Nikolay Zherdev’s summer of waiting continues… But why?

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Nikolay Zherdev’s career in the NHL has been a peculiar one. He’s been labeled, predictably, as “enigmatic.” Through his days with Columbus, the Rangers, and Philadelphia he’s been cycled in and out of the lineup as the coaches whims have warranted. Through his career he’s shown he’s capable of being a 20-30 goal scorer.

Last season in Philadelphia, Zherdev was in and out of the lineup under Peter Laviolette playing in 56 games scoring 16 goals and adding six assists. That production may not sound like much, but for a guy who was coming back to the NHL after a season away in the KHL, it showed he can still score goals in the NHL. Through his NHL career, Zherdev’s played in 421 games and scored 115 goals with 146 assists in six seasons, but there’s something amiss here.

With no one seemingly willing to line up and sign him, Zherdev is holding out hope of staying in the NHL. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnkov reports that Zherdev is holding out hope that an NHL team will do so and that he’s not interested in going back to Russia.

Could Zherdev’s troubles in landing a job have more to do with how he is when he’s off the ice than when he’s on it? Ryan Bright of Philly Sports Daily says that Zherdev’s shyness and attitude around everyone could be holding him back from a new job in the NHL.

He was different. He was a loner that never assimilated to the team. In an organization where players and management are considered family, Zherdev, who spoke English but rarely talked to the media because of chronic shyness, was a distant cousin with no blood relation. It seemed more-and-more that for Zherdev, Philadelphia was just a rest stop. The Flyers were a stepping stone to whatever it was he would rather be doing.

The perception of Zherdev was one of a goal-scoring mercenary. No allegiance, just money.

That philosophy and personality would be considered fine for the NBA or the NFL. But Zherdev was in the NHL — a league that heralds the personable and expects a humble but open demeanor from its players. Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Jeremy Roenick, Tim Thomas, Teemu Selanne, are all kings of the game. It’s not just about embracing hockey on the ice, but off of it.

And that’s where Zherdev is lacking.

Ouch.

While the locker room and off-ice attitude can be a problem, shouldn’t his production on the ice work more in his benefit regardless of that? Cam Charron at The Leafs Nation laid out Zherdev’s deeper statistics (Corsi, Quality of Competition) that show if a NHL team took a shot at bringing him aboard, they could benefit greatly from it.

The verdict is that Zherdev was paid just $2M last season and would probably play again for a similar number this season. If a team needs a scoring winger, the opportunity is begging itself. For the sake of my sanity and the sake of the owner’s chequebook and squeezing every last bit of value out of a hockey player, some team needs to sign him. Rest the perception about his intangible value, rest the perception about European players not playing hard enough, and just sign the best available unrestricted free agent who scores goals.

Zherdev could be very helpful to an offensively starved team that’s in need of a creative winger. Watching him play with the Flyers last season was an exercise in the full experience of watching him play. One game he’d be invisible, unable to play and carry the offense, and not generate anything. Others, he’d be dynamic in forcing offensive play and generating shots on goal and scoring goals. If put alongside top offensive players Zherdev could find the consistency he’s been missing his entire career.

Canada beats US 3-1 in women’s hockey Olympic tuneup

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Haley Irwin and Sarah Nurse scored in the second period, sending Canada to a 3-1 victory over the United States on Friday night in the latest Olympic tuneup between the world’s top powers in women’s hockey.

Marie-Philip Poulin also scored for Canada, and Ann-Renee Desbiens made 25 saves.

Brianna Decker opened the scoring for the U.S. with a power-play goal early in the second. Alex Rigsby stopped 33 shots in defeat.

Poulin made it 3-1 with her goal 55 seconds into the third.

It was the fifth of six meetings between the rivals as they prepare for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. They play again Sunday night in Edmonton, Alberta.

Canada has won four of the five recent matchups, after the Americans took the series opener Oct. 22 in Quebec City.

”We just have to be better in the red zones – that’s the difference between winning and losing,” United States coach Robb Stauber said. ”We’ll give some focus and energy to some things we think we can do better, and we’re going to go into Edmonton and see what that end result looks like.”

The last four Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey have gone to Canada, but the U.S. has won seven of the past eight world championships.

The Buzzer: Eichel hat trick, Schneider robbery, Gaborik’s 1,000th game

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Players of the Night: 

Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: Eichel ended a four-game goal-less drought with some authority on Friday. After scoring in the first period, Eichel watched as his Sabres blew a 2-1 lead to trail 4-2 with 10 minutes to go. Eichel then turned on overdrive, scoring twice in 10 seconds to tie the game and force overtime. Sadly, his efforts were in vain as the Carolina Hurricanes got the winner 2:15 into the extra frame. It’s Eichel’s first career NHL hat trick.

Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils: What an inspirational story Boyle has been this year. On Friday, Boyle scored twice, including the game winner, to bring his goal total to eight on the season. His second of the night was also his 100th of his career.

Highlights of the Night:

Eichel showed a good bit of patience on his hat trick goal:

Cory Schneider committed robbery on this save:

Sam Gagner scored on a pretty backhand deke to give the Vancouver Canucks the win in overtime, ending a four-game losing streak:

Factoid of the Night: 

MISC: 

Scores: 

Hurricanes 5, Sabres 4 (OT)

Devils 5, Stars 2

Rangers 4, Kings 2

Red Wings 3, Maple Leafs 1

Canucks 4, Sharks 3 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Melnyk threatens to move Senators if ‘disaster strikes’

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If you’re looking for someone to spoil an upcoming function, you may want to give Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk a call.

On the eve of the Senators’ outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, and on the night when Ottawa’s greats from yesteryear took the ice with Parliament Hill as a backdrop, Melnyk did his best to steal the spotlight from the NHL 100 Classic on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters, Melnyk threatened to pull the plug in Ottawa and relocate the team if disaster struck.

“If it becomes a disaster, yes,” Melnyk said. “If you start not seeing crowds showing up, yes. But, for now, we are on the cusp of doing OK.”

The doom and gloom continued, with Melnyk suggesting he isn’t going to waste a “lifetime of working hard” to support the Senators.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “The bigger question is whether I’m prepared to blow all that money I made over many years in a different industry in a different country. How long can you underwrite a team?”

Melnyk reiterated that he’s not looking to sell the team, a statement he made earlier this week in the Ottawa Sun, and used McDonald’s as an example on Friday. 

“It won’t. It just won’t happen,” he said. “It’s a franchise. Imagine if you own a McDonald’s franchise, but you can move it. But why would you sell it? It’s something that’s very difficult to buy.

We’re doing OK here. Not great, but we’re doing OK. It’s just too much fun. What else do you do? I’m a Canadian. I’m a hockey fan, fanatically a hockey fan, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

Melnyk said the Senators have “cut everything to the bone,” saying the Senators have one of the thinnest management groups in the league.

“We want to keep and maintain great players,” he said. “You can’t keep spending at the top end and getting the lowest revenues. It doesn’t work.”

According to CapFriendly, the Senators are at just over $73 million in projected cap space.

Melnyk called the Senators disaster on the ice this season a “crappy streak” that every team goes through.

“We have way too much talent with this team not to perform,” he said.

When asked if his comments on Friday could take away from the luster of the event taking place in Canada’s capital this weekend, Melnyk said no.

“It keeps the newspapers selling and the radio people listening,” he said.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Marian Gaborik plays game No. 1,000 on Friday

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Marian Gaborik has already hit two milestones that end in double zeroes this season.

On Friday night, and at the world’s most famous arena, he hit his first that ends in three.

Gaborik took to the ice at Madison Sqaure Garden in his 1,000th NHL game as the Los Angeles Kings took on the New York Rangers.

It’s not a bad backdrop for the veteran of 19 NHL seasons.

Gaborik played 255 games with the Blueshirts between 2009 and 2013, hitting the 40-goal plateau twice and recording his career-best season in 2009-10, scoring 42 goals and adding 44 helpers for 86 points in 76 games played.

Gaborik has only played 11 games this season after starting the year on the shelf with a knee injury. Gaborik only returned to the lineup on Nov. 24, but he set two milestones in his return, hitting 400 career NHL goals and 800 career NHL points earlier this month.

Coming into Friday’s game, his stat line read 800 points in 999 NHL games.

As Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston points out, perfect symmetry could be achieved if Gaborik finishes with a plus-one in the plus-minus column in the game and he is held without a point.

I’m sure he’d rather have a new puck to add to his mantle… but think of the stats, Marian.

UPDATE: He didn’t think of the stats. 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck