On December 27, 2010, as reported earlier today by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, the New Jersey Devils have officially recalled Vladimir Zharkov.
The young Russian winger put in 40 games of work last season, largely on the fourth line. Yet, despite his limited minutes and his total lack of goals, he was a more useful player than some may realize. He had the best on-ice Corsi rate among all Devils last season - both unadjusted (15.36) and adjusted for zone start (12.289). Yes, even better than Zach Parise. Zharkov also led the Devils in penalties drawn-to-taken ratio last season, having drew 15 while taking only 1 all season. Even his 15 drawn calls was good for second on the team last season, behind Parise who drew 39 calls.
Between those two stats alone, it was clear that in spite of what usually comes with fourth line duty - weak competition, weak teammates - when Zharkov was on the ice, the puck was going in the right direction and he helped get 2 minutes of offense for the team from time to time. That's a positive value for a fairly quick and responsible winger; a big reason why he's a favorite here at In Lou We Trust. Recall that Kevin was wondering why he wasn't called up back in October; at least he's getting his chance now.
Perhaps he wasn't recalled earlier to see if he can be more productive in Albany? While I don't follow Albany regularly, I'd think he's not a player who could go goalless in 40 NHL games based on what he's done this season. After all, he leaves Albany currently tied with Matt Anderson for the team lead in scoring.
|2010-11 - Vladimir Zharkov - Albany||29
He won't make the Devils instantly better, but his inclusion can help out the bottom 6. This leads to the following question: who should sit for Zharkov? Normally, players aren't called up just to sit. In practice today, Gulitti saw him on the fourth line with Rod Pelley, David Clarkson, and Adam Mair. Presumably, Jacques Lemaire would play him on the fourth line so one of those 3 would sit. Pelley and Mair don't contribute much in the way of offense, so replacing either with Zharkov could be a lift. Clarkson's play has been tepid as of late, perhaps a scratching for a game or two can help get his mind right or at least get the hint to play more like he did last season.
I'd also suggest that Tim Sestito should look to impress real soon, since it may be his turn to sit. Sestito was called up from Albany initially as cover. While he's enjoyed being a center with some players most coaches wouldn't put a guy like Sestito with (clearly, John MacLean is not most coaches), he could be on the outs since he's done little with his increased ice time. That's not good for him, given that the Devils have several forwards who can play both wing and center like Sestito.
Given today's news, let's make it a poll. Who should sit for Zharkov? Please tell me why you made your choice in the comments. Thanks for reading.