2007 Spotlight on: Right Wings

June 15, 2007

In a continuation of the season ending review process, here is my take on the right wings in the organization.

Right Wing

David Vyborny

– Age – 32

-Status – Signed through 2007-08

-Pros – A skilled playmaker, Vyborny is solid in all aspects of the game.  He tirelessly plays defense, looks to set up his teammates, and makes those around him better.  If you see David make a glaring error on the ice, you’d better mark that day down because it doesn’t happen very often.

– Cons – The one knock on Vyborny that sticks is that he doesn’t shoot enough.  He has the skill to score the highlight reel goals (see December 26, 2006 against Boston if you can find the video), but is often unselfish to the point that it’s painful to watch.  The only other negative thing regarding Vyborny is that this is likely his last year in Columbus, as he has stated his desire to return to the Czech Republic to raise his family.  And you can’t really complain about such noble intentions. 

– If I were GM/Coach – Beg and plead with Vyborny to get him to stay as long as possible.  His chemistry with left winger Freddy Modin was great last season, and it would be nice to have the two of them serve together a few more seasons.  That’s the business response.  The personal response will be to throw David a low-key party in May next year (because no matter how optimistic I try to be, this team is not making the playoffs next season as of right now), give him his retirement watch, and send him across the Atlantic with the best wishes you can muster.  We’ll see what happens.

Nikolai Zherdev

– Age – 22

-Status – Signed through 2008-09

-Pros – When he decides to grace the team with a little effort and unselfish play, Nik Zherdev is a jaw-dropping talent.  He’ll never win a Selke Trophy, but he has shown (in stretches of time as long as an entire period!) that he does know how to play defense.  Where Zherdev earns the fan’s dollars is with the puck carefully dancing on the end of his stick.

– Cons – Where do I begin.  I suppose the most important negative about Zherdev as a hockey player is his attitude.  He often comes across as a lazy primadonna, unwilling to play any resemblance of a team game if it sacrifices his ability to “be cool”.  Reluctance to pass the puck, often drawing his linemates offside, and lackluster effort regarding his defensive responsibilities are just a few of the reasons that Zherdev is vilified by fans, media, and anonymous teammates alike.

– If I were GM/Coach – With two seasons and $5.75 million left on his contract, I’m willing to bet that the whopping (10-22-32) in 71 games was the last thing other than a career-ending injury that anyone involved with or cheering for the Blue Jackets organization wanted to see.  For the fans, it sucked hard to have a guy hold out for more money and then have him go out and put up one dud of a year.  For the management, Zherdev was catered to, bombed, and in seven months went from a guy on the rise to an untradeable cancer.  So… what would I do?  What can you do?  I would keep him on the second or third line and hope he plays out of his funk this season so I can realize some trade value.  Zherdev will play well for someone, but I don’t think it will be for Ken Hitchcock.  Nik currently has 50 goals for Columbus in his NHL career.  I’m putting the over/under for the total goals he scores in the Jacket crest at 75.  What’s your bet?

Dan Fritsche

– Age – 21

-Status – Restricted Free Agent

-Pros – A hard-nosed grinder, who started coming into his own last year until his freak wrist injury (tendons severed by a skate blade).  Dan fit in very well with Manny Malhotra and Jason Chimera on the third-line.  He hits, plays solid defense, kills penalties, skates hard, scores a little more than expected (his 82-game pace last year was for 17-21-38), and is another guy who gives quiet effort whenever he hops over the boards.

– Cons – While no particular body area seems to be recurring, Danny has suffered more than his share of injuries in his relatively short NHL career.  He’s played in 137 games, and has missed 29 games over three seasons in four separate incidents.  Fritsche’s aggressive style of play does put him in the line of fire more than some NHL’ers.

– If I were GM/Coach – Danny is another great fit for Ken Hitchcock’s system of full-ice responsibility.  His ability to mesh with his linemates makes the third line one of my favorites to watch.  Qualify Fritsche with an offer, and unless things get incredibly out of hand I’d match any offer he sees from another team.

Position overview

According to TSN.ca, these are the only three guys regularly playing right wing for the Jackets.  So who fills in the other spot(s)?  Failed experiment Anson Carter played there much of the season before getting shipped to Carolina, Gilbert Brule played some wing, Aaron Johnson was moved to winger late in the season as it became more and more apparent that he can’t play defense at the NHL level, Steven Goertzen spent a little time last season with the club but hasn’t been seen in Columbus since Hitchcock took over, and Joakim Lindstrom spent a little time there as well (if I remember correctly).  Though the first three slots at this position are pretty well decided as of this moment, I’d go after a right winger who can fit into that second to fourth line spot.  It’s a pipe dream to imagine that Zherdev is going to be able to stick on the second line all year, and it would be nice to have a guy who could fit in that spot when the inevitable occurs.

In the system

TSN.ca notes the following players as right wings in the Blue Jacket organization: Steven Goertzen (see above); Tim Konsorada (has been statistically underwhelming in 28 career AHL games, which is code for “never heard of him”); Adam Pineault (spent one day with Columbus this past season, but did not play.  I’d imagine we may see him some this season.); and Brandon Sugden.  Sugden’s inclusion shows how far behind TSN’s coverage of the CBJ is, as Brandon announced his retirement on December 7, 2006.

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