Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Pavel Datsyuk has 32 points in 35 games in 2013-14.
It is certainly the experience of a lifetime, but should Pavel Datsyuk play for Team Russia in Sochi?
He was named captain of his home country heading into the Winter Olympics on their own soil. Datsyuk was given the honor to lead a team including the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.
The concern stems from a groin injury that has kept him out of the lineup since the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Detroit has gone 7-5-2 since Datsyuk went down and could certainly use his magic.
If Datsyuk isn’t 100 percent and pushes himself to play in Sochi, further injury could cause bigger problems for the Red Wings. The team is optimistic that Datsyuk will return for Thursday’s game against Florida, but that remains to be seen.
Should he be healthy enough to play these last two games before the Olympic break, the concern will greatly lessen. General manager Ken Holland expressed his opinion to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun:
I don’t believe I have the authority or the power to prevent someone from going to the Olympics. That’s the player’s call. When it comes to Pavel Datsyuk, I certainly understand the special opportunity he has, representing his country in his homeland, to be captain, to maybe win a gold medal in your home country, that will be with you for the rest of your life.
Holland’s position is perfectly understandable, and a player should consider his employer as a top priority.
It’s a difficult situation for Datsyuk, but after all is said and done, if he’s not healthy enough to play for Detroit, then he shouldn’t play in Russia. As a business, Detroit’s franchise has invested millions of dollars in Datsyuk to play for its club, and his health is a very real concern.
Johan Franzen suffered a concussion on Dec. 15 and has played in just one game since the injury. He recently declined to play for Team Sweden so he could get healthy, and some wonder if Datsyuk should consider the same.
It appears, as long as his practices progress well, everything will work out for both parties. Datsyuk will skate in the Wings' final two games, suit up in Sochi and everybody will be happy.
Datsyuk is a professional and understands his personal priorities. It’s hard to imagine him taking part if he wasn’t absolutely sure he was ready.