Saturday

Artem Chubarov

Most Canadian hockey fans would have pegged Artem Chubarov as a rising offensive star after his performance in the gold medal game at the 1999 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Winnipeg. Chubarov potted two goals for Team Russia, including the winner at 5:13 of overtime, in a 3-2 victory over Canada.

The following season those thoughts quickly disappeared. In his first NHL season with the Vancouver Canucks, Chubarov scored just 1 goal (and 10 points) in 49 games.

Now he did face a large adjustment, both on the smaller ice surface and to live in North American altogether. Chubarov admitted it was a tough year for himself, especially since he was still a kid.

Chubarov was never going to be an offensive superstar. But he had promise as a classic Russian centerman. The lanky pivot had a superb understanding of the defensive game and, in time, displayed quiet brilliance distributing the puck for offensive transitions. He was a very intelligent player, much like his idol Igor "The Professor" Larionov.

After a season of apprenticing in the minors, the Canucks brought Chubarov back and used him as a defensive specialist for 3 seasons. He was a big piece of the Canucks strong penalty kill unit at the time. He was also the team's best face-off man and was used for big defensive zone puck drops.

With the Canucks big West Coast Express line of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison leading the way, and the young Sedins being apprenticed in the second line role, Chubarov never did get much of a chance to contribute in a more offensive way, which is unfortunate as he probably could have served as an excellent third line center or be pigeon-holed into the second line role. He only scored 25 goals in his short career, but he made them count. His first four goals were game winners - the first player in NHL history to accomplish that.

Ultimately Chubarov's NHL career was a short one. In 2004 he passed on the Canucks qualifying contract offer and headed home to Russia to play in the KHL. He never came back and was more or less never heard from again, at least in North America.

Whether he was homesick or not I do not know, but his disappearance was mysterious in one way. Stories surfaced that Chubarov was in such a hurry to leave Vancouver that he simply left his car at his player's underground parking spot at the arena. It stayed the for months before the Canucks finally had it removed. Whatever happened to the Chubarov's car we may never know!

One thing I do know - Artem Chubarov will go down as one of the more under-appreciated players in Canucks history.

1 comments:

ArtemChubarov 11:39 AM  

If we had BehindtheNet.ca during Chubarov's career, his mastery at the defensive end of the rink would be more widely acknowledged. Good stuff, Joe!

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