Sergei Bautin was a promising defenseman out of Russian in the early 1990s.
Unlike many of his countrymen, Bautin really embraced the physical side of the game. He joined the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93 and immediately got a reputation as an enthusiastic and able bodychecker - and an almost dangerous open ice hitter. Word got around quickly to keep your head up when Bautin was on the ice.
The key to Bautin's defensive game was his skating skills - particularly his balance - while allowed him to launch himself into opponents. He could be both imposing and punishing.
While Winnipeg coach John Paddock loved Bautin's presence on the ice, he did not like the 25 year old rookie's whole game. He felt Bautin struggled with the puck and with his adjustment to the demanding North American schedule of games.
The Jets traded the former Moscow Dynamo defender and 1992 Olympic gold medalist to Detroit late in the 1993-94 season. The trade saw Dallas Drake become a long time Wing and goaltenders Bob Essensa and Tim Cheveldae switch homes. But Bautin would almost immediately be farmed out to the minor leagues. He would only play one game for the Red Wings.
Unhappy with his lack of playing time in Detroit, Bautin signed with the San Jose Sharks prior to the 1995-96 season only to find himself again apprenticing in the minor leagues with the Sharks' farm team in Kansas City. He would also only play one game in San Jose.
Bautin had little interest in returning to the minor leagues. He returned to the international game in 1996, playing in Sweden, Germany, Russia and, interestingly, Japan, where he also coached.
Bautin may have left North American to escape the minor leagues, but he in retirement he returned to Kansas City where he would become a youth hockey instructor. He would take similar positions later in Dallas and Denver.