Last night in Dallas was significant for Stars’ defenseman Sergei Zubov in more ways than one. Not only did he post his 6th career 4-point night, he also passed Dave Gagner for 6th all-time on the Stars’ scoring list and took over the lead as the top scoring defenseman in the league this season with 28 points (4 G, 24A) in 31 games.
Sergei is now on pace for his highest scoring season since the New York Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup season, in which he led the Rangers in scoring with 89 points (12 G, 77 A). Zubov is a two-time Stanley Cup winner as he also won with Dallas in 1999 and, of course, led the team’s defensemen in scoring both during the regular season and playoffs.
Zubie’s scoring prowess and consistency has been a trademark of his career. Indeed, he is the only NHL defenseman to register 30 or more assists and 40 or more points over each of the past 11 seasons (he is headed for a 12th consecutive season).
As can be seen here, Zubov stacks up quite favorably against other top offensive defensemen of his era:
Nicklas Lidstrom: 205 G, 689 A, 1206 GP – .74 PPG
Sergei Zubov: 152 G, 608 A, 1043 GP – .73 PPG
Sergei Gonchar: 179 G, 396 A, 852 GP – .67 PPG
Chris Pronger: 123 G, 416 A, 900 GP – .60 PPG
Scott Niedermayer: 140 G, 468 A, 1053 GP – .58 PPG
Zubov’s 760 career points are third among active defensemen behind only Chris Chelios and Lidstrom.
Although much is said about Zubov’s offensive output, there has been great recognition for his increased leadership and mentoring role, as well as defensive play. Zubie has played this season with the up-and-coming Matt Niskanen and Niskanen has flourished under Zubov’s tutelage. Head Coach Dave Tippett has gone out of his way to make known his appreciation for Zubov’s new found role.
Tippett has also recognized that Zubov should be a future Hall of Famer and that “there are very few people that have had the impact on the game like he has.”
We at PuckAgency have had the good fortune of witnessing firsthand Zubov’s stellar play and rise to becoming an elite level player in the NHL, as Jay Grossman has represented Sergei since he entered the NHL in 1992-93.
December 11, 2007
Time to show more love for veteran Stars defenceman Sergei Zubov
Pierre LeBrun, THE CANADIAN PRESS
He’s never won a Norris Trophy. Actually, he’s never even been runner-up. He’s third in career points among active defencemen. His passing game is among the very best in the league. He’s routinely among the leading offensive defencemen in the league. Right now he actually leads all NHL defencemen in scoring.
So why is it Dallas Stars veteran Sergei Zubov doesn’t get the same kind of attention as perennial Norris Trophy candidates Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer?
“That’s just the way he wants it,” Stars head coach Dave Tippett said with a laugh.
Zubov’s 760 career points (152-608) are third among active blue-liners behind only Chris Chelios and Lidstrom. The 37-year-old Moscow native leads all NHL defencemen this season with 28 points (4-24) in 31 games, two more than Lidstrom. But he ranks only ninth among defencemen in Western Conference all-star fan balloting.
Is he overlooked?
“No doubt. That’s the biggest understatement I’ve heard in a long time,” said Stars goalie Marty Turco. “But he doesn’t mind.”
Zubov agreed to do a phone interview with The Canadian Press on Tuesday. But it’s clear early on in the conversation that talking about himself ranks about as high as a trip to the dentist. He tries to re-direct every question about him to an answer about the team.
“He is who he is and he’s very comfortable,” said Tippett. “You always want to see a player like that recognized because he means so much to our team and how good a player he is for the league. So to not get the recognition that he deserves is certainly something that is wrong, but on the other side he’s not a guy that wants to be individually recognized.
“He wants our teams stats to do the talking for him.”
Zubov has been lost in the Lidstrom/Pronger/Niedermayer shuffle all decade long. His only Norris Trophy nomination came in 2005-06 and he finished third. The last defenceman not named Lidstrom, Pronger or Niedermayer to win a Norris was Al MacInnis in 1999.
Believe him, Zubov says, he’s not hurt by it at all.
“No, not really, honestly,” said Zubov. “I’m not the guy who is looking for recognition – trust me, that’s the way I am. I’m just trying to do my job. I just want to help my team win games, that’s all I’m looking for basically.”
But talk to people around the league, and they will tell you unequivocally that he belongs in the same class as Lidstrom, Pronger and Niedermayer.
“He certainly should be. But he doesn’t look for it,” said Turco.
“His skill and his skating and his shooting, there’s no better than I can really think of,” added Turco. “When I’m done my career he’ll probably be at the top of the list of the best players I’ve played with. I’m nowhere near done playing but I can say that with confidence.”
It’s not just about offence with Zubov. He controls the game. He anticipates plays. His passing skills are Lidstrom-like. Other NHL coaches drool over the chance to have a blue-liner kickstart the transition game like Zubov can.
“I’ve talked to other coaches who ask questions about him all the time because they marvel at his ability to control the game,” said Tippett. “We got into Detroit and we talk about Lidstrom the same way, the ability to control, same with Pronger or Niedermayer, the effect that those players have on the game because they play such big minutes and the effect on the tempo of the game for their given team.”
Zubov came into the league in 1992-93 with the New York Rangers very much an offensive player, putting up a career-high 89 points (12-77) in 78 games in 1993-94, the year the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. He’s had to work hard on becoming better defensively, a slow but sure transformation that in the last several years has made him the complete player that he is.
“I’d say that’s the biggest improvement for myself and I’m really proud of it, actually,” Zubov said of his defensive play.
Two things jump out at Tippett when thinking about Zubov.
“First, the consistency in which he’s done it,” said Tippett. “His stats and consistency over the last 10 years is phenomenal; and the other thing about him is that I don’t think a lot of people know about him as a person – he’s a very intelligent man. He’s very team-first oriented, everything he does is towards the team and winning.
“That’s where his focus is, it’s never on himself.”
The Hockey Hall of Fame may beckon one day, which surely will surprise many given the lack of notoriety Zubov received during his career.
“He doesn’t want it, but he sure deserves it,” Tippett said of the attention. “There’s very few people that have had the impact on the game like he has.”