Flyers Waive Enigmatic Zherdev
He arrived in Philadelphia with the reputation of an enigma, and now the Flyers and their fans know why. With his scoring prowess and incredible fluidity on the ice, Nikolay Zherdev was a different dimension to the Flyers’ depth. As fate would have it, it was a dimension that was expendable.
The team put the Ukrainian forward on waivers Wednesday, in a move that was probably best for both sides involved. Zherdev had 15 goals in 47 games played, with limited ice time. When he was on the ice, the talented winger often played with the team’s fourth line, and rarely saw time with the power play unit.
Perhaps the reluctance of head coach Peter Laviolette to put Zherdev on the power play was a sign of things to come. For every accolade that the Flyers have been given this year, the power play certainly hasn’t been saluted, nor should it be. The team’s inconsistent nature on the man advantage has been troubling all season for fans of the Orange and Black. Despite all the power play problems, a player with the talent and goal-scoring ability of Zherdev would rarely be inserted on the power play. By comparison, it should be pointed out that even defensive forward Andreas Nodl is spending time on one of the units now. Why not Zherdev?
It may have been his lack of attention to the defensive side of the game that prevented his rise to more playing time. In Laviolette’s locker room, the emphasis is put on earning one’s spot. Players like Nodl are rewarded with their efforts on both sides of the ice, regardless of natural talent. To play for the Flyers’ bench boss, one must give all he has at any opportunity. Zherdev wasn’t that type of player, and most likely never will be.
When looking back, the healthy scratches could have illustrated a decent picture of Zherdev’s time in the City of Brotherly Love. When the scratches began, most following the team scratched their heads. In the weeks before his trade, the reality became commonplace. Of the Flyers’ 60 games this season, Zherdev was scratched for 13 of them including the last six. Instead of Zherdev, the Flyers opted to play Jody Shelley many times. When a player has 15 goals and is passed over for another who usually plays around six minutes a game, something is probably wrong.
Many around the league may look at the Flyers depth and point out that the loss of Zherdev will hurt them. While that idea holds water statistically, the reality of the matter is that the team will most likely be better as a whole because of the move. Laviolette wants players that will fore-check aggressively and play consistently at both ends of the ice. His preference is the hard-working defensive forward over the brilliant moves of one only willing to play offense. Simply put, Zherdev was never his type of player. And, Laviolette was never Zherdev’s type of coach (if there even is such a coach).
The Flyers fans that will remember Zherdev’s 47 games with the Flyers’ crest on the front will always lament his inability to do utilize his talent consistently. For every ounce of offensive talent that oozed out of the player, there was always an expectation that wasn’t met. Always a ‘what if?’ Or a ‘yea, but…’
He arrived as an enigma. Now, he leaves as an even bigger one.