All joking aside, the talented Russian winger claims that he’s improved in one of the areas that once made Ken Hitchcock and John Tortorella pitch fits. Here’s what he said about his allegedly blossoming defensive game (as well as some details about where he might land in the Flyers lineup) from NHL.com.
“I have skills, good puck control and hockey sense,” Zherdev said. “It probably would be good for me, and if coach (Peter Laviolette) makes the decision, to play on the power play. I’m changing my style and trying to play more defensive zone. I think, right now, I’m two-way player. Before, I was probably more forward … playing more of the attacking zone. The last couple seasons, I’ve been more defensive zone, too.”
That should be music to Holmgren’s ears, since the knock on Zherdev was his carelessness in the defensive end. On top of that, the Zherdev signing could very well spell the end for Simon Gagne, the top-line left wing regarded as an excellent two-way forward. ESPN.com is reporting Gagne’s agent has been allowed to speak with other teams regarding potential trades.
It’ll be interesting to see where Zherdev is inserted into the lineup at training camp. If Gagne is traded, would Zherdev assume a top-line role alongside center Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Or could he line up next to young forwards Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk on a highly offensive third line?
“I don’t pay much attention to the people who write about me about bad things or good things,” Zherdev said. “Sometimes the media has different opinions about different players. Right now my goal is to come to Philadelphia and prepare for the long hockey season.”
File Zherdev’s new-found interest in his own zone under “Believe it when I see it.”
While I have to admit that I was surprised by the interest the Flyers had in the Russian winger, he’s a fairly low risk at one-year, $2 million. I cannot help but giggle at the thought of Nikolai Zherdev: Selke Trophy winner, but if he’s even moderately committed to defense while providing a nice bit of offense he could be a great signing for the Flyers.
He’s saying the right things at the moment, at least.