Dose of Reality #40

April 7, 2007

Another interesting piece of reporting by Aaron Portzline today, Blue Jackets: Zherdev remains an enigma. Obviously Aaron does not care about being removed from the team Christmas card list. Perhaps he is not going to cover the team anymore and this is his parting shot. It is a nice gift, but it should have been written in January. Sure, Portzline will point out that the problem came to a head when Ken Hitchcock took over, but was everything going great up to that point? This is like getting a bad grade card from your kid after attending a parent-teacher conference telling you everything was normal.

The big question I had immediately after reading this was who scouted Nikolai Zherdev? Some of the issues that Portzline reports were present long ago. He didn’t just come to Columbus, buy an Ohio State sweatshirt, start drinking Bud, and become an enigma. I never saw him play anywhere but Nationwide Arena and I can tell that he had already developed a special fondness for toe-drags. Did he ever play any defense in Russia?

What about his background and character? I know that scouts meet with coaches, parents, and other individuals who are involved in the prospect’s life. Did they know that Nikolai came from family of under-achievers? Can’t the team get his old man a job at Schottensteins to keep him busy and out of Nikolai’s hair? Did all the other scouts miss these traits, too?

I can understand a lot of the problems with Zherdev. He is not much different than any other young male of that age. He has had an edge for all of his hockey life and it has carried him far. The individualism is apparent to anyone who watches him play. Instead of playing like a kid from Toledo or Parma who had to work hard, he plays more like a kid from Dublin who doesn’t have many concerns about the future.

But my favorite is this: “The guy’s not a good teammate,” one Blue Jacket said. “And that’s being kind.” Is he one of those “character” guys that MacLean is always mentioning? Why hasn’t Adam Foote and Sergei Fedorov, two guys who with valuable experience and judgement, two guys who will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, said anything to team management? I’m not throwing stones at them, because either they brought this up and nothing was done or they haven’t brought it up because they know nothing will be done.

Today’s piece, coupled with the Thursday article on MacLean’s future, are enigmas themselves. Is Portzline throwing out two bones here for the long-suffering fans? Is the Zherdev problem a piece of the bigger MacLean problem? Or is Zherdev an excuse, a flag for MacLean to wave?

-Truth Serum



  1. Trade him!

  2. Zherdev is the Ricky Williams of hockey without the dope. Like Williams, Zherdev lives in his own world where your individual talents supercede the structure of the team. If Zherdev were like a Pavel Bure was with Vancouver in the early 90’s, then we’ed all be blown away by the talent and the highlight reel goals. Yes, there have been a handful of spectacular goals- from last season ; but with Hitch as your boss, the tolerance for giveaways from a misplaced toedrag do not put any player in the coach’s trust. Zherdev was given ample chance to modify his game to fit a pro style. Maybe Nik should get tapes of Pavel Datsyk and watch how Pavel works with his team. Not having Nik in the lineup this season could have been worth maybe 5 wins. MacLean should have traded Zherdev when he had the chance before the trade deadline, certain teams would have welcomed the challenge with this talented player. Maclean was afraid that if traded Zherdev he would have never receive fair market value and/or Zherdev would do so well with another team that it would bite MacLean in the rear end down the road. Here’s saying that Zherdev will be traded by the end of October next season. Nik is clearly not a Hitch-type player and does not want to fit in.

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