Nik Zherdev – The case for the Czar of Relative Corsi



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In light of Russian hockey journalist Dmitry Chesnokov tweeting that “[Nikolay] Zherdev’s Russian agent says the player is considering only NHL offers at this point,” you have to think that either a) the player is mulling a series of offers or b) no team has put forth a serious offer to the player.

Let’s be clear. Nikolay Zherdev wants to play in the National Hockey League and belongs in the National Hockey League. You’d need upwards of all my fingers and toes to count the number of teams that could use a scoring winger at a good price. Zherdev made just $2M last season and could be had by a team for below market value.

There aren’t many good reasons to keep Nikolay Zherdev off your hockey team, and they certainly aren’t apparent in any of his advanced numbers, which highlight the fact that he’s quite valuable at both ends of the ice. The numbers are taken from Behind The Net and are included with Zherdev’s rank among forwards on his team who played more than 50 games.

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Year Team G/60 Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QoC
2008 CBJ .95 (2nd) 11.2 (1st) .460 (6th)
2009 NYR .94 (3rd) 11.4 (2nd) .344 (9th)
2011 PHI 1.29 (3rd) 17.3 (1st) .221 (9th)

I’ve taken the liberty to nickname Zherdev “The Czar of Relative Corsi”, which is right up the top of his team. Unsigned. The one guy on your team who can dominate possession for your team, with finishing ability, unsigned.

I will point out similar statistics to another second line player who recently signed as an unrestricted free agent on a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. I’m leaving the player’s name out as to allow a bias-free comparison.

Year G/60 Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QoC
2009 .90 (4th) .9 (8th) .672 (1st)
2010 1.10 (5th) -10.7 (12th) .350 (5th)
2011 .81 (5th) -6.1 (10th) .136 (8th)

Zherdev offers more scoring punch and better play at both ends. Based off last year’s statistics in particular, you see quite a change between the two players. The ability to drive possession isn’t one that should be overlooked, as the teams that obtain the most possession tend to be pretty high seeds heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Speaking of the playoffs, Zherdev’s underlying possession number tends to be pretty high there, as well.

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Year Team Corsi Rel
2009 NYR 6.9 (6th)
2011 PHI 17.3 (1st)

A perception exists that Zherdev is lazy or fails to listen to his coach. Of course Zherdev works hard: Why else would a hockey player fly across the ocean when he could make more money and get more playing time back home? If Zherdev doesn’t backcheck, it’s because he doesn’t necessarily have to–his team always seems to have the puck when he’s on the ice. His playoff numbers have taken a hit due to some bad luck: He ran into Semyon Varlamov when Varlamov played the best he’s ever has, and this season played against Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas. Take your pick of individual achievements between those two goalies. His shooting percentages have dipped, but he maintains positive possession.

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.

  • The manner in which Zherdev has been blacklisted in the league despite obvious talent and decent numbers means there something has to be going on behind the scenes. I know he has a domestic abuse charge pending this summer, but it began long before that. I mean…is he that big a jerk on the locker room or what?

    • Danny Gray

      It must be. I’d love for someone who has access to answer this question. GMs must know his numbers. I suspect the answer is probably, he’s an asshole or something.

    • Danny Gray

      It must be an off-ice issue. Would love if someone could find out from Holmgrem or another GM why they all hate him. Has to be a locker room issue. Seems like the perfect guy for a Fantasy Team, not so much for a real one.

  • Oyo

    Hmmm I would rather have this guy signed for two years at 2 or less then Morrison for this year. We could use him next year and give him legit top 6. Iggy and sutter would Keep him in line. In fact to make room I would deal Bourque for 2nd and GOOD prospect.

  • Derzie

    This is the 2nd article that dilutes the value of CORSI. I don’t know the details of what the stat is but as a casual observer it doesn’t seem to translate into anything consistent and meaningful from a real-world hockey sense. Maybe I’m missing something. They can’t all be explained away by ‘personality’ can they? Just asking.

  • Derzie

    Thanks for the article. If this guy is as good as your calculations suggest, this guy would be a dream to play along side Backlund. Puck possesion with a high-end skill player like Zherdev is the type of game I see Backlund exceling at. We should buy-out TK and Ivanans, then trade Hagman for a 2nd rounder. Kent, call up Feaster and tell him to get it done.

  • JoeHallenback

    Sweet jesus a corsi guy

    Sorry but have you ever seen Zherdev play or what his former coaches and teammates had to say about him?

    This would be his what 5th or 6th team in the last 5 years? That has to send all kinds of alarm bells.

    Just say no to enigmatic russians


      The crux of the post is your question: His numbers are strong so why is he not signed?

      However, it doesn’t delve into rumours about his partying or what an asshole he is in the dressing room so I guess it leaves a lot to be desired?

    • Zherdev is an interesting case, because his underlying (and counting numbers for that matter) don’t sync up with the manner in which he’s treated by the NHL. There’s clearly an issue, but it doesn’t show up all that strongly in his results.

      There’s no question there’s something up with him. I think he’d be worth a gamble since he could be had for cheap though.

  • Ken V.

    Why not? He is better than Hagman by a mile and cheaper… I have been wondering though why he is yet to be signed and thought it could possibly be an off-ice issue or maybe his agent is a dick, but worth the gamble IMO.

  • Blueliner611


    I agree some team should give Zherdev a contract, but this is one of the few cases where i think advanced statistics don’t tell the whole story.

    I believe the unnamed player you referred to is Ville Leino. I’m probably wrong, but he did sign a multiyeIar deal (that I feel was excessive for the Sabres to offer). I don’t think he’s a $4.5 million / year guy.

    As a Flyers season ticket holder, I can tell you this: I almost always felt better when Leino had the puck. Zherdev could possess the puck, to be sure, but I remember quite a few times that that possession would end with a blind, cross-ice pass in the offensive zone that would lead to an odd-man rush for the other team.

    That said, I think Nik has tremendous upside. He’s a talented guy, and I never quite felt that the Flyer’s brass gave him a fair shake (though as others have said, no one knows what off-ice or locker room incidents may have led to that). I would not have been upset had the Flyers re-signed him.

    Despite his occassional ill choice (and honestly, what player isn’t guilty of those from time to time), I still feel he can offer whatever team signed him more upside than down.