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 do both. 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?

Let's hear your thoughts!


Craig A. said...

um Zherdev reminds me more of like Dmitri Kristich maybe than Mogilny. A guy who has never shown any sort of push back anytime in his career (a Burke must-have), and one who, as you said, goes through severe streaks of suckitude (great word?), i.e. last years playoffs. he also could not deal with a tough coach in Ken Hitchcock in Columbus and he sucked when super-nice-guy John Tottorella ran the rangers, so you know he would get on just grandly with both Ronnie and Burkie. The bootom line is that Toronto needs a franchise player, and while this guy does have skill and youth, he's not in, especially when you're talking about giving him Jeff Finger kind of money.

GBDonaldson said...

I hear ya Craig. But look at the good work Ronnie did with Grabs. He came into the leafs with a similar knock against his game: a bit of a headcase, potentially "uncoachable," needing a change of scenery. Obviously Zherdev isn't the franchise player we want, but 4mil/per isn't franchise money either.

Kleric said...

The Rangers need a Defensemen and a possible replacement for Zherdev. I say, an offer of Mike Van Ryn (best leafs defencement when healthy. Yes I said it.) and Lee Stempniak for Zherdev and (insert throw in player here) The salaries are pretty much a wash. New York takes a chance on the two players (health and crappage). The Leafs take a chance for a year on Zherdev; not putting up the points and being inconsistent (suckitude factor). If it does not work out, Zherdev walks at the end of the year being a UFA and the leafs are left having shed some salary for the coming NHL economic armageddon. As far as I can see it this is a win-win for both New York and Toronto.

I am all for Zherdev coming to Toronto as long as he is not the end pinacle of the leafs offence.

And can someone please move Jason Blake out of town for a Burlap sack of pucks, three pylons, and good feelings. I can't stand this guy.

Kleric said...

The Rangers have decided to walk away from Zherdev making him a UFA. If this Leafs blow signing this guy I will be sternly and ineffecutally disappointed. Signing a top Six 24 year old scoring forward is exactly what Burke is seeking.

Blake still needs to leave. He sucks and blows at the same time.

GBDonaldson said...

What's reasonable? 4mil for 3 years?

Anonymous said...

Seriously folks we need to get realistic about what the leafs are at this point. This is not a team that needs to add an extra piece. This is a team that needs every piece except a big bruising d-man and the crazy-eyed 4th liners.
The leafs do not have a top 6 and even with a wildly inconsistent guy like Zherdev this team is only marginally better. The leafs need another year of utter "suckitude" and hopefully they can draft a kid that will be that offensive sparkplug.
Unfortunately this team may be talented enough to flirt with a playoff spot long enough to ruin the draft chances and continue to doom us.

Kleric said...

Why would Burke pass on a proven young top six scoring forward? He does not have to give up any assets but cash. But then again he is inconsistent so let's just pass... WTF! He does not have to do anything but put a contract under Zherdev's nose and say, "There is the dotted line. You are the kind of guy I have been seeking out."

Building through the draft is needed no question, but to hope to wade in a pool of suckitude is not an option. Outside of the exceptional draft choices, (Tavares, Stamkos, Scheen etc...) most draft choices take 2 to three years before they crack the line up. So what Monsieur Anonymous is suggesting is not one more year basking in the pool of suckitude, but 2 to three more years of suckitude.

Um ... no.

Zherdev is not the holy grail of players, but when a player of his age, caliber and availability is to be had for nothing but cash, you have got to jump on it. It is Wilson's job round out the players game. It is Burke's job to put people in seats and build a winner. Why would you pass on another puzzle piece because it is not right now exactly what you want. He fits the bill and will help. Get him. More than 2 to 3 more years of suckitude is not an option. The leafs would no longer be wading in a pool of suckitude, but would be swimming in a sea of Suckiousity. That is worse.

GBDonaldson said...

Give him a 2 year contract as incentive to play well so that when we are making our big push, he'll either have a) proven himself or b) can become a UFA and take his lazy game elsewhere