A statistical breakdown of Helmuts Balderis' career

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Triffy, Feb 28, 2011.

View Users: View Users
  1. Triffy

    Triffy Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2006
    Messages:
    337
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    64
    Location:
    Helsinki
    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 team’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 players’, but it’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 Moscow’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 wasn’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. It’s possible that for example, secondary assists weren’t awarded in Soviet league, but that’s again only speculation. I’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 it’s likely, Balderis didn’t play with Kharlamov and Mikhailov, he was again the most productive player on his line and he also showed that he wasn’t a one-dimensional goal scorer.

    1.2.2 1976 Canada Cup

    The whole Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov line was missing and the Soviets couldn’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. It’s likely that he played with Balderis and either Kapustin or Makarov. Balderis was again CSKA’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 Makarov’s dominance. I find this year’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 I’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 it’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 Balderis’ place as the gold medal winning Soviet’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 wasn’t one of Balderis’ 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 shouldn’t be expected to match Makarov’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 couldn’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 didn’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)

    Balderis’ 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 Petrov’s line and Larionov’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 wasn’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.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2011
  2. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    Messages:
    47,313
    Likes Received:
    1,301
    Trophy Points:
    169
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Awards:
    Good stuff, as always.

    During the ATD, when I looked at Balderis' career (in much less detail than you did), my first impression was that he should probably be viewed as close to equal to Starshinov, just a little bit below Maltsev, but probably ahead of Yakushev.

    You did a great job of fleshing out the player in much more detail, though.
     
  3. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    Messages:
    47,313
    Likes Received:
    1,301
    Trophy Points:
    169
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Awards:
    Also, what do you think of this (from Joe Pelletier). It definitely explains why Balderis was returned to Riga, if nothing else. Might also explain why he did worse than expected on the national team.

     
  4. Reds4Life

    Reds4Life Registered User

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,795
    Likes Received:
    65
    Trophy Points:
    101
    Location:
    the Czech republic
    It's worth noting that Balderis was Latvian and he despised Soviets. It often seemed like he does not score on purpose (to protest - he was forced to play for the Soviet team), despite toying with the opposition.

    edit: TDMM beat me to it
     
  5. Triffy

    Triffy Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2006
    Messages:
    337
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    64
    Location:
    Helsinki
    Thanks for the input. I was almost sure I had read something like that before, but just didn't remember where, and I knew that you guys would come up with it anyway so I didn't bother searching for it :)

    I think the fact that Balderis was transferred to CSKA (and selected to national team) against his will signifies that Balderis probably was capable of doing even more. I think it's good to know. It tells us a bit about how he was as a person. However, I'm not sure how that affects his legacy. He proved himself anyway. If he really was dropped from the national team because he returned to Riga, it's unfair to hold his absence from the national team against him. However, as my study revealed, his domestic league play wasn't suggesting that he absolutely should have been in national team in 1981 and 1982. Based on numbers, it's somewhat understandable why he was left off the team. There were simply more players who had better years than him. However, in 1985 he definitely had a season that would have been worth a spot on the national team.

    I don't believe the part about him toying with opposition, especially in competitive games. I can picture him 'toying', that is, outskating and stickhandling past weaker opponents and then, instead of scoring, unsuccessfully finishing the play because he couldn't bury it. I don't believe anyone chooses not to score.

    When doing the study, I found Yakushev's numbers to be surprisingly good. I've always felt he's terribly overrated here because of a couple of good games against Canada, but he also had some success in Soviet league. I still think he's overrated, and should definitely be viewed as a worse player than Balderis, for example.
     
  6. SidGenoMario

    SidGenoMario Registered User

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    7,070
    Likes Received:
    13
    Trophy Points:
    66
    Occupation:
    Soon to be accountant
    Location:
    Saskatoon, SK
    Maybe he wouldn't be Balderis if he didn't wear those sweaty Helmuts all the time

    BAHAHAHAHAHAH

    HA
     
  7. tony d

    tony d Registered User Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Messages:
    68,009
    Likes Received:
    1,621
    Trophy Points:
    169
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Office Worker
    Location:
    Behind A Tree
    Really good player, someone that had been on my radar in the ATD. Didn't get him unfortunately but an all around good player.
     
  8. VMBM

    VMBM Crawfish Fiesta

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Messages:
    2,943
    Likes Received:
    118
    Trophy Points:
    111
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Helsinki, FInland
    I'm just doubting that leaders/no-BS guys like Mikhailov, Petrov and Tsygankov would have had any sympathy/tolerance for Balderis, if they felt that Balderis wasn't giving 100 percent on the national team. I don't remember Tikhonov saying anything about the subject in his book either. Deliberately missing scoring chances etc.? I'm not necessarily buying it.

    I just think that it was Balderis-like to be an 'artist' and maybe a slightly selfish player; a bit like Matti 'Mölli' Keinonen in Finland (known as very skilled but not maybe the greatest team player).

    OP, great work.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011

Share This Page

monitoring_string = "358c248ada348a047a4b9bb27a146148"