Philadelphia Flyers: Making The Case to Keep Nikolay Zherdev

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Philadelphia Flyers: Making The Case to Keep Nikolay Zherdev
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Zherdev has quietly had a productive season given his role with the first-place Flyers

Enigmatic

Disappointment. 

They are some just some of the words that are used to describe Flyers forward Nikolay Zherdev. The same words that have followed him around in his previous NHL stops in Columbus as a high draft pick (4th overall in the '03 draft) and in New York where he stayed mostly in John Tortorella's doghouse. 

We've heard the same things year in and year out about the Ukrainian sniper, but are they totally warranted? Let's find out. 

42 games, 15 goals, 4 assists and a plus 6 +/- rating. These stats don't exactly jump off the page by any means, but in a way, Zherdev has done exactly what the Flyers thought he would do when they signed him to a one-year, $2 million deal in the off-season. 

He was brought in to help fill the void of the departed Simon Gagne's goal scoring production. With a deep forward core that included Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and Ville Leino, the talented but inconsistent Zherdev would be asked simply to score some goals. He was not brought in to be a headliner, to be the franchise guy or the go-to guy, but simply just a scoring threat to open up lanes for other Flyer forwards. 

He has done just that. His goal total projected over the rest of the season sits at 26 goals, Simon Gagne scored just 17 last season while playing in 58 games, so Zherdev is basically equalling Gagne's production while playing a mere 10 minutes of ice-time a game compared to Gagne's 18 + minutes a game last season. This isn't to pile on Gagne, who is one of the greatest, most beloved Flyers of all-time, but more to prove the reason for bringing in Zherdev and why there hasn't been that big of a drop off. 

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Recently Zherdev has been skating some of his measly ice-time with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux, arguably Philadelphia's best set-up man. The three have enjoyed some nice chemistry recently against defending champs Chicago as the line totaled 3 goals, 6 assists and a sparkling +11 rating. Those points included a goal and an assist and a +3 from the so-called enigmatic sniper.

If Zherdev averaged 18+ minutes a game this season, he would easily net 30+ goals in my opinion, and the stats don't lie. While he has spent the majority of the season in Peter Laviolette's doghouse and has been an annoyance to the media all season, he is quietly doing just what the Flyers need him to do. 

Don't get me wrong, I know he can be enigmatic at times, that he takes shifts off, and can just be a thorn in Lavvy's side, but that's not what this is about. This is about recognizing a player who is doing the best he can with the opportunities he is being given. 

I don't know how the rest of the season will play out, who will stay, who will go, but I don't think Zherdev is quite as good of a goner as we all previously thought. 

So here's to you Z, it's not all bad. You could be Carcillo.

 

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You can follow me on twitter @mikedusak or check out my blog at www.orange-krush.blogspot.com

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