With the Dallas Stars tribute to Mike Modano's induction into the hall of fame on tap for this weekend, it's only fitting that fans are starting to whisper the name of another member of Dallas Stars royalty recently.
The way John Klingberg has looked in his first six NHL games, the comparisons to Sergei Zubov were all but inevitable. You can see it there, in the heads-up vision that allows him to find the best passing option, in the patience that can get him both into and out of trouble.
It was there again Thursday night in Klingberg's first NHL goal, in the toe drag that brought back the memory of so many Crazy Ivans before picking the top corner.
But I'm here to tell you to slow your roll, though not in the way you might think. Because Klingberg is not Zubov, and that's okay.
Zubov is a patently unfair comparison to any player, a Hall of Fame caliber defenseman on both ends of the ice who was criminally underappreaciated in his time. To ask any player to live up to that mantra, let alone a young defenseman who has only a half-dozen games under his belt, is silly. It sets an unreachable benchmark.
Remember, Zubov is the only defenseman to lead a Stanley Cup champion in scoring. He had 89 points in his first full NHL season after 31 in 49 games as a rookie (though to be fair, the rookies that came out of the CSKA Moscow system aren't exactly the same as your average 22-year-old AHL graduate). He was elite among the elite, even if the NHL media at the time was more enamored with hip checks and slapshots to recognize his subtle brilliance.
So take a deep breath and repeat after me. Klingberg is not, and will not be, Zubov.
What Klingberg is, however, is a brilliant rookie defenseman who shows the potential of growing into an amazing player in his own right. His calmness with the puck on his stick is that of a defenseman with much more experience at this level.
Almost universally, athletes say that the biggest difference in adjusting between levels of league is the speed, having so much less time to make your decisions, which often leads to rushing and scrambling. That hasn't seemed to bother Klingberg in the slightest. If anything, he's gotten himself into the little bits of trouble he's found by being too patient with not quite enough urgency under the pressure of a forechecker.
That's not a criticism, though. With four points and six games and that breakout-pass ability the Stars had so desperately missed at times this season, Klingberg has done everything one could ask of him and more.
No, he's not Sergei Zubov. Klingberg has already shown he's a wonderful defenseman in his own right, no comparisons needed. Let's be less excited about who he reminds us of and more excited about what he can become.
Here are your other news and notes from around the NHL:
- There were plenty of places things could have gone wrong for the Stars on Thursday, from the first-period goal against to Klingberg's turnover that ended up on Doan's stick to the disallowed goal. But as Mike Heika writes, the Stars were finally able to clean up for each other's mistakes on home ice. [DallasNews.com]
- From a Coyotes fan perspective, they are getting a little tired of giving up quick goals to the Stars. [Five for Howling]
- The Montreal Canadiens continued to stockpile defensemen on Thursday as they acquired veteran Bryan Allen from the Anaheim Ducks for Rene Bourque. Speaking of veteran Habs defensemen, did you know that Sergei Gonchar played 21:03 and was named third star of the game as the Habs beat the Blues 4-1? [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
- And hitting on puck moving defensemen again, it's difficult to get a good metric to measure effectiveness on the offensive end, but the fine folks at Puck Drunk Love took a good stab at it. [Puck Drunk Love]
- As a resident of the Sonoran desert, I complain endlessly about the hot summers that seem to drag on forever. However, I'll put up with six months of 100 degree days to avoid the six feet of snow (with more apparently coming) that has been dumped on the Buffalo area recently. It was enough to make even those hardy Sabres postpone their game due to safety reasons. [Buffalo News]
- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has officially been charged with one count of felony domestic violence. [USA Today]
- Gordie Howe's health is starting to inch toward improvements again after some setbacks in recovering from a stroke. [Detroit Free Press]
- In sad news, T.J. Oshie's father has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 50. Our thoughts are with him and his family. [ESPN]
- It's happy Friday around these parts, so I'll leave you with these wonderful promotional uniforms. Danananananana.... [Instagram]