"You're talking about the Vatican if you're Catholic, you're talking the centre of the hockey universe..."
Monday, August 3, 2009
Top Line Sniper?
He would probably have to change his number if he came here
Ok. Recap time. The Burkian checklist for building a team is as follows:
1. Goalie is top priority. Get a stellar keeper and a hungry backup for competition.
2. Big, beefy, mean defense. One or two puck moving offensive guys, but mostly dudes who will squish you or turn you into a puff of pink powder once you enter their zone.
3. Bottom six "blue collar" guys. These guys have specific jobs and they ain't the pretty kind: a) 3rd liners. These are the shut down guys. Ideally paired against the other teams top line, this line is put on to, well, prevent the top line from scoring. These guys are focused, dedicated, unselfish and tough. Hopefully they can chip in on some secondary scoring too. b) 4th liners. This is the crazy-eyes line. They are not as skilled as the 3rd liners. Heck, they probably aren't even as focused as them either. They may not even be unselfish. We all know why these guys are on the ice. They are there to liquefy Cam Janssen when he throws dirty dirty hits. (That really is one of the dirtiest hits I've ever seen in the game. But what is sad is how Travis Green only gives Janssen a stern verbal warning and not an epic beat down. Even Belak's beat down a few games later was sad.) We have this line so that our Kaberle's and our Grabovski's and our (one day) Kadri's can do their thing. (Or, we get someone again who can doboth. You see the no hesitation in going to defend crumpled Gilmour?) What has the Leaf's lacked these past couple of seasons? A decent 4th line. We're a team of 3rd liners, but even a 3rd line doesn't do what a 4th line does.
4. Top six. If the bottom six were blue collar, does this mean these guys are bankers? Brokers? Either way, these are the guys who put up the points. Ideally, they backcheck and forcheck and have heart, but we here at TOV firmly believe that they are not the ones who set the tone of the team. The team's tone is set by (and in this order) the Captain, the defence, the 3rd line and the 4th line. Look at why the Senators have failed in the past 2 seasons. They have no identity on the back end or on the bottom 6 of the team. Sure they have scoring, but relying on scorers to flesh out the identity of the team is a house built on sandy land. Your sniper dries up for a few games, you all of a sudden have no identity. The Buffaslugs (seriously. Look at their logo) suffer from this. The Senators suffer from this. But teams like the Flames or the Wings or even the Canes don't, because they have this identity from the "ground" up.
Which brings us to tonights topic. Surely by now you have heard that Nikolai Zherdev has gone to arbitration and that he will be awarded somewhere in the 3.5-4.5 mil range. Unfortunately, the Rangers can't afford this because they signed Gaborik and his wet-paper-bag-for-a-groin. So the dude is going to walk. Something Gaborik wont be able to do after 2 weeks of the regular season.
Also, the Leafs do not have a top line winger. We have potential top line talent, but we don't have that "this guy leads the attack every night" guy. Zherdev could be that guy.
So, our options:
Zherdev has tons of skill. He can score and he wants to be the top guy on the team. He feels he didn't get a fair shakedown in Columbus and he was burried behind guys in NYC who had to play top line minutes because their contracts dictated them to. He seems to be hungry and wanting to prove himself.
Leafs have top line minutes to give. We don't have a bona fide scorer. Like we said earlier, even if he takes a shift off in backchecking, we don't really care because the top line sniper does not set the tone of the team. He needs to put up some points, not be incompetent off the puck and not be a creep in the dressing room.
Bottom line: Leafs need a top line sniper. He is a sniper that can be had without giving up any assets. Go for it.
Um, no thanks
Zherdev seems to have graduated from the Alexi Kovalev school of interpersonal communications. He may put up some points, but he also may go through long streaks of suckitude. And if he isn't producing and we bump him down a line, he may not have the heart to work himself back up to producing again. Plus he's expensive for all these questions. Also, and it sucks to say it, but as a Russian will he want to go play in mother Russia if the grind of a rebuilding team gets to him?
Bottom line: Is this the sniper on which we wish to build our attack? Is he really the hill we want to die on? He's a superb talent, but does he have the stones to stick it out when things don't go his way? Do we have the leadership on the team to keep him in line?
We here at TOV think that he would be a good fit if we had a top line center and a throwdown top line winger--you know, someone who will chip in on some points (mainly assists) but is more of a dig-it-out-of-the-corners kinda guy. Think of Roberts - Sundin - Mogilny. Zherdev is a Mogilny in this situation. But we don't have a opposite winger who can dig in the corners like Roberts can (aside: I say we try to get Booth out of Florida) nor do we have a top line center who controls the flow of the line. We fear that Zherdev would be wasted on the team as it now stands. What would a lone Mogilny have done for us? So the question is, do we take a flyer on Zherdev in hopes of building a line for him down the road? Or do we pass up on him now and hope for a real game-changing winger later. Or do you fall into the "we need a top line Canadian boy" camp?