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January 10, 2012

Sergei Zubov: Underrated Superstar

Sergei Zubov may be the greatest "second tier" player in NHL history.

By "second tier" I mean he was an amazing hockey player that somehow always escaped the limelight and accolades that were always present for peers like Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Nicklas Lidstrom and one time teammate Brian Leetch.

Sergei Zubov played in 16 NHL seasons, putting up impressive totals: 1068 games played, 152 goals, 619 assists and 771 points. In doing so Zubov became the third European defenseman (Nicklas Lidstrom and Borje Salming) and the first Russian defenseman to record 700 career NHL points

He is also the only defenseman in NHL history to lead a first overall place team in scoring. Bobby Orr didn't even do that. Zubov did that in 1994, the same year he played an instrumental role in helping the Rangers capture the Stanley Cup, giving Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brian Leetch a serious challenge for best defenseman on the team.

Right from Zubov's debut in the NHL he was recognized as one of hockey's smoothest and most intelligent defensemen. He was a brilliant skater, both in terms of speed and lateral ability, and puck handler. The right handed defenseman was a great power play quarterback, seeing the ice incredibly well. He had a good and accurate shot, when he was not reluctant to use it. Where he would get himself into trouble was when he would overhandle the puck at the point. Instead of just putting the puck on net or dumping the puck into the corner when he was pressured, Zubov often tried to make a play out of nothing, making for dangerous turnovers.

Zubov matured into a fantastic two way player, outgrowing rookie over-indulgance for offense at the expense of defense. Because of his skating he was tough to beat one-on-one. He had good size and did not shy away in physical games, although he would never himself play a mean game. He relied more on his reach and agility.

Read the full Sergei Zubov biography here.

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