Skip to main content

Andrei Zyuzin


Time and time again teams gave him a chance, despite his lack of physical play and lack of production. His superior skating and offensive instincts teased of a player like Brian Leetch, though he lacked the lateral movement along the blue line to truly put up great numbers. But he could rush the puck out of his own zone like few others.

Whether at top speed or while quarterbacking the power play, Zyuzin was a smart playmaker. He had a strong shot and, unlike many European defensemen even at that time, was not afraid to use it.

Yet he was always an awkward at every NHL stop. Despite good size he was not a physical player in any regard. But even at an early age he was not a defensive liability. If his team needed a goal he would turn on the jets and press for the extra offense. Otherwise he would stay back and play solid positionally and let his superior anticipation help him defend.

Despite that impressive breakdown of his ability, Andrei Zyuzin only scored 38 goals and 120 points in 496 regular season contests. His best season - 2003-04 with Minnesota - saw him set career highs with just 8 goals and 21 points.

Despite never putting up offensive statistics that rivaled his immense potential, Andrei Zyuzin was always labelled as an offensive defenseman.

The rushin' Russian was drafted 2nd overall by the San Jose Sharks in the weak 1996 NHL Draft.

"A young kid with that kind of ability, he's going to play in this league a long time," said Sharks coach Darryl Sutter.

Sutter would soon learn the ability was apparent but frustrating, as Zyuzin "had all the tools but not the tool box," as Harry Neale used to say. Sutter would mercilessly ride Zyuzin, destroying the young player's confidence and leading to a fractured relationship.

That fractured relationship extended to off the ice, too. In his sophomore year he bizarrely went AWOL on the Sharks. He packed up and went back to Russia, missing 12 games. This followed an earlier incident where he refused to report to the minor leagues.

He did return and all parties involved publicly said all the right things about no hard feelings. But the Sharks traded him to Tampa Bay in the summer.

Zyuzin welcomed the change in scenery but a shoulder injury cost him half of the 1999-2000 season. He never would get a full season in with the Lightning.

From there it was off to New Jersey and Minnesota, two unlikely fits given their defense-first systems. His best fit was probably with the Wild. After being a healthy scratch numerous times when he first arrived, he emerged as a regular for a short time.

He also would play briefly with Calgary and Chicago.

All in all Andrei Zyuzin earned a reputation as a solid if teasing NHL defenseman who just never quite seemed to find the right spot.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M