the table


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12-07-2012, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MastuhNinks View Post
I'm more wondering where the Malkins and Ovechkins of the World could rank among all Russian hockey players, not just NHLers. Was there a given stretch of time where you could say a Russian hockey player was the best in the World? Or even top 3 like Malkin and Ovechkin have arguably been throughout their careers? I know Fedorov and maybe Bure have had claims to that title in individual years, but I'm more talking about a couple year stretch
Like Rhiessan said, only Ovechkin (and maybe Malkin this past year) can make a claim to being the best hockey player in the world. Fedorov did win the Hart in 1994 but if you did a poll at that time do you consider him to be the best player? I think there is a case for others to be ahead of him and that doesn't even take into account an injured Lemieux. I think Malkin was definitely the best player in the world last year. Ovechkin was the best in 2008. That's probably where it ends.

As for some other players the original post mentioned, I don't know how revered Semin will be by the end of his career. It is commonly agreed that he and Mike Green - and not Ovechkin - deserve a lot of the lion's share for poor performances in the playoffs from the Capitals. Kovalchuk in this past year impressed me a lot more than he ever has. Ovechkin and Malkin look to be two players on the verge of being all-time greats.

As of right now I still have Fedorov as my all-time best Russian NHLer. Too great of a playoff portfolio to ignore and it is something that the others can only dream of right now.

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12-07-2012, 11:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MastuhNinks View Post
I'm more wondering where the Malkins and Ovechkins of the World could rank among all Russian hockey players, not just NHLers. Was there a given stretch of time where you could say a Russian hockey player was the best in the World? Or even top 3 like Malkin and Ovechkin have arguably been throughout their careers? I know Fedorov and maybe Bure have had claims to that title in individual years, but I'm more talking about a couple year stretch
The best Soviets all peaked during time periods when there was a great Canadian forward (Kharlamov with Esposito, KLM line with Gretz), so I don't think there was a Russian who could call themselves the best forward in the world until Ovechkin circa 2008 and Malkin right now. However, 99 and 66 were real outliers. You can make a good case that Makarov was the 3rd best forward in the world 1986-1989 (in the gap between Bossy's retirement and Jagr's rise), is that any less impressive than a Russian being the best forward in the world for a 3 year period right now?

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12-08-2012, 04:22 AM
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It looks like Malkin could be on his way to being the best Russian NHLer in history. Let's not forget that he was second to Ovechkin in points in '08 and won the Ross in '09, so he was right in the mix for best player, just a bit below his comrade. Malkin has the momentum and he often steps up when his team needs him most. Ovechkin has been good in the playoffs, but his team has faltered repeatedly as a favorite, and he had some international flops in his earlier years as well. If Ovy can make a couple deep runs in the playoffs, or at least pull off a couple of big upsets, or have a couple great international tourneys (mainly best on best... not just winning WHC with a stacked Russian team)... and have a long NHL career, then he could put himself back in the mix on a career basis.

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12-08-2012, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Meteor View Post
The best Soviets all peaked during time periods when there was a great Canadian forward (Kharlamov with Esposito, KLM line with Gretz), so I don't think there was a Russian who could call themselves the best forward in the world until Ovechkin circa 2008 and Malkin right now. However, 99 and 66 were real outliers. You can make a good case that Makarov was the 3rd best forward in the world 1986-1989 (in the gap between Bossy's retirement and Jagr's rise), is that any less impressive than a Russian being the best forward in the world for a 3 year period right now?
I loved Makarov and think he still should be in the HHOF. However, it is tricky analyzing the Russians pre-NHL. Yes, he played like a soldier in the Canada Cups and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that, but how does he do in a full 80 game NHL season? We have a little bit of a window. In 1989-'90 he was a "rookie" in the NHL and had 86 points. If you take into account the adjustment to a new culture, new team, new system and such then 86 points is actually very good under those conditions and we knew the man could play hockey. I also think the Soviet system wore him down a lot. Look at Krutov. Or Fetisov. Or Larionov. All fine players back in the day but they weren't stars at any time in the NHL. Makarov was at least close to being one. So I think he is a perennial 100 point man in the 1980s. Maybe nipping at Bossy's heels as the best winger. Or more like Kurri.

Kharlamov is a guy that it is almost impossible to analyze because we have a small sample size. We know what Lafleur did in his career. Could Kharlamov have been like that in the NHL? I don't know how he would have done year in year out playing 80 games like that. How does he react when a good checker gets in his face? As a star in the NHL you'd better get used to it. I just don't think you can ever call Kharlamov the best player in the world at any time.

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12-08-2012, 09:45 AM
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Makarov was 31 when he made his NHL debut. The real question is what does a 25 year old Makarov pull with several years NHL experience. Does he flirt with 150 if he has a capable Centre?

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12-08-2012, 01:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meteor View Post
The best Soviets all peaked during time periods when there was a great Canadian forward (Kharlamov with Esposito, KLM line with Gretz), so I don't think there was a Russian who could call themselves the best forward in the world until Ovechkin circa 2008 and Malkin right now. However, 99 and 66 were real outliers. You can make a good case that Makarov was the 3rd best forward in the world 1986-1989 (in the gap between Bossy's retirement and Jagr's rise), is that any less impressive than a Russian being the best forward in the world for a 3 year period right now?
Maybe but I'm not sure he was better than Yzerman in 87/88 and 88/89.

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12-09-2012, 02:07 AM
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Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
Makarov was 31 when he made his NHL debut. The real question is what does a 25 year old Makarov pull with several years NHL experience. Does he flirt with 150 if he has a capable Centre?
Or if he shoots more. For such a dynamic player he sure didn't shoot as much in the NHL than in his Soviet days.

He had only 610 shots in 424 NHL games which always seemed very weird to me.

His playoff shooting line is even more weird.
At age 35, reunited with Larinov he takes his season best 155 SOG and in the playoffs takes 26 SOG in 14 games ans scores 8 goals.

In his other playoff games he scores 4 goals on 15 shots in 20 GP.

IMO, with the right center and mindset he could ahve been easily the 2nd best player in his prime in the world during the 80's behind Wayne and his international play already hints at this.

Malkin probably has the best bet of current guys to be ranked the highest, although Dats has has his moments, his excellent 2 way play gets lost in the shuffle sometimes to dominating scoring stats that other guys have.


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12-09-2012, 02:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Rhiessan71 View Post
Maybe but I'm not sure he was better than Yzerman in 87/88 and 88/89.
I think Makarov has a really strong case as the 2nd best player in the world in the 80's.

His line in 3 Canada cups in the 80's was 22-16-15-31 and was excellent in the Olympics and international play as well.

Depending on how one judges a decade Mario has 5 0r 6 years in the 80's and unless you are an absolute peak guy, what Makarov did in the extra 4-5 seasons makes up the difference IMO.


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12-09-2012, 02:18 AM
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Just curious (and this is sort of irrelevant from the Makarov discussion), do you all think that Ovechkin and/or Malkin have higher peaks than that of Federov?

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12-09-2012, 02:38 AM
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Just curious (and this is sort of irrelevant from the Makarov discussion), do you all think that Ovechkin and/or Malkin have higher peaks than that of Federov?
AO does on the surface but if one talks about all around play and the playoffs it's hard to beat what Federov did in his 6 seasons between 93-98.

That includes his great 4 year playoff stretch (20 plus points, strong defensive play), along with 17 points in the other 14 games.

I think that when you look at all 3 players and their best 6 year stretch overall (regular season, playoffs, 2 way play and international hockey) that they are all pretty close and have strong cases.


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12-09-2012, 03:42 AM
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I think Makarov has a really strong case as the 2nd best player in the world in the 80's.

His line in 3 Canada cups in the 80's was 22-16-15-31 and was excellent in the Olympics and international play as well.

Depending on how one judges a decade Mario has 5 0r 6 years in the 80's and unless you are an absolute peak guy, what Makarov did in the extra 4-5 seasons makes up the difference IMO.
It's not just about Lemieux and Yzerman though.
You have Bossy to deal with up until 85/86 and both Mario and Yzerman to deal with in 87/88-89/90.

So the reality is, the only year you could make a clear case as the 2nd best in the world is the one season, 86/87.

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12-09-2012, 04:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
Makarov was 31 when he made his NHL debut. The real question is what does a 25 year old Makarov pull with several years NHL experience. Does he flirt with 150 if he has a capable Centre?
The only player in the 1980s to crack 150 points was Mario, Gretzky, Yzerman (once) and Nicholls (once). Throw in Phil Esposito once in 1971 with 152. Regardless of era, it is extremely difficult to crack 150 points, even with a great center. Bossy only came close once in 1982 with 147. I don't think Makarov is as effective in the NHL as Bossy. So no, I don't see him flirting with 150 points. Bossy had Trottier as well keep in mind, and he still didn't do it. Gretzky and Lemieux were just worlds ahead of everyone else, even Makarov.

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12-09-2012, 04:51 PM
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It's not just about Lemieux and Yzerman though.
You have Bossy to deal with up until 85/86 and both Mario and Yzerman to deal with in 87/88-89/90.

So the reality is, the only year you could make a clear case as the 2nd best in the world is the one season, 86/87.
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about a season here or there who was 2nd best but over that entire epriod of 10 years, which carries more wieght as well IMO.

Was there a better player than Makarov for the period between 80-89 or 81-90, other than Wayne, not named Makarov? I don't think so.

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12-09-2012, 04:58 PM
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Just curious (and this is sort of irrelevant from the Makarov discussion), do you all think that Ovechkin and/or Malkin have higher peaks than that of Federov?
If you're talking single year peak, then I think Ovechkin's 2007-08 might match Fedorov's 1993-94, but I don't think it beats it. If you are talking a string of several seasons, then I think Ovechkin has the best peak and only injuries have kept Malkin's from being better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about a season here or there who was 2nd best but over that entire epriod of 10 years, which carries more wieght as well IMO.

Was there a better player than Makarov for the period between 80-89 or 81-90, other than Wayne, not named Makarov? I don't think so.
I agree with this. I think there's a very good case that Makarov was actually a better player than Mike Bossy, though we'll never know for sure.

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12-09-2012, 05:21 PM
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I agree with this. I think there's a very good case that Makarov was actually a better player than Mike Bossy, though we'll never know for sure.
I think that's pushing it a bit. We have the Canada Cups to show a small sample size:

1981 Canada Cup
Bossy - 11 points
Makarov - 9 points

1984 Canada Cup
Bossy - 9 points
Makarov - 7 points

Bossy outpoints him there. Not the best sample size but it's a start. What we don't know is how Makarov would have fared outside of the KLM line. How dominant is he if he doesn't have those two? Now, I think we saw enough of him to know the guy was a dominant player in his own right, no question. But does he produce at the level of Bossy? 9 seasons of 50+ goals is insane and we know Bossy did that, but could Makarov? Bossy was very much like Makarov, he was a surgeon with the puck, especially when he shot.

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12-09-2012, 05:30 PM
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I think that's pushing it a bit. We have the Canada Cups to show a small sample size:

1981 Canada Cup
Bossy - 11 points
Makarov - 9 points

1984 Canada Cup
Bossy - 9 points
Makarov - 7 points

Bossy outpoints him there. Not the best sample size but it's a start. What we don't know is how Makarov would have fared outside of the KLM line. How dominant is he if he doesn't have those two? Now, I think we saw enough of him to know the guy was a dominant player in his own right, no question. But does he produce at the level of Bossy? 9 seasons of 50+ goals is insane and we know Bossy did that, but could Makarov? Bossy was very much like Makarov, he was a surgeon with the puck, especially when he shot.
This is one case where playing for a 5-man unit didn't give Makarov an advantage. The Green Unit had only been together a few months before the 1981 Canada Cup, while Bossy had played with Trottier and Potvin for years. The All-Star forwards for that tournament were Sergei Shepelev (LW), Gilbert Perreault (C), Mike Bossy (RW).

1984 was probably the only Canada Cup where Bossy and Makarov were both in their primes. Note that Bossy scored 9 points in 8 games, while Makarov scored 7 points in 6 games. The All-Star forwards for that tournament were John Tonelli (LW), Wayne Gretzky (C), Sergei Makarov (RW).

I think Bossy was a better goal scorer than Makarov, but Makarov was a better passer.

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12-10-2012, 01:43 AM
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What we don't know is how Makarov would have fared outside of the KLM line. How dominant is he if he doesn't have those two? Now, I think we saw enough of him to know the guy was a dominant player in his own right, no question.
Between 1978 and 1981, young Makarov played with other players - mostly on the 3rd line with the Golikov brothers from Moscow Dynamo - and I'd say he was pretty darn dominant (1979 WC, Challenge Cup, 1980 Olympics etc.). I don't think Canada Cup with other players would have been any different.

Makarov wasn't dependent on anyone, certainly not more so than Bossy. He could always create his own scoring chances...

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12-10-2012, 01:00 PM
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Also, a 21 y.o. Makarov won the 1980 Soviet League MPV without Larionov and Krutov.

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12-13-2012, 09:58 AM
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Krutov, Larionov, Makarov, Fetisov, Kasatonov is a best "five" ever. They made a history of russian hockey. There is no other five that had such a dominance during ten years (80s) and I think will not be. For Malkin, Ovi, Dats, Covy there is still long way to go to bring russian hockey back where it had been in 70s, 80s.
As for me, Makarov my alltime #1. Fedorov, Mogilny, Bure are also great players but their impact on russian hockey cannot be compared to their predecessors. They are not even close to them.


Last edited by od71: 12-13-2012 at 08:01 PM.
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12-14-2012, 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
This is one case where playing for a 5-man unit didn't give Makarov an advantage. The Green Unit had only been together a few months before the 1981 Canada Cup, while Bossy had played with Trottier and Potvin for years. The All-Star forwards for that tournament were Sergei Shepelev (LW), Gilbert Perreault (C), Mike Bossy (RW).

1984 was probably the only Canada Cup where Bossy and Makarov were both in their primes. Note that Bossy scored 9 points in 8 games, while Makarov scored 7 points in 6 games. The All-Star forwards for that tournament were John Tonelli (LW), Wayne Gretzky (C), Sergei Makarov (RW).

I think Bossy was a better goal scorer than Makarov, but Makarov was a better passer.
I truly wish we could have found out. Makarov is the one player that I love who isn't in the HHOF that I wish hadn't been shut out of the NHL by the Soviets. Instead of speculating and guessing we would know this by now how he'd have done in 80 game seasons over the 1980s year in and year out. I personally don't think he fares any worse than Kurri. But then again, speculation............

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