Spotlight on: Left Wings

April 28, 2006

In a continuation of the season-ending process, we will resume examining the various position players on the Blue Jackets. We’ll give our opinions on the pros and cons, a little bit of salary info (if we can find it) and any other tidbits we find interesting. Today, the left wingers get put under the microscope.

Left Wings

Rick Nash
– Age – 21
– Status – Signed through 2010 (I think)
– Pros – By far the most talented Blue Jacket in the offensive zone. Rick is able to use his size and strength to create goal scoring opportunities that other players cannot. Great hands and size will enable him to continue to score a lot of goals for many years to come.
– Cons – Still has not developed into a two-way player. Has shown more defensive responsibility this year than the past two, but still needs a lot of hard work to be on the ice in all game situations. It remains to be seen if Nash’s injury problems at the beginning of the season are cause for concern or are a thing of the past.
– If I were GM/Coach – Keep Rick Nash in Columbus for as long as you can. Allow him to develop as a leader, and he may be the next team captain when Adam Foote leaves. Nash is one of the top ten players in the NHL when he’s healthy, and the Columbus franchise needs him now to keep fans in the seats.

Nikolai Zherdev
– Age – 21
– Status – Still playing under his rookie contract (thank you Dispatch for taking down the information I was using. That’s what I get for taking to long to write these articles. Does anyone know where I can find NHL contract information on the internet?)
– Pros – Mastery of the puck, dazzling stickhandling skills. Zherdev has a quick shot that can sometimes surprise goaltenders because it comes from odd places (behind the defenseman). Nikolai is not afraid to handle the puck (sometimes to a fault, see below) and is adept at drawing a crowd away from his linemates.
– Cons – With a few exceptions, Zherdev is invisible in the defensive zone. Often seems to lack the discipline and sacrifice to forecheck and backcheck the opposition. Consistency of attitude is important to develop, as Zherdev has a tendency to look very disinterested if he is not performing up to his personal standards.
– If I were GM/Coach – Keep Nikolai on a forward line with fellow Russian Sergei Fedorov, who has seemed to be a good influence on the young winger. Lock him up to a long-term contract at the earliest convenience, as this youngster’s goals will translate into cash in the form of filled seats. There is nobody on the roster that keeps you on the edge of your seat like Zherdev does.

Jason Chimera
– Age – 27
– Status – Restricted free agent
– Pros – A speedy winger with good size, Chimera is not afraid to throw his body around and bang with the opposing team’s top line. An important character player, Jason chipped in 17 goals this season which was a nice surprise.
– Cons – Those 17 goals are a career-high, and it remains to be seen if Chimera will be able to increase that high or not. Constantly using his body as a battering ram will eventually wear him down, but that is what third and fourth line guys are for (if we’re being honest).
– If I were GM/Coach – Try to keep Chimera with the squad. His size and willingness to get physical are very important to a team that also ices quite a few smaller players. If he can continue to be an effective checking line winger while netting 15-20 per year, he is more than worth the investment.

Jody Shelley
– Age – 30
– Status – I think he has one year left on his current contract.
– Pros – Shelley can pound somebody’s face in with the best of them. Oh yeah, he can take a punch, too.
– Cons – Usually only sees four to six minutes a night, for very good reason. Shelley does not contribute much in the offensive or defensive zone. His lack of speed could become a liability in the “new NHL”.
– If I were GM/Coach – Shelley is a great guy to have on your team. The fans love him, his teammates probably enjoy having him in the locker room and on their team. Unfortunately, for the Jackets to make the slow conversion from pretender to contender, Shelley will have to go. I would let him play out the final year of his contract if no one else wins the spot, and then let him live on in Blue Jackets lore as our first legitimate enforcer.

Alexandre Picard
Age – 20
– Status – Signed through 2007-08
– Pros – Picard showed us in his late season call up that he loves to hit. At 190 lbs, he needs to add another 20-25 lbs to become a major physical menace. He has not scored in the NHL to date, but he has shown vision and promise.
– Cons – Seems to have a confidence issue with the puck, but I would attribute it at this point to lack of experience and youth. Once Picard scores a goal, he will “know that he belongs” and continue to play that way. Needs to play with the big club and gain familiarity with linemates to feel comfortable.
– If I were GM/Coach – Picard has shown that he wants to play in the NHL and is willing to work hard to be there. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to be on the club next year, nor would it be a disaster for him to have another season in Syracuse.

In a flash
I haven’t seen enough of any left wingers in Syracuse to speak on those on the farm team. This might be an area that Columbus will look at in free agency to fill a second line spot to play with Zherdev (probably a true right winger despite playing often on the left side) and Fedorov. The hope is probably that when Shelley is let go (it will happen), that Picard will be ready to step up and be an NHL regular.

Up next, the right wingers.

Thanks for reading.

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Have a great Friday.

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