PlayersRantsState of the Rangers

Will The Real Nik Zherdev Please Stand Up?

Well, its finally official.  The Rangers have officially said no to Z’s $3.9 million award, making him an unrestricted free agent.  Zherdev’s value  and upside have been discussed ad nauseum on this and other Rangers websites, and hopefully this will be one of the last posts in an otherwise tragic story of seemingly untapped potential.  Even though it removes a scoring threat from an already anemic offense, the departure of Nik Zherdev and the way it all transpired speaks volumes of who this guy really is and how people really see him.  And when you consider the chain of events, it was really a no-brainer.

Consider this…at just 24 years old, and having only played in two full 82-game seasons, Zherdev has amassed 99 goals and 239 points.  All these totals were achieved on relatively stale, offensively-inept teams.  But when you also consider that the Columbus front office and head coach Ken Hitchcock, whom is very well-respected in hockey circles, repeatedly clashed with the young winger, it makes you wonder where this kid’s head is at.  Zherdev actually went as far as threatening the Jackets to remain in Russia if his contract demands weren’t met after his 27-goal season in 05-06.  The Jackets broke down and decided to pay him $7.5 million over 3 years.  How did Zherdev respond?  By putting up 10 goals and 32 points in 71 games.  Columbus or not, if you demand that kinda cash and claim to be a rising star in this league, you need to perform, regardless of where you’re playing.  Zherdev rebounded the following year with 26 goals, but the coaching staff still failed to get the youngster to reach his maximum potential, and his work ethic was called into question.  The Columbus front-office decided they had enough, and traded him to the Blueshirts for essentially nothing.  Don’t get me wrong, Fedor Tyutin is a great defenseman and I loved him when he played in New York.  But a sniper’s value is a whole lot more than a defenseman’s.

His time in New York was short spotted.  He got off to a promising start, and after some spectacular dangling and stick work, everyone thought they got through to him.  But somewhere along the way, he just fell off.  There was no injury, no sickness, no talk of any dispute with coaches or the front office.  He just stopped playing.  We can’t even blame it on Tom Renney, because it continued after he was cut loose.  When Tortorella arrived, he made it very clear to everyone that there was going to be accountability.  Zherdev was benched for periods on end on more than one occasion, and he never responded mentally or physically.  Even after 23 goals in the regular season, fans and coaches were still wanting more.  And when push came to shove in the playoffs, Nik Zherdev was just abysmal.  His playoff stats don’t even tell the story, because its hard to tell a story with a bunch of zeroes and negative numbers.  He was skating in mud and quicksand with a lead vest on him, and many of us were caught screaming at the TV for hours begging him to finally make a play….and it never came.

The truth is that Nik Zherdev is a poison for any franchise  Not a poison the way Terrell Owens, Brett Favre, or Jessica Simpson are, but a much more dangerous one.  You don’t see or don’t hear how infectious he really is until you’re cured of him.  He doesn’t speak bad about his teammates, his city, or the front office.  He literally does nothing but play hockey, and its difficult to motivate him to do that to the best of his ability.  You almost wish he was more outspoken to show you that he actually cared.  But it seems he only cares about taking the ice 82 times a year, playing hard when he wants to, and demanding absurd money when the season is over.  Can you imagine what his work ethic would have been if he was given the $4+ million he was asking for?  Credit Glen Sather for not giving in.  That now makes 2 NHL executives in less than a year that have been more than happy to see Nik Zherdev walk out of their locker room for very little in return, and in the Rangers case, nothing.  Now, Zherdev is without a home in the NHL, and will likely head back to Russia.  He has burned some serious bridges along the way, so its probably best for him to go back to his roots and figure it all out.  Hopefully for his sake, he fires whatever person is giving him advice and learns to find a love for the game he once had.  Maybe I was a bit harsh on him here, but it bothers me to see a player of his talent simply go through the motions and think he is entitled to whatever he wants.  The fact of the matter is that this is still a young player with a ton of potential.  But until he gets his head right, no one will ever regret the day they let Nik Zherdev pack his bags and walk out the front door.

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  • great post. And i whole heartedly agree regards the Tuytin trade. I hope Sather doesnt get slated for it because you’d make that deal every time. Tuytins upside was that of a no.3 D’man and at 23 Z’s was of a 40 goal scorer that had produced in amemic offenses.. Good trade that simply didnt pan out.

    I dont think our offense will be anaemic either, by the way. I see Drury, Cally, Kotalik and Higgins all beign 20 goal scorers, i see a minimum of 35 from Gaborik and then you have x factors of Avery (12-15?) and Kotalik (17+?)….

    i think we have promise.

  • Yeah baby, feed the hate. You’d think you were taling about Alexander Daigle or Wickenheiser with all this underacheiving drivel.

    “He got off to a promising start, and after some spectacular dangling and stick work, everyone thought they got through to him. But somewhere along the way, he just fell off. There was no injury, no sickness, no talk of any dispute with coaches or the front office. He just stopped playing. We can’t even blame it on Tom Renney, because it continued after he was cut loose.”

    After February the OT loss to Toronto that got Renney fired he play in 21 games for under Tortorella. He scored 13 points in those 21 games with 3 sets of back to back goal games. In April he had one assist. You are doing your readers a diservice by not supporting your spin with facts. In any case, you conveniently fail to mention that what little production he did have led the team of overpaid, underperforming Millionaires.

    You have one less reader.

    • wow, ironic that ANNONYMOUS accuses of exaggerating ‘the drivel’ then exaggerates himself.

      13pts in 21 games is not great and not worth 4.5m (what Z allegaedly claimed) especially when that output came in bunches.

      To ANNONYMOUS; Zherdev had 1(!) point in his last 14 games (inc. playoffs). You telling me we should miss that?! wow.

      GREAT talent, i dont think anyone here is denying that, and had a good start in NYC but he used up all that credit in the last 2 months.

    • Bravo Anon,

      I think I figured it out, you were the guy that bought the Zherdev jersey after hearing about the trade and finding all the info about Z from the you tube videos you watched. The guy had no heart, didn’t even try to gel with his teammates, and when push came to shove, he checked out. They didn’t call him the enigma for nothing. And with asking for 4+ million, you better not be an enigma, you need to be a proven commodity. You can say all you want about the money that has been thrown around, it was all done with fair market value in mind when contracts were signed. In the end, I rather have Redden than Z, at least Iceman showed at least a littl emotion…and never asked to be traded to a division rival…then laughed when asked about his salary demands. His conditioning was horrible, as evidenced by his play in Torts system, and he probably didn’t even work out over the summer. The enigmatic tumor won’t be working in the NHL again. The word is on the street and not team will take a chance on an overpaid , underplaying enigmatic 24 year old no matter how good his hands are.

  • Let me just say that you cant have 100% agreement on any topic. Even on this topic Stas and I disagree, as I would have taken Zherdev back at $3.9 million. But let’s have discussions, and not personal attacks.

    • Dave… taking him back at 3.9; is that because you’re seduced by his potential or because you think we lack offensive depth?

      • Both. I think that a Torts boot camp can really do him some good.

        Plus, I spent three years living with a Sabres fan, and all I heard was “***ING KOTALIK!! YOU SUCK!!”

        So I’m not sold on him.

  • I don’t take any comment in this section personally. I write my opinion, you write yours, if we don’t agree it makes for good discussion. If you choose not to read, that’s your perogative…we don’t live in communist Russia.

    That said, I would find it hard to believe if you actually thought Zherdev was putting forth the effort and production you would expect from someone demanding $4 million. His track record doesn’t help him either. And when you consider that the Rangers have tons of money tied up in big, long-term contracts (Drury, Hank, Rosie, Redden, Gaborik), you simply cannot afford to take a chance on spending $4+ million/year on a player who is more in and out than Anne Heche. That’s a significant amount of money tied into a player you’re not really sure of, and the Rangers have enough of those already.

    And as for anemic offenses, I really meant last years because well, it was. Near the bottom of the league in every major offensive category. I do agree that this year’s will be better, but we just have to wait and see…we all thought things were going to turn around when Gomez and Drury were signed in that offseason.

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