Tonight, the Dallas Stars will honor someone who almost never gets honored. His name is Sergei Zubov. Recently, Zubov became the all time leading scorer amongst every defenseman who ever played in the North Stars/Stars franchise history. The Stars plan a big honor for Sergei, who would rather not be singled out, or interviewed, or anything that does not require him to go about his business and just play hockey. Here are some of the numbers on the greatest defenseman ever to lace up the skates with the Star on his chest.
• Is the only active defenseman to record 30 or more assists in each of the last 10 seasons and is now two points shy of becoming the only d-man to post 40 or more points in 10 straight years.
• Ranks first on the all-time Russian born defensemen scoring list and third on the non-North American defensemen scoring list with 645 points (129-516-645) – behind Borje Salming and Niklas Lidstrom.
• Is the Stars’ all-time franchise leader among defensemen in assists (335) and points (432) in 671 games.
• Among NHL defensemen scoring leaders this season, he ranks tied for third in assists (32) and fourth in points (38).
• During the 1993-94 season, became the first defenseman to lead a team in scoring that finished first overall in the NHL, posting 12 goals and 77 assists for 89 points in 78 games – He was only the second Rangers defensemen to record over 70 assists in a season.
• NHL All-Star Game – 1998, 1999, 2000
• Stanley Cup Championship – 1994, 1999
In fact, to get a read on how great he is, compare the relatively anonymous Zubov’s stats to those of media darling East Coast hero, (Now Mighty Duck) Scott Niedermayer:
• Sergei Zubov – 900 GP, 129-516-645, 64 Power Play Goals
• Scott Niedermayer – 936 GP, 118-390-508, 56 Power Play Goals
The biggest crime was brought up to me by Ralph Strangis. He pointed out that Zubov had never even been nominated for a Norris Trophy. Think about that. Think about the numbers above, and then the idea that the media has never even put him in the 3 finalists for the Norris Trophy. Of course, when you are a defenseman from Russia, who is never interviewed, and who plays West of the Mississippi and South of the Canadian border, you cannot expect the media to feel you.
But, Stars fans know better. They know he is the best d-man to ever play for this team, and while someday he will be old and washed up, we obviously are not even close to that right now.
So, anyway, good job, Sergei. And thanks for doing our interview once a year…
Zubov’s career numbers ….
Like Last week, let’s check out Gil Brandt’s game previews …
Pittsburgh at Denver: This is the first time since we started the current playoff system in 1990 that a sixth seed has reached the conference title game. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, in eight road games this year, has 12 TD passes, 4 INTs and a rating of 108.3. ... For Pittsburgh to win, it needs to block the Denver blitzes and make plays in the passing game. It's going to come down to WRs Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El, because I think Denver will do a good job containing TE Heath Miller. ... On defense, the Steelers must force QB Jake Plummer to beat them from within the pocket. ... For Denver to win, it must run the ball, get an early lead, and protect the ball. WR Rod Smith could have a good game, though it won't be easy against CB Ike Taylor, who played well against Marvin Harrison last week. The Denver defense must control Pittsburgh's offense, which kept the ball for 34:52 last week in Indianapolis. ... Denver is 4-0 at home in conference championship games (only loss in AFC title game was at Buffalo in January 1992). ... Pittsburgh ranks fourth in overall defense, third against the run, 16th against the pass. ... Denver is 15th overall, second vs. the run, 29th vs. the pass. ... Over the last four games of the regular season, both teams were 4-0. Pittsburgh allowed 33 points in those games; Denver allowed 37. ... This is the sixth playoff meeting between these teams; Denver holds a 3-2 edge.
Common opponents: Pittsburgh 2-3, Denver 5-0
Points allowed: Pittsburgh 258, Denver 258
Turnover differential: Pittsburgh plus-7, Denver plus-20
Sack differential: Pittsburgh plus-15, Denver plus-5
Sturm Pick: This is really, really tough. My initial pick is Pittsburgh, but to take the Steelers, you have to disregard years and years of history that tell you that teams that have to play 3 road games almost never go to the Super Bowl. You also have to disregard the historical and present dominance of the Denver Broncos in front of their great fans. Both teams take care of the ball, both teams have great coaches, and both teams can play defense in the toughest situations. Even the QB discussion is hardly decisive as you have Roethlisberger vs Plummer, and I cannot tell you there is a huge advantage either way. So, this pick is leaning more to the sentimental story of Bettis finishing his career in Detroit, his hometown, at the Super Bowl. With very little convinction, give me Pittsburgh 24, Denver 20.
Carolina at Seattle: In playing the Giants and Bears on the road, Carolina logged a total of 2,840 miles; the Panthers will travel 2,860 just to get to Seattle. Plus, they will have one fewer day of rest, having played Sunday while Seattle played Saturday. ... The Panthers are without DeShaun Foster, who ran so well the past two weeks, so the running game will come down to Nick Goings. You haven't heard a lot about him, but he did have five 100-yard rushing games in eight starts in 2004. In his 13 career NFL starts, Goings averaged 68 yards rushing and three catches. DE Julius Peppers is injured, but I believe he will play. ... For Carolina to win, the Panthers have to get some production from Goings. QB Jake Delhomme has been unbelievably hot -- in six playoff games, he has 10 TDs, 2 INTs and a rating of 108.4. He'll need to stay hot, and not turn the ball over. Seattle will look at the Dallas game from the regular season, when the Cowboys' coverage did a pretty good job shutting down WR Steve Smith before he ended up getting ejected. If Smith is contained, WR Drew Carter needs to make some plays. ... On defense, Carolina must pressure Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck and make Seattle one-dimensional. They need to handle the running game, make them pass from behind. ... Seattle needs to block Carolina's front four and run the ball. There still are some questions about RB Shaun Alexander's status, but they have to make some plays in the passing game. Carolina is good against the pass, with good corners. WR Darrell Jackson has back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs, one last year and one this year. Another key for Seattle's offense is the status of Sean Locklear, a very good RT who was arrested earlier this week. ... Seattle has to stop Smith and hope the QB is cold. ... One side note: Delhomme was an undrafted free agent from Louisiana-Lafayette, while Hasselbeck was a sixth-round pick from Boston College. ... This is the first time these teams have met in the playoffs. They've split their only two regular-season games. ... Carolina is third in overall defense, fourth against the run, ninth against the pass. Seattle is 16th overall, fifth against the run, 25th vs. the pass. ... In the last four games of the regular season, Carolina was 2-2, and allowed 65 points; Seattle was 3-1 and allowed 63 points.
Common opponents: Carolina 4-1, Seattle 4-1
Points allowed: Carolina 259, Seattle 271
Turnover differential: Carolina plus-16, Seattle plus-10
Sack differential: Carolina plus-17, Seattle plus-23
Sturm Pick: Seattle is also unbeaten at home this year, and I think that will continue. Of course, I also have an agenda in this game, since one is coached by the great Mike Holmgren. Carolina with only Nick Goings in the backfield tells me that Jake Delhomme is going to have to force the throws a bit more, and I think Seattle’s game plan will be tons of running the ball whether that be Alexander or Maurice Morris. Seattle 28, Carolina 20…
Dampier not very shaken with his benching …
Is the move to the bench upsetting in any way to the 6-11 center?
"Not at all," Dampier says. "I was just taken out of the lineup. I wasn't benched. I still get to go out and help the team win. I'm comfortable."
What a competitor.
FC Dallas with big day at the draft …be still my beating heart. But, there is this issue of going from Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz up top, to neither. Plus, will Eddie Johnson miss the entire first 3 to 4 months of the season, given his role with USA’s World Cup entry?
Both denied published reports out of New York of an impending trade that would send valuable young striker Eddie Johnson to the MetroStars for unhappy midfielder Amado Guevara, the league's 2004 MVP, who is publicly feuding with management.
"There's absolutely nothing to that," Clarke said of the reports.
Such a scenario could become more palatable for FC Dallas if the club can re-sign striker Carlos Ruiz, who continues seeking international offers but seems increasingly likely to return to MLS.
If FC Dallas did trade Johnson, then saw Ruiz sign elsewhere, the club would suddenly be reduced from two A-list forwards to none.
Archie Manning vs. Terry Bradshaw this week , and I know you won’t believe this, but I am going to take Terry’s side…
Archie Manning, Peyton's dad, was among those who heard what Bradshaw said Sunday. He called what Bradshaw said "a cheap shot," according to Newsday in New York.
"I know Terry well, and this isn't the first time," Archie Manning told Newsday. "He's taken shots at me - he takes a lot of shots - he seems to like to take shots at Peyton. He wore me out two years ago on Eli's deal. He wore me out."
Eli Manning, another of Archie's sons, forced a draft-day trade between San Diego and the New York Giants two years ago, a move that brought criticism, especially from San Diego fans. Bradshaw offered words of encouragement to Eli after he and his Giants teammates played horribly in a 23-0, playoff loss to Carolina on Jan. 8.
In a conference call with reporters this week, Bradshaw said he stood by his criticism of Peyton. In a passionate and rambling defense of his role, Bradshaw suggested that Peyton might want to fight his own battles instead of having his dad fight them. Bradshaw also said he had made a ton of positive comments about Peyton over the years.
"One of the things (I) have come to grips with as a broadcaster, you can't have friends and do our job," Bradshaw said. "Because your friends (in the NFL) are going to stub their toes and (my bosses) are listening and watching. You have to be honest."
Bradshaw said he did not have the luxury of time to examine Peyton's comments.
"Archie is defending his son and I understand that," Bradshaw said. "But I would imagine today, rather than taking shots at me, he's got a lot of phone calls to make because I don't think I'm the only one. I probably have a little more impact because I'm someone on television and I'm a former quarterback. I saw the press conference afterward. Immediately, immediately, that's what I thought. I don't have a whole day to analyze the tape, formulate a thought or an opinion.
If you can figure out this story, please bring me up to speed: Theo Epstein returns to the Red Sox after 80 days …
This guy better be good, because after weeks of hype, Arsenal signs 16 year old wonder boy, Theo Walcott …Yes, that is two stories in a row featuring a "Theo"...
Arsenal have completed the signing of teenage striker Theo Walcott from Southampton, in a deal which could eventually cost £12million.
Walcott cannot sign a professional contract with the Gunners until his 17th birthday on March 16, and so will join the Premiership club as a scholar until then after they paid Saints an initial fee of £5million.
Chelsea were also reported to have been chasing the teenager's signature, but the chance of regular first-team football at Highbury, and from next season the new 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, is thought to have been key to the player's decision to choose to further his career in north London.
As long as Chelsea doesn’t get him, there is still hope for everyone else …Poor, poor Chelsea…
But, despite most people thinking the biggest games in football are being played in Denver and Seattle this weekend, The biggest game is actually being played in Manchester, England where Liverpool attempts to pass by United on Sunday Morning …And I will have my jersey on…
• MANCHESTER UNITED against Liverpool is a thoroughbred encounter at Old Trafford, and the European champions are pursuing a 50th League victory over the Red Devils. The pair are also vying for runners-up spot and the second automatic Champions League place, alongside champions-elect Chelsea, who are 16 points clear going into this round of fixtures. United are one place and one point above their opponents, but the Merseysiders have two games in hand and this is therefore a critical six-pointer.
• Both of these clubs have won 13 Premiership matches. Three of United's have come in the last trio of Old Trafford fixtures. They go into this clash having cruised into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with a 5-0 victory over non-League Burton in the midweek Replay, but on the back of a 3-1 local derby defeat by Manchester City at Eastlands last weekend. Sir Alex Ferguson's side have not suffered successive Premiership defeats in 27 League outings.
• United are pursuing a third win in four home Premiership exchanges with Liverpool. Ferguson's side won 2-1 in last season's Old Trafford match through Mikael Silvestre's headed double on Rio Ferdinand's return after an eight month enforced lay off. The Red Devils have lost three of the last five corresponding fixtures, all by a 0-1 score line.
• LIVERPOOL are on the longest unbeaten sequence in the Premiership of 12 matches, and are enjoying their best ever return from the first 20 matches of a Premier League season.
• The defeat to Sao Paulo in the final of the World Club Championship on 18 December is the only loss suffered by Rafa's Reds in 18 games in all competitions. They've won 14 and drawn three in that sequence from the end of October.
• The Reds have claimed maximum points in two of their last four visits to Old Trafford. Danny Murphy scored in both 0-1 victories on 11 January 2002, and 24 April 2004. But the Merseysiders have not won in three meetings with United and have not scored in two. That includes this season's reverse fixture which was a drab goalless draw, in which there were few clear cut scoring chances. It turned out to be Roy Keane's last match for United.
Sturm Pick: Liverpool 1, ManU 0 (who would have thought?)
So there you go. The longest blog in sometime covering lots of sports topics. Have a good-good sports weekend…