Pavel Datsyuk on Babcock, Red Wings missing playoffs and ‘McDavidian’

Former Red Wing coach Scotty Bowman discusses Pavel Datsyuk’s early days in Detroit, saying we couldn’t believe how magical he was with the puck, but nobody could see him being this good.

Pavel Datsyuk gave a lengthy interview to Igor Eronko of Sport-Express on Thursday, in which he shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects including his former coach Mike Babcock, the Detroit Red Wings missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, and more.

Datsyuk broke into the NHL in the 2001-02 season, winning a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings under Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman.

Babcock, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, took over the Detroit bench after the 2004-05 lockout, and made his mark on the young Russian – helping him become the two-way force for which he became known.

“He gave me a lot. Asked me to concentrate on defence,” said Datsyuk, whose interview was translated into English by The Malik Report. “Made me more of a defensive forward. Especially closer to the end of my career.

“But in general every coach added something. Bowman, on the other hand, allowed me to play my game and improvise. Even though I was so young.”

The Red Wings never missed the playoffs throughout Dastyuk’s entire NHL career, and in their first season without him, the team failed to qualify for the post-season, ending a 25-year run.

Detroit slipped into the playoffs only to bow out in the first round in each of the three seasons prior, and Datsyuk believes that the team can finally set its sights on a larger prize now that it has no streak to protect.

“In most recent seasons, there was constant talk: will Detroit make or miss the playoffs,” he began. “Can Detroit win the Cup did not seem to be of interest to anybody. Everybody talked only about making the playoffs.

“So, it’s very good the Red Wings missed the playoffs. The recharge started. … Now everything will change, there will be no such pressure and they will be to see the ultimate goal. In reality you need to fight for the Cup and not just to make the playoffs.”

The 39-year-old left North America just over a year ago to sign with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL, just 47 games shy of 1,000 career NHL appearances. A return doesn’t seem likely, though.

As Dastyuk grew as a player, so too did the respect he received from his peers. Fox Sports Detroit broadcaster Ken Daniels coined the term “Datsyukian” to describe his wizardry with the puck and for a brief while, asking Apple’s virtual assistant Siri who the “Magic Man” was would lead to answers referring to the Russian centre.

It’s something Datsyuk downplayed.

“I think when I stop playing it will disappear. There will be a new word, McDavidian for example.”

Among the other tidbits from the interview (on Sidney Crosby slashing his hands on faceoffs: “That’s all in the past already”), was Datsyuk’s impressive memory.

When asked to recall his most memorable goal, he instead brought up his missed chance in overtime of Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Final – which was eventually won in triple-OT by Igor Larionov.

You can see the play Datsyuk was referring to at the 15:24 mark of this video: