Craig Remsburg column: Playing in Olympics costly for Datsyuk, Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk missed 14 Detroit Red Wings games during January with an inflamed left knee.

The veteran center played two games before the Winter Olympics, then captained the Russian hockey team for five games.

Datsyuk saw action in two Wings’ games after the Olympic break, only to be shut down now for the next three to four weeks to rest that bothersome knee.

Only Datsyuk knows how bad the knee has been and it remains to be seen if it’ll eventually require surgery to fix.

But the question is: Should he have skipped the Olympics and taken the two to three weeks to rest the knee so he could be ready for the resumption of the NHL season?

Or did he make the right decision(s) all along and the knee just got so bad he couldn’t play to his customary high level, forcing him to the sidelines?

His Olympic participation no doubt fuels the fire that NHL players shouldn’t take part in the Winter Games because of the possibility a serious injury there could end a player’s season.

Like what happened to John Tavarres of the New York Islanders, for example.

Datsyuk, no doubt, couldn’t resist the lure of playing in his native country in the Olympics, no matter how bad his knee might have been.

It’s understandable, since he’s 35 years old and may not be able to be an Olympic player ever again.

Some say he essentially played on one leg during the games, but he still wound up with six points in five Olympic contests.

Still, did he aggravate the knee even more by playing? Or did he just prevent the knee from getting any better?

Only Datsyuk and perhaps doctors who have examined him recently know the answers to those questions.

Him being shelved the next month certainly hurts the Red Wings’ chances of making the NHL playoffs for the 23rd straight year. That, no doubt, doesn’t sit well with Wings fans.

His offensive production – 15 goals and 18 assists this season to date – will be missed, as well as his defensive play.

And with fellow Detroit centers Henrik Zetterberg out for the season after back surgery, Stephen Weiss still battling a sports hernia and Darren Helm sidelined for an indefinite period after being injured Tuesday in New Jersey, the Wings were forced to make a move prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline to shore up the position.

Wings’ general manager Ken Holland, who reportedly was looking to obtain a defenseman, instead acquired Nashville Predators center David Legwand, who will become a free agent after the season.

Holland gave up Patrick Eaves – no real loss there – minor league forward Calle Jarnkrok and either a second- or third-round pick in the NHL draft this June.

Jarnkrok could turn into a solid NHL player, of course. The draft pick the Wings gave up could result in a future pro player, as well.

But with Datsyuk and Helm now sidelined, Holland had to make the move.

Would Holland have obtained Legwand if Datsyuk had rested the knee instead of playing in the Olympics?

We may never know for sure.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.