As surprising as Datsyuk can be as a player, his team was equally as surprising last season: Pushing the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to a seventh game in the conference semifinals.
We spoke with Datsyuk recently about his future, the Red Wings, his critics, his opponents and how his legacy has even carried over to the iPhone.
Q. The end of the season turned out quite interesting for you.
DATSYUK: “Of course! It was a great feeling to be staying with the Red Wings. The club really wanted to sign the extension. Our wishes were mutual, I really wanted to stay.”
Did the rumors about your alleged departure to the KHL that came up during the playoffs affect you?
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even listen to them. Rumors and rumors. There are always more than enough of them.”
Detroit is quite a young team at the moment, and a lot of people thought that last season you went much further than you should have. Is it a fair assessment?
“Actually this is not quite accurate. Yes, we really do have a young team. And it is true that it was difficult for us to play against higher seeded teams, those that were above us in the standings. But we had a very good chance. And in my opinion our young players showed themselves to be very capable.”
A lot of credit should go to coach Babcock. Does it seem strange that he has never won the Jack Adams Award?
“I don’t know if I should make comments about trophies. But of course a lot of credit must be given to the coach for the way we play. At this time he is one of the best coaches in the League. He has actually always been one of the best. He has a lot of experience. And the fact that he has never won the Adams Trophy? I don’t even know what the criteria is used to select the best coach of the season. But I am certain that he will win it.”
Henrik Zetterberg was named team captain this season. How did he transition to being the captain?
“How? He cut out the letter “C” and stitched it on to his jersey, that’s how.
“But actually he has always been one of the leaders on our team. And that goes to both on and off the ice, in the locker room. This year he demonstrated his leadership again. He is a very good person. He is a friend. I think that appointing him a captain was the right decision by the club. Being a captain is a very big responsibility. He is not yet used to it.”
At 34 you have as many takeaways as Jonathan Toews, who won the Selke Trophy this year. What is the secret of your longevity?
“I think the secret lies in that energy to work that I replenish every summer when I come home to Ekaterinburg, to my country. And from fans who write and say so much. Their feedback is a very strong motivator. There are also family and friends. A lot depends on them too.”
Did you hear about a comment one Canadian expert made that Datsyuk may not be naturally gifted, but is a hard worker?
“Of course I did. And I share that opinion. The more I work and practice, the more talented I get.”
What’s your favorite hockey trick?
“To score a goal.
“No. To give an assist.”
You think that every assist is a trick?
“Maybe not every. But there are so many assists that come out so good that they look like tricks.”
Do you sometimes feel sorry for the opponents you sometimes make look silly? Like Logan Couture for example?
“I don’t look at it this way. I look at it completely different. I deked him that time, but he got better because of it. And because he got better, it is now more difficult for our team to play against him. Our opponents get better and stronger every game.”
“How? Well, I picked up the phone and called Apple. I said ‘Let’s do this! It will be a great project!’
"And it turned out to be great, everyone is happy. It was easy. You just need to have the right connections!”
Is it really you behind the Twitter handle?
“Of course. Twitter, Facebook, bicycle, car – I am behind the handle of all of those things myself.”
During one of our conversations you told me that coaches in Russia don’t allow their players to participate in your camps. Has this issue been resolved?
“This is a common problem, a problem in Russia. I don’t even know if such a problem exists in America. At home [in Russia] a lot of coaches look at the camps with jealousy. They don’t want to understand and to accept the system that can be used to get the best out of and then apply it to the talent in Russia. It exists and will continue to exist for a long time, the way I see it. It is difficult to fight it. It is difficult to get rid of it.”
The NHL is yet to announce whether it will participate in the Olympics. Does it concern you?
“I didn’t even think about it. This is not my concern.”
What is it like to be a veteran?
“I will let you know what it’s like when I become one. I consider myself to be quite experienced, not old. Maybe my passport says I am 35, but on the ice you get punched in the face for some reason. We do not get old at heart.”
Who is your best student on the team?
“I should teach myself enough to be able to teach someone else.”
What are your thoughts about the Winter Classic in Michigan?
“This is a very big event for hockey fans, for the entire state of Michigan. And for both teams this means a lot, because both are from the Original Six. It will be a great celebration for the entire state, especially during this difficult time. This New Year’s celebration will last a few days, and it is great. Having experienced it in Chicago, I am now really looking forward to the celebrations and a lot of emotions this time in Michigan.”
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Predators re-sign Rich Clune, paint ice gold
• Kings acquire Daniel Carcillo from the Blackhawks
• Who were the luckiest and unluckiest teams of 2013?
- Sports & Recreation
- Pavel Datsyuk
- Detroit Red Wings