Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Alexei Zhitnik: Stick a Fork in Him?

A few years ago the New Jersey Devils signed Richard Matvichuk (age 32) Vladimir Malakhov (age 37) and Alexander Mogilny (36). All three of these players proved ineffective in the speedier NHL and the Devils had to make some tough choices. One of the players "retired" and another was sent to the minors.

The Thrashers organization now needs to make that call on Alexei Zhitnik (age 36). He is simply no longer an effective player in the NHL. Earlier in the season Don Waddell described him as being "out of shape" but we are now in late January and he has been playing for nearly four months. Zhitnik needs to either retire or be sent to the minors. He is hurting the Thrashers every single night he dresses and there are few reasons to think he is going to suddenly improve. If he is still "out of shape" then let him get his form back in the AHL playing 20 minutes a night and riding the bus.

The truth is that Zhitnik is either no longer mobile enough to keep up with NHL forwards or he lacks the mental ability to adjust to the fact that he has lost a step (unlike say Ken Klee who is not fast but reasonable effective). Last night in New York Zhitnik prematurely dropped to one knee to block a potential pass only to watch Dubinsky skate around him and score an easy goal on an abandoned Kari Lehtonen. Later in the game during four on four action Tobias Enstrom pinched carried the puck deep in the Rangers zone. Zhitnik failed to act as the safety valve and allowed himself to be trapped up ice for an easy break away goal by the Rangers.

Zhitnik's blown coverage versus the Rangers is nothing new. Time after time I have replayed goals against the Thrashers on my DVR at home in which Zhitnik cruises into the TV picture after the damage has been done. I can't believe that I'm the only person that is getting sick of seeing this on my TV screen each game.

Don Waddell is patient man, patient to a fault sometimes. If he sticks with Zhitnik the rest of the season it might very well cost the Thrashers a playoff berth (just as his choice not to trade for a goaltender in the 2005-06 season ultimately cost the team the playoffs that year). The Thrashers have 31 games remaining and they simply must get the maximum out of every position in the lineup.

As a 15 year veteran Alexi Zhitnik earned the right to be given a chance to turn around his season. Zhitnik has been given that and more and now. Now it is time for the Thrashers to act in the best interests of the team and either bench him or send him down to the AHL and play Popovic in his place.

8 Comments:

  • If I were DW, I'd do what Pittsburgh did with Recchi. Send him to the minors (thereby placing him on waiver), and hope someone claims him. If not, bring him back up closer to the trading deadline and hope someone claims him. If not, then cut ties with him. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I think Popovic and Wojohowitz (whatever) are a better pairing and appear to be more cosistent.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:41 AM  

  • Funny, when Zhitnik was traded here, wasn't he supposed to help us on the POWER PLAY (thank you, Steve Craig) as a puck-handling d-man? Problem is, he's helping the OTHER TEAM far more than he's helping us.

    That being said, it IS time for him to go, and for the T-birds to eat his salary...

    By Anonymous Wayne, at 12:04 PM  

  • He skates as if he has a cinder block on each foot, but the more I watch him, the more I'm convinced that the majority of the battles he loses (which is a lot) are lost due to sheer laziness. He could at least pretend to care.

    Laziness combined with poor foot speed makes for one hell of a defenseman.

    He must go.

    By Anonymous silverpork, at 1:44 PM  

  • We have many more problems than usual this season. D-Wad isn't a coach, and that has morale in the toilet. With the exception of Tobias Enstrom our defense is in a shambles. I like Exelby, but he isn't half the player this season that he was last. Popovic has shown signs that he can play if given the chance. I'm convinced that Klee has semi-quit because of despair being paired with the useless Zhitnik. I fully understand why the Coburn trade was made last year, but, for a few weeks that Zhitnik helped last spring, we are hamstrung for another year & half now, and, we lost a top prospect in Braydon. When it comes to our defense I think that the word dysfunctional fits just dandy!

    By Blogger Tween the Pipes, at 5:30 PM  

  • It was time to let Zhitnik go in pre-season. I cringe every time he steps out on the ice.

    When is Waddell going to figure out how to put a decent D line out there?

    By Anonymous rn, at 7:57 PM  

  • Tween the pipes, I don't think it's quite as bad as you do, but you're close. Havelid has been much closer to the player he was the first half of last season, and that's a good thing. The fact that he and Enstrom wound up as +1 the other night against Buffalo is pretty amazing. I still think X is a very solid 3rd pairing guy, but that's our biggest problem - most of our D is solid as a 3rd or 4th pair guy. You can even make a strong case that Havelid and Enstrom are 2nd line guys on most teams (and third on a few). I had really hoped that DW would make a move in the off-season for a true 1st line D-man, because there were certainly a bunch available. Who knows, maybe he did and he just couldn't close the deal, but whether he did or didn't, the fact is that we don't have one now, and I don't think we've ever had one on this team.

    By Anonymous silverpork, at 10:11 AM  

  • You gotta laugh at "Zhitnik, stick a fork in him!" That picture is hilarious.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:46 PM  

  • That picture is hilarious but more impressive is Andrei Markov's vertical leap off skates. Sweet jebus! He almost reaches Chara height there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:48 PM  

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