I was wondering for a while why Helmuts Balderis hadn't been picked in the ATD. I had a feeling he was criminally underrated. However, I hadn't taken a closer look at his career ever so I decided to see how good he actually was. This study takes a look at Helmuts Balderis' prime years (1974/75 - 1984/85). His prime is broken down into three parts: His first Riga years, the CSKA years and the second Riga years. Both domestic league and international performances are studied. 1 RIGA DAYS (1973/74 - 1976/77) 1.1 Domestic league 1975 I've added historically significant players who didn't crack the top 5 or 10 (depending on the year) on my Excel spreadsheet. Their rankings are marked 'x'. As can be seen from the table, Balderis was 3rd in scoring, behind only Petrov and Mikhailov. Kharlamov played fewer games, but he also had a lower PPG-ratio. Balderis was 2nd in goal scoring, behind only Mikhailov, who had two great playmakers in Petrov and Kharlamov helping him. He was the only bright star in his team Dinamo Riga. Eurohockey.net for example does not list any other players for the teamâ€™s 1975 roster. It would be interesting to know how much these players played on average during a game. I would assume that because Balderis was by far the best player in his team, his time on ice (TOI) was probably higher than the CSKA playersâ€™, but itâ€™s only speculation. 1976 In 1976, Balderis was 4th in scoring. However, he tied for the lead in goals with Mikhailov and Yakushev (LW), who supposedly played on the same line with Shalimov (RW) and Shadrin (C). It must be noted that Dynamo Moscowâ€™s Maltsev actually has the most impressive GPG-ratio. Spartak actually won the Soviet championship this season. For a second season in a row, Balderis has a higher assist total than Mikhailov who had much better players to play with. 1977 In 1977 Balderis led the league in goals and points with 40 goals and 63 points in 35 games. He was still the only quality player on Dinamo Riga. After this season, he was acquired to CSKA. 1.2 International 1.2.1 1976 World Championships For whatever reason, Petrov wasnâ€™t a part of the Soviet team. Czechoslovakia won gold and Soviets were 2nd. Martinec was the top scorer with 9 + 11 = 20 points. Leading Soviet scorers Now that Balderis got to play with better players, his assists totals increased significantly. It must be noted that in international play, assists had been tracked at least since 1932 Olympics, but in Soviet league, I have seen assists regularly awarded since 1974. Itâ€™s possible that for example, secondary assists werenâ€™t awarded in Soviet league, but thatâ€™s again only speculation. Iâ€™m fairly confident to say that Spartak successful line Yakushev-Shadrin-Shalimov played together. As far as I know, Zhluktov played centre and would be the most likely candidate to have replaced Petrov. If, and itâ€™s likely, Balderis didnâ€™t play with Kharlamov and Mikhailov, he was again the most productive player on his line and he also showed that he wasnâ€™t a one-dimensional goal scorer. 1.2.2 1976 Canada Cup The whole Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov line was missing and the Soviets couldnâ€™t reach the finals. Balderis scored respectable 5 points in as many games. However, Zhluktov (10 points), Vikulov (7 points) and Maltsev (7 points) were more productive performers for the Soviets. 1.2.3 1977 World Championships Balderis scored again at a comparable rate to the other star players of the team. Only Petrov and Mikhailov scored significantly more. Balderis was named to the tournament's all-star team. 2 CSKA DAYS (1977/78 - 1979/80) 2.1 Domestic league 1978 During the first year in CSKA, Balderis became the most important secondary scorer on the team, which was to be expected. However, as a consequence of his supposedly decreased TOI, his total production decreased in comparison to rest of the league. 1979 Aleksandr Volchkov was some kind of a one-year wonder as he would never again reach even 30 points after this. Itâ€™s likely that he played with Balderis and either Kapustin or Makarov. Balderis was again CSKAâ€™s most productive offensive player behind the famous Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov line, and he actually scored at exactly similar pace as Kharlamov. Prirodin who had several good years in Soviet league also had his best year in 1979. Same thing with Golikov. 1980 This is the beginning of Makarovâ€™s dominance. I find this yearâ€™s scoring table very interesting because there are so many possible line combinations. Did Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov play together? Were Makarov and Krutov already playing on a same line? Or did Makarov and Balderis play together, one of them playing left wing? Despite having his best season yet in CSKA, Balderis returned to Dinamo Riga next season because of reasons which Iâ€™m unaware of. 2.2 International 2.2.1 1978 World Championships In this tournament Marcel Dionne was selected the best forward with 9 + 3 = 12 points in 10 games. Again, Balderis scored at similar rate to his team mates, sharing the goal scoring lead in the tournament with Mikhailov and Dionne. Kapustin was selected to the all-star team instead of Balderis. Balderis scored 3 goals against the silver medal team Czechoslovakia in 2 games, including a goal in the 3-1 final win, so itâ€™s not like he would have padded his stats against weaker opponents. 2.2.2 1979 World Championships Makarov was starting to break through and had already taken Balderisâ€™ place as the gold medal winning Sovietâ€™s most important secondary scorer in 1979. It would be unfair to call it a disappointment as Balderis scored at above 1 PPG rate, but this tournament certainly wasnâ€™t one of Balderisâ€™ greatest legacy builders. 2.2.3 1980 Olympic Games At least Aleksandr Golikov (13 points), Makarov, Mikhailov, Kharlamov and Krutov (11 points each) scored more points than Balderis (9 points). Again he was a productive player but not on a key role. Only once more (1983 World championships) after this tournament would Balderis play for the Soviets in a competitive tournament. 3 RIGA DAYS (1980/81 - 1984/85) 3.1 Domestic league 1981 I think this can be seen as some kind of an off-year for Balderis. He was again the best player on his team, getting the most ice time. He shouldnâ€™t be expected to match Makarovâ€™s scoring level, but several more players outscored him, as well. His production drop probably explains his absence from the national team this season. 1982 Again, a good season from Balderis, but nothing that would increase his legacy. 1983 Suddenly Balderis jumps back at the top of the pack. For the first time he had decent linemates in Riga and he immediately ran away with the scoring title. I think this is extremely impressive season from Balderis because even Makarov couldnâ€™t match his PPG rate. Note that Balderis had the most assists during this season (Viktor Tyumenev was 2nd with 26). The great season earned Balderis once more a spot in the national team. 1984 For the first time in this study, the 32-year-old Balderis didnâ€™t crack in to the top 10, although he was close. 1985 In his final season, Balderis was the leading goal scorer for the third time in his career. His 51 points was the 3rd highest total during the season. 3.2 International 3.2.1 1983 World Championships The 1983 tournament all-star team tells the story quite well: Tretiak; Kasatonov-Fetisov; Krutov-Larionov-Makarov. The 5 man unit included the 5 best scorers of Soviet Union. Makarov had 18, Krutov 15, Larionov 12, Kasatonov 11 and Fetisov 10 points. Once again Balderis was the leading secondary scorer of the Soviets with 9 points in 10 games and put up as many points as for example Marcel Dionne. 4 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 4.1 Domestic league Scoring title x 2 (1977, 1983) Most goals x 3 (1976, 1977, 1985) Most assists (1983) Balderis had very high peak. At his best, he could outscore even Makarov or Petrov. He was an effective player for 10 seasons, starting from 1974/75 and ending in 1985. For the most part of his career, Balderis played with lesser players and was capable of raising their point totals. He was a brilliant goalscorer. In addition to the goal scoring titles, he finished 2nd in 1975 and 1983. He was also capable of using his linemates. He was 2nd in assists in 1980, second only to Makarov. 4.2 International All-star team (1977) Leading goal-scorer (1978) Balderisâ€™ international resume is a bit disappointing for a player with his Soviet league resume. He was never the best player in national team. He was always in a secondary scorer role. However, his career overlapped with both Petrovâ€™s line and Larionovâ€™s line. His most impressive international tournament was probably in 1977. In 1978 he was the leading goal scorer of the tournament along with Mikhailov and Dionne. But even if Balderis wasnâ€™t the leading player on his team, he was almost always the best secondary scorer in the national team. Overall, I think Balderis should be viewed as a step or two below Kharlamov, Mikhailov and Petrov. Maltsev probably had the better career of the two as well, mainly because his great international resume. However, Balderis has a fantastic skill set: he's known as perhaps the fastest Soviet skater ever, he was a great goal scorer and decent playmaker. He was also capable of elevating his linemates' level. I think this study reveals that Balderis has been undervalued to some extent up to this point in the ATD.