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Will Nabokov return to the NHL?

Evgeni Nabokov was recently released from this KHL contract and may return to the NHL. (Getty Images)

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Evgeni Nabokov was recently released from this KHL contract and may return to the NHL. (Getty Images)

OK, so I lied – this is my final mailbag for a couple weeks. But keep your questions coming and I'll get to them upon my return. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.

Adam, where does Pavel Datsyuk fit among the NHL's elite? It seems he doesn't get the heat that he should with his offensive numbers on the rise and prominent defensive play. I know he doesn't have the title of captaincy in his possession nor does he hit the twine as much as some others, but Joe Thornton won the Hart Trophy when only scoring 20 goals; and Henrik Sedin won it last season scoring 29.

I'm not saying he should win the Hart Trophy by any means, but I do believe scoring 30 or more goals and topping 90 points, along with taking a Selke Trophy home at the end of the season must at least issue him some bragging rights, right?
Jordan Balok, Los Angeles


Jordan,

Right. For my money, Datsyuk is right up there with Philadelphia’s Mike Richards and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler as one of the NHL’s best two-way players.

Datsyuk doesn’t get the hype that Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin does for a number of reasons: he’s not young (32); he’s not great with the English language; he doesn’t have that explosive type of offensive talent that people (and highlight reel producers) gravitate to; and the spotlight in Detroit gets siphoned off by the equally impressive talents of Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.

However, ask any opposing coach what his plan is to stop the Red Wings on any given night and he’ll tell you that containing Datsyuk – and not making the type of mistake on offense that Datsyuk can capitalize on – is paramount to it. (And here is my colleague Rory Boylen’s take on what makes Datsyuk so good.)

Given the focus on containing him, Datsyuk impresses all the more when he puts up four straight years of at least 87 points. That streak ended last season when he managed “only” 70 points in 80 games, but look what he was doing before he got injured this season and it’s easy to see he is as dangerous as ever.

Adam, could you find out from Sidney Crosby if he would ever date a girl who is 5-foot-7-and-a-half inches tall? Also, could I meet him someday?
Marissa Ann Chandler, Brookville, Pa.


Marissa Ann,

Umm, no, no I can’t do that. Secondly, while I don’t know Crosby at all, I’m going to guess he’s doesn’t distinguish between dateable and un-dateable women strictly by their height.

Finally, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t or won’t meet him someday. But if you’re asking if I can set up a meeting, I’m going to refer you to the first sentence of my answer in the above paragraph.

Adam, what do you think about Evgeni Nabokov's chances of getting a contract from an NHL team this year?
Bryan Dickinson, Vancouver


Bryan,

I think the odds are decent. That said, the odds are dependent on how much Nabokov thinks he’s worth in an era where the value of goalies is being challenged by the successes of journeymen such as Michael Leighton.

If Nabokov thinks he deserves Roberto Luongo money, he’s dreaming in 3-D technicolor and won’t ever be back in the NHL. But if he’s content signing a one- or two-year deal (with this season pro-rated) similar to the one landed by Sharks goalie Antti Niemi ($2 million a year), some team will take a chance on him.

Adam, what has happened to Alex Ovechkin? A $100 million man shouldn't only have 37 points (when I wrote this).
Seth Armas, Ayr, Ont.


Seth,

I got this same kind of question last week about Evgeni Malkin. In answering it, I said, “I doubt Malkin’s skills just disappeared one day. He’ll be fine.”

Lo and behold, in his first game after that mailbag was posted, Malkin went off for two goals and five points against the Coyotes.

Great players aren’t normally abandoned by their skills in their early 20s – and the same is true for Ovechkin. He isn’t at or near his usual superhuman goal-scoring pace, but the Capitals team in general is struggling, making it only natural he would as well.

So temper your expectation that Ovechkin, or any other star NHLer, can automatically turn his skill set on or off and dominate at will. Nobody can – and that’s why a point streak like the one Sidney Crosby is on is hugely impressive.

Almighty Adam, I was recently on a trip to Disney World and while eating dinner with my family I saw Brendan Shanahan (I know you remember me Mr. Shanahan – I was wearing the Max Talbot jersey.) He was with his son, and I didn't want to disturb him. So I decided against bothering him on his vacation, but to this day I regret not getting a photo or at least an autograph (I mean, he's a legend). So what's the preferred method when meeting a celebrity hockey player?
D. Travis Yocum, Pittsburgh


Dandy D. Travis,

I commend you for your restraint in accosting Shanahan; I’m sure he does as well. I’m long beyond asking any player for his signature.

But on occasions where I’ve been in the vicinity of a cultural figure I’m in awe of – for example, last year at the Winter Classic, I got to be five feet from James Taylor (who was singing the U.S. national anthem) and ask him a question – I always try and tell myself that this person is inundated with the public fawning over him; with that in mind, I think the best way you can pay your respect is to leave the person alone.

If you really ache for an autograph, my advice is to be respectful in your approach and modest in the number of items you want signed. Most, if not all players will be equally respectful in return.

Ask Adam will return Jan. 7.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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