Dose of Reality #71

September 25, 2007

This morning, Aaron Portzline of The Dispatch has a blog speculating as to the opening day roster of the Blue Jackets. His line combinations are:

F1: Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, David Vyborny
F2: Fredrik Modin, Sergei Fedorov, Dan Fritsche
F3: Jason Chimera, Michael Peca, Gilbert Brule
F4: Jody Shelley, Manny Malhotra, Jiri Novotny
Spare: Nikolai Zherdev

Portzline is diligent and writes carefully, but I have to disagree with him on that “spare”. I agree with most people that Zherdev has not had a great camp, but only because he hasn’t put up the numbers that go with his contract. Teams like the Blue Jackets, meaning teams that are not deep in NHL talent and a sure playoff spot, can’t afford to scratch a guy like Zherdev and play Jody Shelley. If the team truly cannot play him, then by all means a trade should be pursued as quickly as possible.

I am not a member of the Nikolai Zherdev Fan Club, but simply do not think that it is time to give up on Z and potentially squander him. Yes, the argument can easily be made that Zherdev is the one who squandered all of his opportunities and we can also thank Doug MacLean for signing Zherdev to the exact contract that he and his agent sought, but do we really want to give up on him at this time? And you have to think of next season (the real point of this season) and see the roster hole created by the departure of Fedorov and think about having to fill the places of Zherdev AND Fedorov. Portzline makes a lot of good points in his blogging and reporting, but you get more scoring, fewer penalties, more options, and a piece that the opposition has to defend against with Zherdev compared to Jody Shelley. Shelley gets about five minutes of ice time a game, so the pay rate is about the same when prorated. If Zherdev’s time is up (and the signs are becoming apparent), then trade him and get some value.

The other part of Portzline’s blog covers the defense:

D1: Rostislav Klesla, Jan Hejda
D2: O-K Tollefsen, Adam Foote
D3: Duvie Westcott, Kris Russell
Spare: Ron Hainsey

Again, I have to ask, where is the thought process? I strongly think that Russell will move to the second pair within a month unless he gets injured, but Portzline is counting on a consistent Klesla, a healthy and rational Adam Foote, and Duvie Westcott not taking the penalties that he is prone to AND matching up against strong NHL forwards AND not trying to carry the puck too much. Do all of these things fall into place this season? So if you think you have a Kris Russell who can play the way Westcott should, why do you need to dress Duvie and scratch Ron Hainsey? Hainsey suffers from the fact that he is a big, fast defenseman but does not score at will. He is not Scott Stevens, but he has adapted his game to the new NHL and does not go out and try to drive people through the boards. The fans think that he should put up 15 goals per season and have the occasional fight, but you will get those numbers from Russell and supposedly Klesla. If a game is getting physical and tough, who would you rather see on the ice, Hainsey or Westcott?

-Truth Serum

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