Nikolay Zherdev says he would have no problems playing in Winnipeg, despite the cold weather and heavy travel schedule. Should the Jets be interested?
First, let’s look at Zherdev’s comments about Winnipeg. These comments were made to the Russian publication Sports-Express, and translated by the good folks at Broad Street Hockey. From the translated story:
Right now it sounds like the Winnipeg Jets and Atlant of the KHL are the two most likely options for Zherdev. Some free agents are said to be avoiding Winnipeg because of the cold weather there in the winter. Zherdev says it wouldn’t be a problem for him. "The weather is not a priority to me. The most important thing is to get a good role on the team, a good coach and a good contract. Everything related to climate and geography doesn’t basically mean anything. I met with Vityaz GM Alexei Zhamnov a little while ago, he played three years in Winnipeg. He said it’s very cold and a lot of snow there in the winter, which just makes it an ideal place for hockey. Great! Manitoba doesn’t scare me. I wasn’t born in Africa afterall."
I think we can safely say that Zherdev would, at the very least, seriously consider an offer from the Jets. Should they be interested?
Just over a week ago, Cam Charron broke down some of Zherdev’s advanced statistics over the last three seasons. I won’t re-hash the entire article here, but I did take some basic points from it. Zherdev has, at even-strength, been one of his team’s top-three goal-scorers in each of the last three seasons. In each of the last three seasons, he’s posted strong Corsi numbers (Corsi numbers are a shot attempts plus/minus, and they correlate strongly to scoring chances) and he’s done it playing second/third line opposition.
Zherdev is, in other words, pretty much perfect for the role of second-line scoring winger, because he does a strong job of putting up goals and out-chancing depth opponents. He’s also a decent power play option – he scored poorly in that role for the Rangers in 2008-09 but that performance is bookended by relatively successful showings in Columbus and (with much less of a role) in Philadelphia.
The Jets are inheriting an above average power play team from Atlanta (they finished 12th in the league last season) and a below average goal-scoring team at even-strength (they finished 19th in the league last season). It makes sense to augment those areas, and Zherdev could do it for a comparative pittance on a short-term deal.
It’s a good gamble to make.