“Hey, remember...?” is a lighthearted look back at some of the lesser-known former Bruins we’ve seen pass through these parts in recent years. They might not have been stars and might not be the first guys you’d think of as “former Bruins,” but they’ve all got unique stories.
Who? Alexei Zhamnov
When did he play here? 2005-2006
What were his stats? 24 GP, 1G, 9A, 10PTS
What happened after the Bruins? Nada. He rode off into the injury sunset.
The 2005-2006 season was a weird one for the Bruins.
In 2003-2004, a good Bruins team won the Northeast before losing to Montreal in seven games in the first round. The loss was bad, but it was made worse by the fact that a lockout was looming, and this talented bunch was likely going to be derailed by a work stoppage.
The 03-04 team that had “in their primes” Joe Thornton and Glen Murray bolstered by guys like Brian Rolston, Mike Knuble and a rookie named Patrice Bergeron. However, they needed a boost heading into the new season.
In a surprising move, the Bruins loosened their purse strings and signed a marquee free agent: Russian center Alexei Zhamnov.
My memory may be failing me here, but I believe the Bruins had their sights set on other guys, namely Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano. Whether they were ever realistic options or not remains a question, but Bruins fans were clamoring for a big fish.
The B’s settled on Zhamnov, paying him north of $4 million per season on a three-year deal; that’s no small change in today’s NHL, so you can imagine how much of a splash it made 13 years ago.
In Zhamnov, the Bruins were hoping to have a second-line center behind first-line guy Joe Thornton. Zhamnov came to the Bruins with a strong offensive pedigree. In 2003-2004, he had 36 points in 43 games, plus 14 points in 18 playoff games.
Before that, he had: 58 points in 74 games (02-03), 67 points in 77 games (01-02), 49 points in 63 games (00-01)...you get the point. The guy could put up points.
In fact, when he entered the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets in the 1992 season, he would start a streak of 20+ goal seasons that would last eight consecutive years, no small feat.
The problem will all of those impressive stats were that they were in the past, and Zhamnov was 34 when the Bruins signed him. And while he put up points, he also only played 43 games in 2003-2004, split between the Blackhawks and Flyers.
The warning signs were there from the beginning.
However, Zhamnov brought a jolt of excitement to the team coming out of the lockout, and marked the first real time that the Bruins attempted to shed their “cheap” label. The hope was that Zhamnov could avoid injuries and give the Bruins a solid one-two punch down the middle.
It didn’t pan out.
He had a couple of decent games for the B’s, but never really got it going, and the team struggled as a result.
If you’re a video game guy/girl, Zhamnov sticks in your memory for a different reason: Jim Hughson’s call of him in NHL06. Check it out, if you’re interested in some nostalgia.
For me, it was on the PS2, and I can still hear it vividly:
NOW HERE COMES ALEXEI ZHAMNOV, WHO WITH HIS FLAMING RED HAIR HAS EARNED THE NICKNAME “ARCHIE.”
Beautiful. Pure poetry. I don’t remember hearing many other players called by their nicknames, so this was clearly an honor for Archie.
Anyways, the nickname in NHL06 was probably the highlight of Zhamnov’s time with the Bruins. On January 7, 2006, Zhamnov suffered an ankle injury late in the second period of a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay. It was later revealed to be a fractured ankle, a brutal injury for any player, let alone a 35 year old.
That game would be the last one of Zhamnov’s NHL career. The Bruins placed him on long-term injured reserve shortly thereafter, and would do it two more times until his contract expired.
Zhamnov didn’t play again, though he has remained active in the Russian hockey world: he was the GM for the Russian team at the World Championships for a time, and was also the GM of a KHL team.
Zhamnov’s failed tenure with the Bruins raises a far larger “what if?” question, however. His struggles were mirrored by the team, and at the end of November, the Bruins were 8-13-5, 12th in the Eastern Conference.
With the team floundering, the Bruins made a franchise-altering move: they traded Joe Thornton, changing the landscape of the entire NHL for the better part of a decade.
So there’s your “what if?”: if Zhamnov flourished from the get-go in Boston and the Bruins got off to a hot start, would Mike O’Connell have made that panic move, or would that Bruins team have been given a slightly longer leash?
We’ll never know, but we’ll always have 24 games of Black and Gold and Red Hair with Archie.
Have a player you’d like to see featured in this series? Let us know in the comments!