As Pavel Bure’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction approached in November, hockey fans and members of the media alike were beginning to once again share their thoughts on the Russian Rocket’s style of play and his contributions to the game of hockey. Throughout these discussions, however, it became apparent that some still believe Pavel’s game was not as complete or well-rounded as I had hoped to prove.
While both of my previous videos (see “Pavel Bure: The Lost Shifts” and its sequel) may perhaps have assisted in changing some of the opinion of Pavel both online and within various hockey communities, there still exists a belief in some that he was a “cherry picker” or “one dimensional.” In discussions I’ve had recently, some have called my assertions of Pavel being reliable defensively “revisionist history,” though I will argue Pavel’s less-than-stellar reputation must only apply to his final years in Florida on a team that desperately required offense.
My prior videos focused primarily on the magic that happened whenever Pavel would touch the puck and how he could transition from a defensive play in the defensive zone to an attacking play in the offensive zone. In this video, I made sure to encompass as many aspects of Pavel’s game as I could by showcasing every defensive play and transition, as well as to demonstrate how vital he was to the team’s offense by incorporating much lengthier shifts such as on the power play. As a result, this video reflects Pavel’s ability to dominate games, his importance to the team, and the role he played throughout the games featured, as well as throughout his entire time as a Canuck.
The footage in this video is taken from three games between his rookie season (1991-92) and perhaps the greatest season of his career, 1993-94. At the end of the video, there is a goal reel centered on the skills seen throughout the video and how they were applied when Pavel scored:
Footage was taken from the following three games, randomly selected from my collection:
April 30, 1992 vs the Winnipeg Jets
March 27, 1994 vs the Los Angeles Kings
May 24, 1994 vs the Toronto Maple Leafs
Also, here are two of my older videos featuring Pavel. I shared these with everyone a while ago, but if you have not yet seen them, please enjoy.
Now, a bit of analysis regarding the latest video:
Pavel, throughout his years in Vancouver, and especially in his earliest years, was more than just a reliable player in the defensive zone -- he was a primary contributor to the team’s defense, playing in every shorthanded situation and compensating for his teammates’ mistakes. He anticipated where the puck would be in all zones of the ice, and using his speed and natural skating ability frequently positioned himself to intercept passes, cut off the opposition’s lanes, or reach the puck before the opponent could. In mere moments, he could position himself effectively to make a difference for the Canucks. In many of the clips, he is matched against other top players such as Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Phil Housley, Jarri Kurri, and even Wayne Gretzky, and it is he who draws potential penalties from them as in Housley’s case, frustrates them as in Gilmour’s case, or tracks them down defensively and generates a subsequent scoring chance of his own.
Due to his tendency to begin plays in his own zone, he was quite focused on retrieving pucks via strong defensive play, then winding up for an attack at breakneck speeds. As much as some would like to call him a “cherry picker,” his signature play was the end-to-end rush. The excitement from fans was almost always generated whenever he touched the puck in the defensive zone, as once he began to skate, he became incredibly difficult to contain.
Pavel’s anticipation in all three zones of the ice made him a threat to the opposition at all times, and his agility, speed, and acceleration allowed him to attain ideal positioning very quickly. He always had his head on a swivel in order to read his situation, and would react accordingly. He could elude players with the puck, pick up loose pucks to keep his own team’s plays alive and to cut short the opponent’s, and was always a threat to overwhelm the opponent with his combined skating ability and apt stick work. As a player hailing from the Soviet Union’s hockey program and adopting their complete team philosophy, Pavel was equipped with a great understanding of his role on the team, especially defensively, and what was required for success.
Pavel desired nothing greater than for his team to succeed, and throughout his first few years with the Canucks was tremendously passionate about the game and about his teammates. He played for them, and was a kid whose presence his teammates appreciated. One may speculate that the dark and painful relationship he had with team management might have tempered his love of the game by the time he left Vancouver in 1999, but prior to that he would stop at nothing to help his team.
The reputation that has developed for Pavel over the past decade has been an unsatisfactory and unjust one, to say the least. In Scott Morrison’s 2010 book, “Best of the Best: Ranking the Greatest Players of All Time,” Pavel is described as one who would “drift around without interest or purpose, then suddenly turn on the jets…” while E.J. Hradek in 2012 called Bure “more of an offensive guy [who] didn’t maybe come back into his zone.” Pavel’s reputation, especially regarding his time in Vancouver (a majority of his career), has been decimated by misnomers, “revisionist history,” and perhaps a lack of media coverage, televised games, or general access to them in his days with Vancouver. Whatever the case may be, it is crucial to discern the truth about Pavel’s game and, for many, to appreciate how tremendous a player he was.
Edited by WeatherWise, 14 January 2013 - 12:01 AM.