It took nearly a decade. Sergei Zubov is finally a Hockey Hall of Famer. The former Rangers defenseman, who was a huge part of the team finally winning the Stanley Cup in 1994, is one of six new members who’ll be inducted in November.
They include four former players. Headlined by Zubov, his former Stars teammate Guy Carbonneau will join him along with Hayley Wickenheiser and Vaclav Nedomansky. Coach Jerry York and GM Jim Rutherford will both go in the Builder Category.
Key omissions again included Alexander Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick and underrated Blackhawk teammate and key ’94 Ranger Steve Larmer. It still isn’t clear what exactly is the criteria for being selected. It’s mystifying. Other former players who deserve consideration are Theo Fleury, Curtis Joseph and Pierre Turgeon. Daniel Alfredsson will likely get in next year.
At least Zubov doesn’t have to wait anymore. One of the best acquisitions by the Rangers, the former defenseman was a compensatory draft pick for the Quebec Nordiques signing an aging Guy Lafleur. A fifth round selection who was taken 85th overall in the 1990 NHL Draft, the Russian turned into one of the game’s premier offensive defensemen.
A true right shooting power play quarterback, who could play top pair at even strength due to his superb skating, reads and incredible vision, Zubov went from putting up 31 points (8-23-31) his rookie year in ’92-93 to erupting for a team-leading 89 (12-77-89) in the championship season of ’93-94.
The amazing transformation gave the Rangers two big weapons on the blueline. Already boasting Norris winner Brian Leetch, they actually could send out Leetch and Zubov together for both the power play and even strength when necessary. It’s pretty scary to think back to how special that tandem was. Even if they were mostly used by coach Mike Keenan on the top ranked power play that season.
While Leetch paired up with Jeff Beukeboom, Zubov worked with veteran Kevin Lowe to give the team an unfair advantage against most opponents. If only he had been kept by former Team President and GM Neil Smith.
It was Zubov, who picked up two huge assists that led directly to the first two Ranger goals in the Cup clinching Game Seven victory over the Canucks. First came the no look feed to a wide open Leetch for an easy first goal into an empty net with Kirk McLean out of position. Then came the astonishing rush up the ice and touch pass through two Canucks right to Kovalev, who passed for an Adam Graves power play goal that made it 2-0. That postseason, Zubov finished with 19 points (5-14-19) to rank fourth in team scoring behind Leetch, Mark Messier and Kovalev.
That special team paraded down the Canyon of Heroes on a hot and humid summer June day that will forever be remembered by everyone that was there.
It’s too bad Smith decided to trade Zubov away following a disappointing second round exit against the Legion of Doom Flyers in ’95. He was dealt with Petr Nedved to the Penguins for Ulf Samuelsson and Luc Robitaille on August 31 of that summer. After turning on the radio and hearing it announced, my instant reaction was one of disgust. I knew it was a bad move.
The ironic part is the Pens made an even worse trade a summer later, sending Zubov to the Stars for veteran Kevin Hatcher. Zubov spent the rest of his career in Dallas. That included helping them win their only Cup in ’98-99. After putting up 51 points (10-41-51) during the season, he went 1-12-13 in the postseason as the Stars defeated the Sabres in six games to win a championship.
In ’99-00, Zubov was a key piece that got the Stars back to the Stanley Cup where they lost in a classic six game series to the Devils. He had nine points (2-7-9) during that run.
A one time Norris finalist, who finished third at age 35 following a successful 71 point season (13-58-71) and plus-20 rating in ’05-06, Zubov registered 152 goals with 619 assists for a career total of 771 points and a plus-148. The breakdown for his 16-year NHL career was 66 even strength goals and 279 even strength assists while recording 81 power play goals and 321 power play assists. He also wound up with five shorthanded goals and 13 shorthanded assists.
In three years with the Rangers, Zubov went 30-126-156 in 165 games from ’92-93 through ’95. After going over a point-per-game (11-55-66 over 64 GP) in a year with Pittsburgh, he played in 839 games as a Dallas Star putting up 111 goals with 438 assists for 549 points. He also went plus-103 over a dozen years in Big D.
One of the first Russian players to get his name on the Cup along with Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov and Alexander Karpovtsev, Zubov returned home for one season in the KHL with St. Petersburg SKA where he had a productive 42 points (10-32-42) in ’09-10 before retiring. He returned as an assistant and coach for two seasons.
Is it possible he could wind up back where it started on Broadway?
Who knows. I would love for him to play a role in development for their young defensemen. He could teach them a thing or two about skating, moving the puck and shooting. Especially on the power play.
I’m very happy for Zubov. AKA The Chin. A well deserved honor for one of the best Russian born defensemen. Long overdue.
I can only hope Mogilny will get his day soon. Ditto for Roenick and a few others that have been overlooked by the selection committee.