Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How About a Kick in the Rear?

Maybe it is in part because I went to bat for him last season while others called him out; maybe it is because I dislike greedy athletes in general but whatever the reason someone needs to give Nikolai Zherdev a kick in the rear for filing for arbitration.

Yes Nikolai Zherdev was the Ranger second leading scorer last season but the frustrating part about watching him play last season was that you knew he was not always playing up to his potential. The numbers he put up were nowhere near what he could have and should have put up for the offensively straved Rangers.

23-35-58 when you look at his previous career numbers were not progress as Zherdev put up fewer power play points, took fewer shots on goal and really the only area where he showed improvement was in plus/minus but even then you have to wonder about it. Tom Renney tried to get more production out of Zherdev as did John Tortorella but neither really could.

What Zherdev deserves is a swift kick in the rear for the effort he put in last season not a raise in pay. If he thinks that he is worth the rumored 4.5 that he reportedly is asking for then sorry Nikolai but take your game over to the KHL and stay there.

One has to wonder what the heck Zherdev is even thinking here as he is not exactly bargaining from a position of strength. Even more so is that if Zherdev's agent has any kind of clue then he may have cost his client some serious money.

The one thing I have learned over the years is that when you tick off Glen Sather he can get down right dirty as Sean Avery was not the first person Sather went off on in an arbitration hearing. Remember this as the scary thing is that Avery was actually coming off a very productive season where he did more for the Rangers than Zherdev did.

Imagine what Sather is going to do to Zherdev when they hold that hearing; it is going to be the mother of ugly as Sather is going to be able to point out all that Zherdev did not do; like his playoff performance where he did not score a point, his being benched by both Tom Renney and John Tortorella at one point or another in the season or the countless times when Zherdev simply did not put forth a solid effort.

Give Sather some credit as when it comes to contract disputes he is very good at being very harsh which is what these arbitration hearings are all about. Zherdev as it is we are told is a very sensitive person so boy is he going to be in for a really harsh experience.

What really is the headscratcher is what in the world does Zherdev and his camp expect to happen from this hearing. Zherdev was 73rd overall in points, 78th in goals as well as 75th in assists so if Zherdev is expecting a raise then he is in for a big surprise.

If he thinks the Rangers badly need him to play with Marian Gaborik then think again Nikolai. Gaborik from what we have seen actually plays better with North American players than he does with the Eastern Europeans.

Gaborik in my book would actually be better off with Dubinsky and Callahan as his linemates considering how the Wild used Gaborik with Andrew Brunette and James Sheppard. Callahan is coming off his own breakout season while Dubinsky is poised for one of his own (if he remains with the Rangers).

Zherdev we can think of many different ways that Tortorella could adjust without his services and still ice a decent team so Zherdev could find himself seriously looking from the outside. It is a dangerous gamble thinking that Sather would not walk away from a salary award that Sather deems unreasonable.

If Zherdev wants out of playing for the Rangers then he could have just made the request from the get go. Glen Sather is not going to keep a player who does not want to play for the Rangers and at 3.25 mil for a season would have found more takers than he will if the price tag is higher.

We are not talking about a player who has a sterling reputation as a hard worker in the NHL here and that is the point that Zherdev might be missing. He is not going to find many teams willing to gamble several million on someone who has driven every NHL coach he has played for to frustration with his effort.

The smarter move would have been to accept the one year deal at the same salary and then take advantage of getting to play with Marian Gaborik. Go out there and put up 35-40 goals that just about everyone who scouted you projected from you and then collect the fat paycheck.

One has to wonder if the real goal is to gain unrestricted free agency for Zherdev but even if it is then by the time that happens most of the teams will have spent most of their money. Zherdev might find himself accepting less money than what the Rangers were offering and playing in a place where the pressure level will be even higher on him.

Or Zherdev will simply wind up playing in the KHL where he can give the less than 100% efforts all he wants but he will wind up being known as an NHL underachiever for not living up to his potential.

Still no matter what we hope someone give him a swift kick in the rear for simply not thinking here.

(Zherdev courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


David said...

The problem is that Zherdev, and his agent, are looking at market value. Antropov, essentially the same player stats wise, got $4 million, so Zherdev can probably get that on the open market as well.

It sucks, but that's why hockey is a business, not a game.

Puck Central said...

Couldn't agree w/ you more Jess, great post