PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 14: Nikolai Zherdev #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers scores his first goal as a Flyers in first period action against the Tampa Bay Lightningat the Wells Fargo Center on October 14 2010 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I absolutely refuse to put "Nikolay" in a headline, so we're just going with Nik there. But why is Nikolay Zherdev's name even in a headline? After all, he's kind of an after-thought on this team, isn't he?
He's on the fourth line, he refuses to talk to the local media, and when a guy showed up to the BSH Pick-Up game on Sunday with an orange No. 93 jersey, we all made fun of him. He's not going to be here next season. The experiment is already proving to be a failure. Right?
Sure, Zherdev's been a healthy scratch. He's been demoted to playing with Jody Shelley and Blair Betts, and surely, he isn't happy about that. But what were our expectations for this guy? At his best, we wanted him to replace the production of Simon Gagne, and at the worst... well, he'd be an enigmatic scourge that detracts from the team and doesn't last half the year.
There have been glimpses of the worst of Nik Zherdev this season, to be sure. The healthy scratch is evidence of that. Are we really at the point where people have suggested he be traded or even waived, though? Are things really that bad?
No, no. Things are not that bad.
The question we have to ask ourselves here is a simple one. Is Zherdev performing to expectation? Not many of us really, truly expected him to step in and put up numbers that would make the Gagne trade meaningless, although we understood he had the potential to do that and perhaps even more. And not many of us expected him to be a completely useless enigma.
28 games into his tenure as a Flyer, Zherdev has proven to fall somewhere in the middle. He's caused a few problems, but he's also been able to put up somewhat decent offensive numbers despite not getting more than a few glimpses of power play time and despite playing most minutes with the fourth line.
Let's look at his game log.
Eight goals in 26 games really isn't all that bad now, is it? It puts him on pace for over 20 on the year, and right now he's level with Evgeni Malkin, R.J. Umberger, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf and others. He has more goals than Alex Kovalev, David Booth, Alex Frolov... Ilya Kovalchuk.
Turning to Flyers teammates, if we're talking about Andreas Nodl, a guy with fewer goals than Zherdev, as a scoring threat on the so-called top line, then how can we ignore what Zherdev's doing on the fourth line? For the record, he was demoted on October 29, and he has six of his eight goals since then. The lines were mixed up in the Tampa game when he scored two, but nonetheless, most of his time has come alongside Shelley and Betts.
He has more goals than Nodl, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino. And for the umpteenth time, he's doing it with basically no help.He's not going to play defense or put up a ton of assists. We knew this over the summer, and he's not hurting the team with his lack of defense.
So okay, sure, he's not putting on a show playing alongside Claude Giroux every night as we hoped would happen during preseason. He might not be here next year regardless of what he does the rest of the season thanks to the salary cap or whatever other kind of constraints the Flyers run into, but despite his flaws, isn't it worth paying a guy $2 million to score 20 goals in a year?