It All Started, or Ended, With Versteeg

People love playing the blame game, and with the horrible second half of the Philadelphia Flyers season there is probably more culpability to go around than ever.

However, for a team that was playing absolutely wonderful hockey for a little over half of the season it is hard to really explain why they started a downward spiral that they can’t escape from, except for the fact that a new player was added to the fold at the same time the team stopped looking like the playoff favorite.

Maybe Kris Versteeg isn’t the only reason the team has stunk recently, but his addition didn’t do much positives in the long run. On paper Versteeg looks like a great pick-up. He plays on the power play, the penalty kill, knows what back checking is and how to do it, and was on the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning team last season. However, after spending half of a season learning bad habits with the Toronto Maple Leafs and being shuffled over to a team that is lacking a group of veteran leadership that most cup winning franchises consist of may have caused Versteeg to lose his way a bit.

Perhaps Versteeg shouldn’t be blamed at all. We can go one step further and push it all on Paul Holmgren, the Flyers General Manager. For a team that has always tried to add a piece to the puzzle to help them get over the proverbial hump and hoist the Cup, this years addition was more perplexing than helpful.

Usually the Flyers are somewhere in the middle of the pack and a trade deadline move helps fortify a roster that is in need of a certain type of player. This year the Flyers were the top dog; they didn’t need any help to be the best team in the league, especially from another kid.

If Holmgren felt a move actually needed to be made, adding a solid veteran who has the wisdom to understand how hard the road to the playoffs is and how special the current Flyers team is would have made a lot more sense. Players such as Cory Stillman, Brad Boyes, or Bryan McCabe could have offered the team more depth, which is what trade deadline additions are all about, but could have also added invaluable veteran leadership for a bunch of youngsters trying to out-do last year.

The young players on this Flyers roster are talented, but also might have the tendency to get a little full of themselves. When everyone tells you that your team is great, starting to believe it and lay off a bit of the tenacity that was present early on is easy to do. A veteran could help restore that fight and hunger that the players seem to have lost somewhere along the way.

Versteeg has the chance to be a quality player in the NHL, but winning a Cup so young and being traded to a team that was primed for one this year may have built up his ego to a point that it shouldn’t be residing at.

Whether you want to blame one player, a bunch of players, injuries, goalies, or the general manager, it is all relatively secondary. If they can somehow turn it on it all becomes moot, but if they don’t fans will be looking for a scapegoat. Who is that going to be? Take your pick.

  1. Being from Toronto I was sad to see Versteeg go. Watching him play for half a season, I think he will start ramping it up for the Flyers once he really begins to mesh with the team. Expect to see Versteeg 2.0 come playoff time.

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