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Behind The Numbers

Datsyuk departure leaves void in Red Wings lineup

Statistics show center remained one of best in NHL

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

The Detroit Red Wings have withstood the retirement of legends like Steve Yzerman in 2006 and Nicklas Lidstrom in 2012. But will they be able to make it 26 consecutive seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs following the departure of center Pavel Datsyuk?

Datsyuk announced Saturday that he was leaving the Red Wings to play in his native Russia.

Based on his underlying statistics, Datsyuk remains one of the world's greatest hockey players, and his departure will leave a hole that may be impossible to fill.

What did Datsyuk mean to the Red Wings? Simply put, Datsyuk can do it all, and at an elite level. 

Datsyuk scores. He shuts down top opponents. He plays in all zones and in every game and man-power situation. He draws penalties, wins faceoffs, drives possession and excels in the shootout. He probably offers to drive the Zamboni between periods too. 

Add it all up, and he was one of the most valuable players in the NHL.

Video: DET@DAL: Datsyuk smacks rebound into net for the win


Even at age 37, Datsyuk was Detroit's best offensive weapon this season.

For the second season in a row he trailed Henrik Zetterberg for the Red Wings scoring lead by one point, but he played far fewer games. In 2014-15, Zetterberg outscored Datsyuk 66-65 but played 14 more games; this season, Zetterberg outscored Datsyuk 50-49 but played 16 more games.

When taking opportunity into account, Datsyuk's scoring rate of 1.73 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 during the past three seasons exceeds Zetterberg's (1.55), according to 

Among players with at least 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, Datsyuk's scoring rate was fourth on Detroit behind Dylan Larkin (2.01), Gustav Nyquist (1.89) and Tomas Tatar (1.81), but it also came with far greater defensive responsibilities.

When focused purely on scoring, Datsyuk has been Detroit's greatest threat. With the man-advantage, for example, Datsyuk's scoring rate of 6.31 points per 60 minutes during the past three seasons led the Red Wings and was sixth among forwards with at least 300 minutes of power-play ice time. League-wide. The leader is Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who has a power-play scoring rate of 8.13 points per 60 minutes.

Video: BOS@DET: Datsyuk nets 900th point with goal


There's no question Datsyuk was the League's best defensive forward at one point of his career. He won the Selke Trophy as its best for three consecutive seasons, from 2007-08 through 2009-10, and finished third in each of the three following seasons. 

Since then the crown may have been passed to someone like Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, but Datsyuk has remained Detroit's top choice when protecting a lead late in a game, or facing top opponents.

The 2016 Selke voting results won't be revealed until the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday, but the fact Datsyuk finished fifth in 2014-15 despite missing 19 games suggests he still ranks among the League's best defensive forwards. 

Statistically, there is no easy way to directly measure Datsyuk's defensive value, but it can be implied by studying the end results. In this case, the Red Wings had a 982-733 advantage in shot attempts last season with Datsyuk on the ice at 5-on-5, giving him a Detroit-best SAT differential of plus-249.

To put it in relative terms, Detroit's shot-attempts percentage was 57.3 when Datsyuk was on the ice at 5-on-5, 50.6 percent without him. That increase of 6.7 percent was eighth among NHL forwards who played at least 20 games.

Regardless of how he is achieving this success, the end result is clear: Detroit is hardest to play against when Datsyuk is on the ice.

Video: Pavel Datsyuk dazzles coast-to-coast


Datsyuk's greatest strength is his versatility. Whether it's in the faceoff circle, in the shootout or drawing penalties at critical moments, he has the ability to win games with a single play.

Datsyuk has won 7,444 of 13,822 faceoffs in his NHL career, a percentage of 53.8 percent. Winning draws is not a skill players lose as they age, as attested to by Datsyuk's 53.7 faceoff winning percentage in 2015-16.

As for the shootout, Datsyuk has scored 40 goals in 98 career attempts. Two players have outscored Datsyuk in the shootout since it was introduced in the 2005-06 season: Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders (42) and Radim Vrbata of the Vancouver Canucks (41).

Datsyuk's speed and positioning sometimes can give opponents no choice but to risk a penalty to prevent him from scoring. As a consequence, Datsyuk has drawn 0.85 minor penalties per 60 minutes during the six seasons that this data has been recorded; he has been called for 0.29 per 60 minutes, the lowest rate on the Red Wings (minimum 70 games). 

That penalty differential of 0.56 per 60 minutes is second on Detroit to Darren Helm (1.19), one of the game's best at drawing penalties.

By itself, each one of these examples demonstrates a key area where Datsyuk has given the Red Wings a consistent advantage. 

Add them all together, and consider his more direct offensive and defensive contributions, and few players have been more valuable to their team than Datsyuk.

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