Nikolai Zherdev and the Philadelphia Flyers: Evaluating the Enigma Thus Far

Thomas KrulikowskiContributor INovember 19, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 18: Nikolay Zherdev #93 and Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center on November 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Lightning defeated the Flyers 8-7. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

…And can we please stop calling Nikolay Zherdev that? I know, I know, I did too, but that was just to get the nice alliteration in the title.

To those of you who have been underwhelmed by Zherdev’s play for the Flyers this year, I can certainly understand that. But there are a few things that you should be more aware of. Zherdev does have a goose egg in the assist column. And this strikes many critics as odd, seeing how he has always been billed as a playmaker. But in Philadelphia, he has not been asked to do that. He has been asked to score.

Richards, Briere, Leino and Giroux are all heavy playmakers. The Flyers were looking for scoring punch from Nikolay. And while he may not have an assist just yet, he definitely will end the season with a few, once chemistry really sets in.

One of these “things” is that Zherdev quietly is one goal behind the team lead for even strength goals. Yes, that is right. The man who has been hounded in the media for his lack luster play is only one goal away from the team lead in even strength goals, which is a very valuable statistic. Zherdev has five of these. Actually he has five goals total, all even strength. And this goes into the next point.

Zherdev has seen very little ice time.

Zherdev is 10th for average time on ice a game for the forwards. 10th.  He averages a tad under 13 minutes a game. This is three minutes and change less than Scott Hartnell who leads the team with even strength goals. Mike Richards, his usual center, sees about six minutes more a game. When it comes to power play time on ice, he sees the seventh most out of the forwards. That means he is not on the first power play unit or the second—but the third.  Somehow he manages to net five even strength goals in the limited amount of ice time (let’s not even talk about the few games he was in the press box that took away from his ice time).

With this amount of ice time and virtually no power play time, Zherdev is on pace for about 23 goals this year. For his price tag of $2 million, that is not something to sneeze at. Scott Hartnell is on pace for 26 goals this year at over $2 million more in salary. That is something to think about.

Nikolay and his wife

I have hopes that Zherdev’s solid play (for price and ice time) will become great and make his offseason signing a steal. He seems to be settling in with his line of Nodl and Richards. This new chemistry will help up his production greatly, and the more comfortable he gets down the line, the better he will play. In turn, the better he plays, the more ice time he will see, which will also translate into more points. 

I think the next week or so will be a good measuring stick of where Zherdev will be heading point total wise. His physical and defensive play have shown that Zherdev is capable of vast improvements in a short amount of time. There is no reason why his solid season can’t be a dominant one by April’s end.

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Notes: Stats are from before Nov. 18th.

In the Flyers’ game on the 18th, Zherdev had two g and one asst.