By Jeff Moss
June 18, 2016
Selke Award Winners.
Stanley Cup Champions.
First Ballot Hall of Famers.
Red Wings Centers.
Detroit legends Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk share a lot of common traits as the above partial list would indicate but over the next few days, weeks and months there will be one “common thread” discussed that absolutely should not tie them together.
The controversial ways in which they departed the team that originally drafted them.
Now, before we get started on this dissection of Datsyuk’s traitorous actions over the last few months, let me get this out of the way. Pavel Datsyuk was no Sergei Fedorov.
While #13 was an exceptional player in his own right, he could not hold a candle to #91. Fedorov was a transcendent talent. Secretariat wearing Nike skates. A Hart Trophy winner. The ONLY player in the HISTORY of the league who was awarded the MVP trophy and voted the best defensive forward in the same season.
It was Sergei Fedorov who had the singular ability to transition to the blueline and perform on par with Nick Lidstrom. It was Sergei Fedorov who was picked out by Mario Lemieux as the toughest player #66 ever faced.
And while Datsyuk often disappeared in the postseason (.93 PPG regular season PPG versus .71 playoff PPG average) it was Sergei who ALWAYS showed up in the spring. Sergei averaged .94 points during the regular season and .96 while on the trail for Lord Stanley’s hardware.
In fact, in the long history of the NHL postseason, there are only THREE players who have ever registered 20 or more points in FOUR straight postseason runs.
And Sergei Fedorov.
Not Lemeiux or Gordie Howe or Steve Yzerman or even the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky accomplished this impressive feat.
(At this point you might be asking me who retired yesterday …. Datsyuk or Fedorov. Sorry, but I view myself as the gatekeeper of Fedorov’s legacy in Detroit and, as long as I am breathing oxygen, I will continue to defend the man I believe was the greatest to ever don the Winged Wheel. Yeah. I said it. Especially until his jersey is hanging from the rafters of Hot ‘n Ready Arena.)
What has really irked me since Datsyuk announced to the world — via a Mitch “Condescending Baggins” Albom article in April — that he was leaving Detroit is the juxtaposition of the reaction towards Datsyuk’s flight and the one which accompanied Sergei’s exit.
(Stick with me folks, we will eventually circle back to that selfish interview Datsyuk granted the Keebler Elf of Novellas on the eve of the postseason commencing.)
And let me set the record straight once and for all regarding Fedorov’s departure. I have interviewed several people who have intimate knowledge of what occurred back in the summer of 2003. From people inside the Wings organization to media members covering the exodus to those in Sergei’s inner circle and I am going to say this as plainly as possible ….
SERGEI FEDOROV WANTED TO STAY IN DETROIT.
Did Fedorov vacillate when Mike Ilitch made his original offer to Sergei back in 2003?
Was there a cliquish nature to that Red Wings locker room that the All-Star center Fedorov wasn’t fond of?
Was Fedorov conflicted about a lot of things going on in his life at the time — from his divorce to Anna Kournikova to a recent switch of agents — and did that cause a delay in the Hall of Famer giving Ken Holland a response?
But at the end of the day, Fedorov had made the decision to stay in Detroit. Except when Sergei’s new agent Pat Brisson advised Holland that Fedorov wasn’t leaving, he was told that Ilitch had pulled the offer back, which led to #91 leaving town for Anaheim where he signed a contract for LESS MONEY.
You see, the obstinate patriarch of the Ilitch Empire had never forgiven Fedorov for accepting an offer sheet back in 1998 from Mike’s nemesis Peter Karmanos. A contract that included the following poison pill clause that was detailed in this Michael Russo article:
Just $12 million of the $38 million is Fedorov’s base salary, which will be paid at $2 million per year. He will receive a $14 million signing bonus, which will bump him to $16 million this year, leaving a final $12 million.
But that’s the kicker, a scare tactic the Hurricanes hope discourages Detroit owner Mike Ilitch from matching the offer. The $12 million will be paid to Fedorov over the next four years unless the team reaches the conference finals. Then the bonus must be paid in one lump sum.
Ilitch viewed this as a slap in the face — the Hurricanes finished in last place in their division in ’98 and had zero chance to make the conference finals — even though Ilitch had spent the previous nine months lowballing the best player on a team that had just won its first Stanley Cup in 42 years.
So when Fedorov waffled on the Wings’ generous offer in 2003, Ilitch vindictively pulled it back.
For the same reason Fedorov’s number wasn’t retired to commemorate his Hall of Fame induction this past season. Ilitch has never gotten over that Compuware-funded offer sheet.
And we all know how a majority of Red Wings fans reacted to Fedorov leaving for the Ducks. He was booed unmercifully every single time he touched the puck in a road sweater while playing at the JLA. Sergei was viewed as Benedict Arnold.
(The first game in which Fedorov returned to Detroit with Anaheim, I was in attendance wearing a Ducks #91 jersey. I was sitting in the same seats I had resided in for the previous 12 seasons. I was there showing my appreciation for an athlete who had brought me more personal joy than any Motown athlete ever. For this, I was called homophobic slurs, had food thrown at me and was bumped and elbowed in the ribs while exiting the dump of a building.)
To this day morons still hold resentment towards Fedorov, and for what? Because he shopped Ilitch’s offer around the league before finally coming to the conclusion that he wanted to stay in the Motor City?
He. Was. Coming. Back.
So now fast forward 13 years to the announcement yesterday confirming what we have already known for the last two months. That Pavel Datsyuk is returning to Russia to play in the KHL.
And the same fans who treated Fedorov like Judas Iscariot reincarnate are currently bidding a fond farewell to Pavel and congratulating him on being a wonderful family man who is returning to his native land to be with his teenage daughter.
While Fedorov was met with pitchforks, Datsyuk is probably going to get rose petals thrown at his feet by Red Wings fans while he walks down the jetway to get on his Lufthansa flight to Moscow.
Can you imagine if it were FEDOROV who decided to leave the team high-and-dry with one year remaining on his contract, leaving the franchise in salary cap purgatory? I can’t even fathom how this putrid fanbase would have treated #91 if his exit meant had the team’s payroll budget was artificially reduced by TEN PERCENT.
Just picture if it were FEDOROV who had advised the team ONE YEAR after the extension was signed that he was going back to Russia, leaving the Wings with a dead cap space number of $7.5 million for TWO SEASONS. With Holland and Ilitch having to threaten Datsyuk that they’d block any attempt he’d make at exiting and signing with a KHL organization.
Or how about THIS nugget?
What??!?!?!?!?!? The ink wasn’t even dry on the paperwork and Datsyuk advised his G.M. that he was leaving after the season ended???
Well, of course Datsyuk didn’t know the ramifications of such a selfish move. He must have been totally clueless that signing a contract after his age 35 season would mean he was totally handcuffing the Wings for two years.
Welp!!!! I mean, if Fedorov had attempted a SLIVER of what Datsyuk pulled in the last few years, some deranged moron from Trenton would have probably taken an X-Acto knife to Tara Reid’s boob job and removed the silicone from Bunny Lebowski’s body.
Seriously, if Holland is to be believed, Datysuk told Holland he was leaving after the 2014 season, just days after Tweeting this out:
And by the way, this is also the same guy who had his agent negotiate a FRONT-LOADED contract, meaning Pavel would get $17 million of his $22.5 million deal in the first two years of the contract. Thus paving the way for a financial windfall with his next contract in Mother Russia.
And it’s not like this selfishness on Datsyuk’s part only centered around this contract situation. Not even close. Even though Ilitch wrote checks to Datsyuk in the amount of $72 million over the course of his NHL career, Pavel still placed playing for Russia in the 2014 Sochi Olympics above his responsibilities with the franchise that made him and his family wealthy for generation upon generation.
(Including the 13-year old daughter, whom he couldn’t somehow relocate with her mother to the states during the twilight of Datsyuk’s career. What the hell is the point of having “Fuck You Money” if you don’t know how to use it? Or aren’t willing.)
And in case you forgot the circumstances revolving around the 2014 Olympics and Pav, here is a bit of a refresher from the Toronto Sun:
Sorry, I couldn’t find a passage from a local newspaper regarding this situation but that’s probably because Helene St. James, Ted Kulfan and Ansar Khan were all Datsyuk loyalists/apologists who wouldn’t dare criticize the superstar they adored.
Oh, did I mention that when Datsyuk needed offseason surgery on his ankle last year he waited 58 days to do so, meaning he wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2015-16 season? Why did Pavel wait almost two months to fix his ankle? Who the hell knows.
But what I do know is that #13 missed 15 games to start the season. Considering the team finished only four points behind Tampa in the standings, that delay in having his surgery probably cost the team home-ice advantage in the first round.
But I am sure Chris Ilitch doesn’t care about extra home gates. At all. Uh. Huh.
And then we have the final selfish act of telling Albom he was done in Detroit on the eve of his final postseason. The precursor to yesterday’s bizarre Datsyuk and Holland dueling pressers where the complicit pair couldn’t even get their damn story straight ….
Just TWO days before the Lightning series was to begin, Datsyuk’s agent Dan Milstein orchestrated an interview between the sympathetic Frodo Albom and his client to grease the skids regarding Datsyuk’s eventual exit through Pavel telling the death-obsessed novelist the sob story about his daughter back in the motherland.
It was a blatant attempt by Milstein and Datsyuk to get in front of public opinion since the pair knew there would be some tough questions asked regarding Datsyuk leaving the country and causing cap chaos.
They knew the franchise would either be financially hamstrung during the final year at the Joe or Holland would be forced to deal Pav’s toxic contract along with a high draft pick and prospects like Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen to a team looking to reach the cap floor.
Now keep in mind, this is a town that is still suffering from PTSD regarding Calvin Johnson’s retirement in his prime. But while the Hall of Fame wide receiver knew in training camp that 2015 would be his last in the NFL, HE KEPT HIS MOUTH SHUT UNTIL THE LIONS SEASON WAS OVER.
Datsyuk and his agent went on this P.R. campaign 48 hours before the puck was to drop on the playoffs, leaving Datsyuk’s teammates to have to answer question after question about their teammate’s decision. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Milstein had the unmitigated chutzpah to suggest even AFTER the Albom article dropped that nothing had been decided, which only further muddied the waters and led to more inquiries.
Which brings us to Milstein’s involvement in all of this. I am still attempting to untangle that web, but it seems that his company, Goldstar Financial, has its tentacles wrapped around the Wings’ operation not unlike one of the octopi splattered on the JLA ice in mid-April.
(I would have said early June, but it has been a long time since this team was anything more than first-round cannon fodder for opposing NHL franchises.)
From rumors that Datsyuk was pushing Milstein’s financial planning services on his teammates to a tip I received that Goldstar Financial had the lease on the ATMs in the Joe at one point to speculation that Milstein’s significant other has the listing on Datsyuk’s house which is for sale, Milstein seems to have a variety of interests tied up in the Wings.
And why, if it was Datsyuk’s former agent Gary Greenstein who negotiated the controversial extension the team is paying for today, did Pavel thank Milstein in that Tweet I referenced earlier? You know, this one …..
Anyone else get the feeling that Milstein or someone associated with him sent that Tweet and not the Red Wings’ forward? Not to mention that Milstein was telling the media Saturday that Holland would have no problem dealing his client’s albatross of a contract.
WHO IS THIS GUY?!?!!?!?? And why is this poor man’s Suze Orman acting like the team’s shadow GM?
Which leads us to the continued incompetence of the franchise’s REAL General Manager. The final piece to this nightmarish puzzle.
During his scrum with the press, Holland actually thought the story he should be selling to the public is that Datsyuk was oblivious to the structure of the deal he signed back in 2013.
Even though, as I mentioned earlier in this novel, Datsyuk had said the exact opposite only hours earlier.
Holland is trying to tell you that Datsyuk was completely blindsided by the language of his own contract when the center had been known to spend DAYS sitting in on Collective Bargaining negotiations as detailed in this 2012 article by Chuck Pleiness ……
Either Pav spent 72 hours playing “Angry Birds” on his iPhone or Ken Holland is full of shit.
What was the point of trying to protect Datsyuk in this fashion????? If anything, this explanation makes Holland look worse, as I attempted to explain on Twitter yesterday ….
And the comedic high point of Holland’s briefing was when he actually tried to come off as a hero in this debacle by telling the eunuch media in attendance that Greenstein originally wanted a five-year deal for Datsyuk but Holland whittled that down to ONLY three years.
Think about that for a second. In one breath Holland was telling the media that Pavel originally wanted a five-year contract and in the next sentence he was dropping the bombshell that Datsyuk informed him a week into the extension that he was going home after THAT season!!!!!
What kind of fools does this man take us for? Oh right, the kind of sheep who booed Fedorov at every turn and are now exonerating Datsyuk for THIS behavior.
And how could Holland have ever known that granting that three-year extension might one day bite him in the ass? ….
Or maybe Holland does live in a cave without Internet or television. That would sure explain some things, including losing Mattias Janmark, Calle Jarnkrok and Andrej Nestrasil for nothing and even contemplating dealing Jurco and Pulkkinen or a second-round pick to cover up his managerial malpractice.
Look, the Wings have won four Stanley Cups during my lifetime and, as I have written until my fingers have gone numb, they owe us nothing moving forward except to be run competently.
Which is something that hasn’t occurred for the last seven or eight years under Holland, who has shown zero ability to navigate the turbulent seas of a salary cap era. Unless the ghosts of Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jordin Tootoo, Stephen Weiss, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Erik Cole, Dan Cleary and David Legwand don’t haunt you as well.
Not to mention the disastrous term given to Justin Abdelkader and the failure to move Jimmy Howard last offseason when the netminder still had value.
Just be smart. Do things the right way. A good start would be to eat the Datsyuk contract, go with a youth movement this year and immediately announce a date for the retirement of Fedorov’s jersey.
And then during the third or fourth season of Pizza! Pizza! Stadium, you can raise Datsyuk’s next to Sergei’s.
Because as deplorable as Pavel’s final act was in Detroit, it obviously doesn’t erase the two Cups he helped bring to this city.
All wounds heal at some point.
Even the kind that need surgery which you needlessly delay for two months.
Happy Father’s Day, Magic Man.