MVP Review: Detroit Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk Is the Clear-Cut Front-Runner

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 26, 2012

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 28: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates a second-period assist on a goal by teammate Tomas Holmstrom #96 while playing the San Jose Sharks at Joe Louis Arena on October 28, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. San Jose won the game 4-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Pavel Datsyuk is the leading scorer on the best team in the NHL. At the All-Star break, Detroit sits nicely as the league's best team with 67 points in 50 games.

In the unforgiving Central Division, which currently holds four playoff teams—Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis, and Chicago—Datsyuk has lead his team all the way to the top. Almost as impressive, if not more, is the feat of Detroit going on an amazing 17-game winning streak at Joe Louis Arena.

The multiple Selke trophy winner for best defensive forward has taken his offense to a new level, the likes of which we have not seen since the 08-09 season where Datsyuk scored 97 points and was nominated for the Hart Trophy for NHL MVP.

Even though Datsyuk is undeniably the best two-way forward in the league, and arguably has been for the better part of the past seven years, he has yet to pass 100 points in his career. He has been on a tear with line mates Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi recently and very well could break the century mark for the first time.

Big Bert is enjoying a productive season, where he has once again established himself as one of the most dominant power forwards in the league. Franzen is second in team scoring and leads the Wings in the goals department with 19. Both can thank the play-making efforts and masterful skill work of Datsyuk to contribute to their stats.

Widely regarded as the best stick handler and dangler in the league for several years running, Datsyuk is also a contributor to both special teams, taking face-offs on the power play and penalty kill, and while the Wings' numbers on special teams are less than spectacular, they remain the second best team in 5-on-5 play, trailing only Vancouver.

Individual awards might be the last thing on the All-Star's mind, but he should he be able to elevate his offensive game down the stretch while keeping up superb defensive play, Datsyuk can make a serious bid for Most Valuable Player.

Doing so won't be easy, however. Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin has exploded out of nowhere, making previous NHL scoring leader Claude Giroux a distant memory. Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay Steven Stamkos is on pace to score 50-something goals and could possibly be the first player since Alex Ovechkin to break the 60-goal mark, all while on a disappointing and underachieving Tampa squad.