Blue Jackets and Rangers fans tried to warn me. I wouldn’t listen. I thought the Flyers picking up Nikolay Zherdev could be a solid signing; giving depth to their scoring, without tying too much into the future if it didn’t work out (1 year, $2 million deal). They kept telling me that I was going to get aggravated with his one-dimensional play, and trying only when he felt like it. I thought his stint in the KHL could have set him straight (as it did for former Flyer Ray Emery). I thought he’d be motivated by playing on a Cup contender.
He started off pretty good, too. By Christmas he had 13 goals and Paul Holmgren looked like a genius.
Then he started playing like the Nikolay Zherdev that NHL fans knew. He wound up scratched for most February. Flyers fans started to sour on him and realized a tiger never changes his stripes. He only had three points in 13 games after the All-Star break.
In game in Carolina, Mike Richards fell ill after a ceremony for Rod Brind’Amour. The team needed a replacement for Richards, and looked for Zherdev. But he was nowhere to be found. Jody Shelley eventually filled in for the Flyers’ captain in that game. Four days later, he was placed on waivers, but nobody picked him up. It was rumored that the Flyers might try to dump him at the trade deadline. Nobody bit and the Flyers were stuck with him for the remainder of the year. He played a couple games before being scratched most of March. When Jody Shelley got hurt, Zherdev got back into the lineup for the final five regular season games, and played seven out of the team’s nine playoff games.
He actually played decent in the playoffs, even though he only picked up three points. The team as a whole failed, losing in the second round to the Bruins. This led some fans to believe Holmgren might give him a second chance, but most felt he wouldn’t return.
The team seemed to play better when he was not in the lineup. Without him in the lineup, the team went 18-4-2 (including playoffs). When he played, the Flyers went 33-25-7, a winning percentage of .561. To put that in perspective, the Rangers (who finished 8th in the East) had a winning percentage of .567. The team scored a bit more goals (3.11 to 3.07) when he was dressed, but their defense suffered. The Flyers had a goals against of 2.34 when he wasn’t in the lineup, as compared to a 3.02 GAA when he was. His time on ice also seemed correlated to the team’s win-loss record. When he played more than his average of ~13 minutes, the team was 12-11-3. The Flyers record was 21-12-2 when he played less than his average. However, his stats were about the same (14 points when playing 13+ minutes; 11 points when playing less).
Zherdev wasn’t likely to come back with the club next year, but new developments may have pushed those chances to zero. Reports are surfacing that Zherdev attempted to beat his wife after an argument at a restaurant. The early reports are conflicting, but who will offer him a contract with his past attitude problems and any pending legal issues?
Philadelphia bids you adieu, Nik Zherdev.