Best Dallas Star (2000)
It's easy to forget what it was like watching the Dallas Stars before the Parkay-smooth Zubov arrived: panicked defensemen, rushing to move the puck up ice, either missing sticks with errant passes or turning the puck over trying to skate up ice themselves. Now, watch Zubov with the puck when he gets it in his own zone. He never hurries, making small dekes and turning to free himself and get behind the net...then, he starts up ice, gliding, juking one way then turning the other, faking out defenders easily. When he wants to make a pass, he does so perfectly, on the move, tape-to-tape. On a team committed to defense, he makes the offense go. Mike Modano gets the pub for his goal scoring and assists, and he is truly a special player. But star scorers can be neutralized by putting the other teams' best defensive player on them, which often happens with Modano. Derian Hatcher is a force defensively, but when he is out, the Stars can cover for him with Richard Matvichuk or other big, burly defensemen. When Zubov is out, not only does the power play turn ugly--he is its "quarterback"--but so does the five-on-five game. He adds invaluable patience and finesse to the Stars' game, and his skills, on this team, are virtually irreplaceable. Plus, he's a Russki. That's kinda cool.