MacLean squashes rumor talks

August 25, 2006

I was sitting at home the other night writing a great post about my thoughts on the Zherdev situation, and my computer crashed.  Disappointed with myself for not saving my work, I decided (for the time being) to let my thoughts rot.

Today’s Dispatch article on the topic reignited the flame.  The article isn’t incendiary or all that exciting, but I have a few spare minutes so I’m getting out my thoughts while I can. 

Dispatch writer Michael Arace confirms with GM Doug MacLean that the following is only a rumor: Restricted free-agent winger Nikolai Zherdev to the Maple Leafs for 22-year-old forward Matt Stajan and a draft pick.

MacLean goes on to state that not only is it not true, but it “is totally, absolutely false. On my father’s grave, I would swear that.”

I’m being facetious here, but that sounds very similar to the dreaded “vote of confidence” that a manager or coach will receive from upper management right before he is fired.  Okay, on to my real thoughts on the situation.

According to reports, the Jackets have two offers on the table.  One year for just under a million dollars, or two years for about $3.5 million.  The Zherdev camp has stated that it should be very clear that Nikolai is willing to play in Russia this year if he does not get a deal he feels he is worth.  MacLean and company are confused.  After working so hard to get Zherdev to the States in the first place, why would he want to go back?

I’m having a hard time reconciling my feelings towards this particular situation.  As a fan, obviously I’d like to see Nikolai attempt to realize his potential in a CBJ sweater.  He is an incredibly exciting player to watch (while very frustrating at the same time), and I’d like him to be a part of the continuing growth process in Columbus. 

On the other hand, I do not like my emotional attachment to the team being held hostage by greedy players.  I’ve never been a big fan of holdout situations.  Taking my fan attachment out of the equation, holding out for a better contract usually only helps a player in one sense, the almighty dollar.  It hurts him the following season by not being in tune with his team.  It hurts his team in the same way.  And it hurts his reputation (we all now how concerned today’s athlete is with his/her “rep”) because the fans are likely to think that he is a greedy a-hole. 

So what is my point??  If I’m Doug MacLean (and most days I’m thankful I’m not), here’s what I’d do.  I’ve got a nice two year deal on the table.  If Nik and his camp don’t like it, go ahead and play in Russia.  He can play against lesser competition for a year, possibly come back to the States next year to collect his windfall in free agency, and probably still have the same problems (culture assimilation trouble, lack of backchecking and defense in general, selfish attitude shown by excessive shift length, etc.) when he returns.

Mini-rant alert!  What is it with hot-dogs from Russia (Zherdev, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk) being singled out for excessive shift length anyways?  Do I selectively ignore it when a North American does this?  End of mini-rant.

Nikolai has an opportunity to play with one of the greatest centers in the last 15 years (not to mention a fellow Russian) in Sergei Fedorov.  He could learn, grow, and become the player that (apparently) he already thinks he is.

But if you’re going to hold my team (and remember, I stick with teams, not players) hostage, you can take a hike.

Thanks for stopping by the end of the bench.  Have a great Friday.

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