Posts Tagged ‘ Flyers ’

In Nee(D) of Help

Trade rumors are an everyday occurrence in sports and the Philadelphia Flyers are no different than anyone else. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to boost him to play at a higher level. That is the reasoning that propels many trades in the National Hockey League involving veterans. It’s not always that easy, which is why the success rate when bringing someone in is not always great, remember Kris Versteeg in Philadelphia, but the Flyers try to make moves to better their team during the season almost every year, and, once again this year, a move is imminent. Although it seems to have been put on hold currently.

The backline for the Flyers is stagnant, in need of a definite change to spark some life to it, but is there a viable option in the trade market? Being near the top in the league in scoring is great, however when coupled with ranking in the lower third for goals against it doesn’t help win playoff games, let alone championships.

Erik Gustafsson offered the team some much-needed options, both on the rink and in the front office. With his emergence on the rink as a quality NHL level defensemen the Flyers were rumored to be shopping around Matt Carle, once a stalwart on the blue line when paired with Chris Pronger, who is now plagued by constant turnovers and lackluster effort. The plan seemed to be working smoothly and trading Carle for another defensive option was clearly the way the front office wanted to go, but Gustafsson subsequently injured his wrist and has been placed on long term injured reserve, effectively ending any trade moves for at least 6 weeks.

With more time to stew about the current roster while watching opponents cut through the defense with ease the need gets increasingly more evident from game to game. Whether the Flyers want to bring in a promising young talent or a wily old veteran is moot, something needs to happen for this team to have consistent showings in the future. But, that being said, there’s no reason we can’t speculate. Here are the best possible defensemen that could use a change of scenery.

 Johnny Oduya – The Winnipeg Jets are an oddly built team that is looking for depth throughout their roster. Given that realization, Oduya may be available, for the right price. What is that? To get this young defenseman the Flyers would have to part ways with a player like Brayden Schenn.

 Luke Schenn – If the Flyers are willing to part with their own Schenn, swapping Brayden for his older brother, defenseman Luke Schenn from the Toronto Maple Leafs, should be high on their list. Luke is having a much-maligned start to his 2011-12 season and catching a lot of grief for it in Toronto. Creating a need for a fresh start in a new city.

 Shea Weber – The biggest fish in the small pond of available defenseman is Weber, Nashville’s blue chipper who had to go through arbitration to get his current contract, a one-year deal. Getting him in mid-season would cost more than the Flyers are willing to part with, but it would be a gigantic splash. Remember when Scott Hartnell was on the trading block and was then moved to the Giroux/Jagr line. There are plenty of players that can flourish in that scenario, and Hartnell’s stock has risen because of it.

 Ryan Suter – If the waters aren’t warm for Weber, the Flyers should inquire about Suter, another Nashville defenseman who is rumored to be on the trading block, along with Weber, but at a considerably cheaper rate. The Predators can’t afford both players, so depending on whom they want to keep the other will be available.

 Johnny Boychuck – The Bruins are stout defensively and could part with Boychuck. A physical blue liner that could add another right-handed slap shot to the power play is always a welcomed addition.

 Cory Sarich – There have been rumblings that Sarich is on his way out in Calgary after being a healthy scratch in five straight games. He is the epitome of tough and doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in the Flames roster. A move should be on the horizon for him, at relatively cheap costs.


Hello to the Old and the New

Tonight’s Flyers game introduced another new epoch that the front office had envisioned during the summer of change; first off, it showcased the ability that Jaromir Jagr has to put the puck in the net during games that actually matter. After seeing him score against us for so many years it was a nice change of pace. With two quick snapshot breakaway goals Jagr reaffirmed the notion that he should be feared by defenses around the league when given space, despite his grey hair and wrinkles. His shot, stick handling, and quick bursts of speed are still evident, and will continue to improve thanks to his incessant work ethic, study time, and fervor to be great (late night practices galore). It also re-introduced us to Scott Hartnell. (Yes, believe it or not he is still on the roster) He recently was fortunate enough to replace James Van Riemsdyk on the top scoring line, and partnering up with Giroux and Jagr seems to have reinvigorated his game, which had lost its way as of late.

The move paid off quickly, when Hartnell netted two goals in his second appearance on the line and looked more like a player worth a cap hit above four million dollars instead of the salary dump that many viewed him as early on in the season. (Remember the Nashville rumors?) Keeping Hartnell on the top line is a no brainer if he can keep up his hot streak, but even if his numbers start to dip he could still make his presence felt with his physical play and energy in the dirty areas. He added an element to the former Briere-Leino line that was invaluable to its success, and could prove to be the type of spark plug that boosts everyone on the Giroux line.

In this young season the Flyers have looked great, good, okay, downright horrible, pathetic, uninspired, and above average. No, not all at once, but the team must search for an identity that allows the young skaters to feel comfortable while also taking advantage of their strengths on a regular basis. Laviolette’s system takes time to be implemented and has proven to work in the past, but requires certain attributes and instinctive that may be foreign to rookies.

So what does this Flyers team need to make consistent play a habit? Stability within the roster, strong skating, and a commitment to back checking are always at the top of the list.

Matt Read and Brayden Schenn have both seemed to supplant themselves within the lineup for the foreseeable future, while Harry Zolniercyzk and Zac Rinaldo will likely make the trek from Glens Falls to Philadelphia and back on a regular basis, however one decision is still up in the air. With the time quickly approaching regarding what to do with Sean Couturier, the 18 year old 1st round draft pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft, there are a few possible directions the Flyers can still go with their roster.

There are parties on both sides of the line, whether to send Couturier back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) or keep him up in the NHL, but the one major sticking point is always going to be money. Couturier has a few things to work on, some are tangible like skating and strength, and some are intangible like maturity and patience, but he has proven himself to be worthy of the high draft pick and can certainly hack it in the big time.

However, by pushing him back to Juniors, where he has had back to back 96 point seasons, doing so in 68 games and 58 games respectively, the Flyers can push back his contract another year, making his NHL contract essentially void for this season, and giving another year to the back end, when he will undoubtedly have improved both the tangibles and intangibles in his game.

Overall he’s looked better than Brayden Schenn and certainly sports better stats, but centering a fourth line with Talbot and Shelley could make it harder for the youngster to make a dent during the season. Given the possibilities the Flyers have financially with Couturier in the future it is surprising to keep him up this year, however his impressive play and the recent moves to clear cap space and contract amounts to fit him into this years plans have made it clear that Couturier will be around past the tenth game.

With the season being so fresh, and the book on this Flyers make-up so thin there are few things to go on, but with some chemistry and dependability starting to show the Flyers could be pushing towards the type of year that Ed Snider had envisioned

40 Gets You WHAT!?!?

I guess Carter and Richards taught him well...before they left.

We are all led to believe that life works the same for everyone. Go to school to learn a trade, and then eventually, after proving your self worth to a company willing to hire you for said trade, you will be paid accordingly, based on your worth to the company and your proficiency at the chosen craft. But wouldn’t it be nice to leave school and get paid for what your employer thinks you’re capable of, instead of the base salary amount?
It’s simple to change the path, all you have to do is become a professional athlete and that dream will become your reality.

Professional sports stars are paid in such a way that undermines the basic ideology of how our country works. Highly touted rookies’ contracts routinely crack the multi-million dollar figure despite the fact that they’ve proved nothing, and with incentives and endorsements it’s a guarantee that the pockets in their soon to be sewn custom suits will need to be made bigger than normal, along with their credit limit.

The recent signing of James VanRiemsdyk can be lumped into this category as well. While JVR is not a rookie, one good postseason, consisting of 2 series, coupled with an average regular season campaign, in which he scored 40 points total, does not add up to a six-year, 25.5 million dollar extension. Well it doesn’t for everyone but the Philadelphia Flyers.

What do Eric Belanger, Sergei Samsonov, Simon Gagne, Lauri Korpikoski, David Booth, and Mike Knuble have in common? That’s the offensive company that JVR has in the 40-point club this past year, none of which jump off the page. So how did JVR earn such a lucrative contract in the new penny-pinching, salary cap stricken NHL? Potential? Possibly. If he comes out this year and scores 50 goals while leading the team deep into the playoffs the Flyers front office will look like geniuses. Paul Holmgren could write his own checks at that point. More of a probability is the fact that the Flyers looked into their crystal ball and realized that they don’t have a legitimate, youthful, big-time scoring threat on their roster besides the hopes of JVR.

The deepest team in the league last year has gotten slimmer and older rather quickly. Leading goal scorer, gone. Second place is 33. Third is more of a playmaker than a sniping threat. Fourth leading scorer is just plain lucky, and fifth place is gone. They already gave massive amounts of rubles to the new goalie, what else are they going to do with money that seems to be burning a hole in their bank account? Overpay for a right-winger seems to have been high on their summer to-do list.

The move still urges fans to jump on each side of the proverbial fence; are you a fan of the deal or are you not? If you are, chances are high that it is because you have been drinking the same kool-aid as the front office, effectively drilling the belief that JVR will grow into one of the strongest scoring threats that this league has to offer into your mind. If you are skeptical, you are not alone. With a bigger cap hit than Claude Giroux, who is widely viewed as the Flyers most talented player, the deal comes with question marks. However, Giroux’s deal does not bypass his immediate year of eligibility for unrestricted free agency the way JVR’s does. Translation, Giroux’s next contract will come sooner, be much larger, and may include more bidders than just the Flyers.

While it is a lot of money for a presumably unproven high draft pick from a few years back, the fact of the matter is that the money is there, and with no where else to put it why not take a roll of the dice? With the departure of Richards and Carter the management has successfully proven that contract amounts and lengths do not matter to them in the slightest, and will undoubtedly try to rectify their potential mistake by shipping him out of town if the need eventually arises.

Translation, a JVR jersey is just as safe as a Richards one was.

What’s With all the Black and Gold

As with many fans of the Philadelphia Flyers I waited with baited breath on July 1st. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. In fact I’m still waiting for the organization to make that one big move that everyone was sure would come. Perhaps not to the levels of Steven Stamkos, but maybe Ales Hemsky or Paul Stastny or another player on that level. After all, there had to have been someone the flyers brass were targeting, right? It seems as if that was common knowledge.

After bidding adieu to Mike Richards and Jeff Carter my Philadelphia Flyers t-shirt collection has been dwindling. I have been forced to retire my previous sweaters and players’ shirts emblazoned with their names due to common fandom rules. If there is any reason for a big move to be made it is clearly my wardrobe, well and for the team to get better, but that is obviously second.

First came the news that no offer would be made to Steven Stamkos, arguably the second or third best player in the league. Given the price tag to acquire him, and the subsequent truckload of money it would take to sign him to a long-term contract it was an easy pill to swallow. Then came reports that the Flyers were one of the frontrunners to land Jaromir Jagr.

Jaromir Jagr

Was I supposed to gasp? They were going to possibly sign a guy who has over 600 career goals and nearly a thousand assists in his NHL career, how could that news not be exciting?

Because Jagr is not Teemu Selanne, a player in the twilight of his NHL years but is still a stud. He’s not even Niklas Lidstrom caliber these days. Granted, Lidstrom is a defenseman, but the point is that he cannot lead a team any which way you slice it. There is a reason Jagr played in Russia. You might be saying that that reason is his desire to play in his home country, but the simple fact that he signed a one year deal to play for the Flyers immediately disproves that notion. Add to the over-the-hill comments the understanding that Jagr was a Penguin, and will always be remembered as a Penguin, and you have a bigger reason for dislike. Sure, he was a Ranger for a quick second among a few other quick layovers, but don’t act like it won’t be weird when Jagr dons his number 68 orange and black sweater and you are asked to cheer.

That was the biggest hurdle I had to jump in order to be okay with the signing, and just about the time I came to grips with the idea, the Flyers decided to sign another Penguin. Not a “once beloved” penguin, or a former penguin, but Maxime Talbot. Paul Holmgren must have been playing a joke. He scored two goals in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals to bring the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, but outside of that is there a Talbot highlight of him playing hockey that I’ve missed? I understand that he had a few quality segments in HBO’s 24/7, but that doesn’t exactly convey greatness. This is the same guy who fought Dan Carcillo and then put his finger up to his mouth to silence the Philadelphia crowd before the penguins came back from three goals down to win; he is now a Flyer, and everyone seems to be okay with that.


Yes, really. I’ve said it before and it still rings true, as fans we have to cheer when our team tries to make itself better. We cheer, scream, throw things, lose our voices, waste our money, and dissect every pass, shot, and hit the players make because we want to be watching hockey in June. We want to be able to wear a Flyers shirt proudly in the beginning of summer and all the way through until next season.

Maxime Talbot

Talbot and Jagr are not the sexiest choices that were available, but their mix of veteran knowhow and playoff leadership may help propel the team to new heights. With a large make-up of young talent these types of men are a necessity, and will hopefully make their money as much in the locker room as they do on the rink. When you spend your time looking at the box score of the game this upcoming season you will not be getting the entire story. Talbot is scrappy, a quality that goes for miles in Philadelphia sports allure, and Jagr is a rental that might work out nicely for a quick jolt to the top of the heap. Most important, they’ve been there before, something you cannot put a price on. Maybe it is a Talbot speech that will help the Flyers overcome a hole to come back in the third period to win a game, or maybe it is Jagr’s prowess with the puck in tight spaces that will help vault Brayden Schenn’s young career to new heights when given free space. Their productivity is beyond points per game or plus/minus numbers, and at some point we will all understand that. Hopefully in the playoffs.

Talbot Hoisting the Cup

The signings took a while to get used to, and seeing Jagr in a Flyers jersey will be weird for quite some time, especially when flashbacks of him in black and gold drift into my memory, but with the absence of any big move you have to be okay with the idea that the Flyers are building this team the right way, without suckering themselves into big contracts. Maybe they still have a trick up their sleeve regarding the eventual destination of Sergei Bobrovsky, but for now we can just sit and ponder what is to come.

Although my closet is a little mad at them for waiting.

Melrose quality Mullet

Blowing Up and Starting Over

New homes for Carter and Richards, far away from one another.

It must have been a dream.

Price check on item numbers 17 and 18, again that’s price check on #17 and #18. Is the “store” crazy to sell the two lynchpins of their franchise at the same time for a seemingly discounted rate? This is the best sale of the century!

In fact it was not a dream at all, it is simply the tale of the Philadelphia Flyers’ moves in 28 hours leading up to the NHL entry draft, told from the perspective of anyone who has not had the proverbial “privilege” of being a flyers fan. Trading away two players that were touted to be the cornerstones of a franchise may seem brash, and in some circles even downright stupid, but the move to part ways with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will pay dividends this year and for years to come. Two players, two long-term contracts, countless headaches by every fan, and zero Stanley Cups in the trophy case at the Wells Fargo Center with this group seems to have worn down the effervescent Ed Snider to a point of no return. Reasons that forced the chairman to inform GM Paul Holmgren to get rid of the two players he once stated he would take over Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Maybe it’s not the play of Richards and Carter that can be blamed for the lack of results in this most recent playoff run; however, wearing the C on your sweater automatically pushes you to the front of the line in the pecking order when a finger needs to be pointed, and wearing the A means you aren’t far down that line. The goalie was an easy scapegoat for everyone to place blame on regarding the failures this season, and despite believing that Sergei Bobrovsky will eventually be a solid goaltender in the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers tried to set the record straight, they aren’t okay with ‘eventually’. In three swift moves on one day the Flyers freed up cap space, freed themselves from two hefty contracts, got younger, acquired a future stud in Brayden Schenn, and locked up the cream of the free agent goalie crop, Ilya Bryzgalov for an exorbitant amount of time, and got better in the process.

Brayden Schenn, a highly touted youngster

If you were previously unsure, the name of the game is winning ‘now’, it always has been for this organization. They’ve just become accustomed to coming up short. Mid-season pick-ups, off-season maneuvers, and the outwardly constant shuffle of coaches have made that abundantly clear. The organization wants to win and were previously willing to do a good amount to try and make that happen. They have now proven that they are willing to do anything. Re-working the top of the line-up to accommodate the signing of Bryzgalov was not a necessity, but has been done with the overall purpose of re-formulating the game plan in an effort to hoist the Cup.

They could have taken the most logical path and traded away Carter, a move that would not have shocked many Flyers fans, in order to make room for the goaltender we so desperately needed. Instead they decided to give the 2011-12 Flyers a new identity, from the top down, by trading Richards along with the aforementioned Carter. Logical? Not exactly. Gutsy? You bet. If it all works out then the empty feeling that some fans had when they heard the news will be forgotten, replaced with joyous praise and multiple hugs, from people who don’t normally give hugs, once they see the big shiny Cup paraded down Broad St.

The idea that the Flyers are now better than they were with Richards and Carter is debatable, and obviously is rather hard to prove given the lack of finality that this roster currently has, or the understanding that they have yet to play a game. That being said, the constant question of “who is leading this team?” is now gone. The laid back attitude that both players seemed to have regarding losses, a trait that was nauseating to a fan base that detested even the idea of losing, is gone.

What is now added is the stress of figuring out a roster that is presently unfinished. There is still a fair amount of cap space, and there are more moves that need to occur to help round out the roster; but isn’t it nice that the Flyers finally have some wiggle room? For a team that is notorious for running their cap up to the ceiling, and sometimes being forced to sign college kids to 24 hour deals, having the ability to pick and choose what to do next is a welcomed change, and could be the remedy that they need.

With a new Captain, most likely Chris Pronger, and a group of young players that will be asked to step into the spotlight, like Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk, this Flyers team has the opportunity to exceed expectations. There are sure to be some growing pains when players are asked to take on strange roles while the team takes on a different identity, but as the team moves forward, having the ability to make necessary moves and round out a roster the right way gives the Flyers a better chance now than before.

That’s the point, right?

It's their team now

What We Learned

Game 1 of the 2011 Flyers vs. Bruins series started off with a proverbial thud for the home team, but what can the coach, the team, and the fans take from the whipping?

Forget the irrelevant. In a pregame interview with NBC, 43-year-old Mark Recchi, a former Flyer and current Bruin, said that the Bruins players have not been pre-occupied with thoughts of making up for last years blown chance of closing out the Flyers after taking a three games to none lead. “Nearly half of this team wasn’t here last year, so it’s not a big deal to us. We are just focused on this year.” Same old cliché’s from a veteran hockey player who does not want to give his opponent any headlines to post on the bulletin board in the locker room. It is completely understandable for Recchi to not draw attention to the past; but if you believe that the Bruins players haven’t been thinking about a rematch since game-seven ended last year, then you probably have pictures of the Lochness Monster, Big Foot, and the Abominable Snowman hanging up in your room. At the same time, the Flyers can’t think of what happened last year, its not going to help them this time around.

Impose fear and close shooting lanes. The Flyers not only have to match the Bruins physical play, with more than Pronger and JVR answering the call, but they also must sacrifice themselves in front of shots for the sake of the team as much as Boston is willing to do. That does not mean that they should go out and hit everything that moves or lay down in front of every shot taken, it means they have to be physical and smart at the same time.

Stay out of the box. The Bruins power play is basically non-existent, but it was easy to see that penalties kill momentum in one fell swoop, damaging any hopes of building sustained pressure on top of one or two positive plays.

Help out the goalie. It is abundantly clear that Tim Thomas is better than whichever goalie plays for the Flyers. Realizing that fact means that the Flyers defense has to play twice as hard as the Bruins do without the calming sense to rely on in net. Covering open spaces in the slot and behind the net, tying up opponents sticks that have any chance of redirecting a shot, back-checking at a fervent pace, and keeping the odd-man rushes to a minimum are all musts. When the weakness is the goalie the idea is to make it easier on him, not to showcase the biggest flaw even more.

Set up match-ups that work in the Flyers favor. Why is the fourth line playing against the Bruins top line? What has Carcillo done to garner so much love and top-line playing time from the coaching staff? As the home team the Flyers have the ability to get the last change before the puck drops. Even the Bruins coach, Claude Julien, said he wants to keep his top guys away from “certain players” on the Flyers bench. Well he only gets the ability to set that up in three games this series, other than that he has to try and react to what Laviolette does. Take advantage of it!

Ultimately, this playoff series will involve the athlete’s body, heart, and determination more than his ability with his stick. Some Flyers players didn’t figure that out before Game 1 was out of reach.

‘All About Bob’ to ‘What About Bob’ in 24 Hours

Five goals against Ryan Miller is no easy task.

The Philadelphia Flyers offense came alive in game two of their round one match-up with the Buffalo Sabres. The only problem was that the Sabres were able to match the Flyers throughout their first period onslaught, making the difference between game one and game two about as opposite as possible. For lack of a better comparison, it was night and day.

Bobrovsky was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots. Awful? Absolutely, but it is not as though the outing was impossible to rebound from, especially considering the ability that Bob has shown this season to bounce back from losses and play well.

Tonight Brian Boucher will start in net. After a solid performance in his game two substitution and a general rumor that the players like to play in front of Boucher more than Bob it is not surprising that game three features the veteran goalie starting between the pipes. What is surprising is the backup situation. Naturally one would assume that Bob would simply put on a hat, take a seat and work the bench’s door, waiting for his time to avenge himself.

So much for that thought! Michael Leighton has been named the backup goalie for the first away game for the Flyers. I will give you some time to put your eyes back in your skulls and close your jaw. Once again, Leighton is the backup for game three. A player who has faced 36 NHL level shots this season, where he allowed 4 goals against in his only appearance, and was subsequently sent down to the Phantoms for some “conditioning training”.

Sporting a 2.22 goals against average and a 93 percent save percentage sounds impressive, except when you take into account it was all done in the AHL, the minor league. Add to that the fact that he only went 14-12 and his promotion from Phantoms starter to backup goalie for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations boggles the mind. Let’s be honest, the last vivid memory Flyers fans have of this guy is the soft goal he let up against Patrick Kane that allowed the Blackhawks to skate away with the Cup in the Flyers building. If something happens to Boucher can he really be counted on after a third of a year in the AHL and that memory surely in his head?

Peter Laviolette is a great coach, a king of the timeout in last years playoff run, and trusts Leighton ever since he picked him up off of waivers from Carolina last season, but this decision not only influences this season, but many to come. If the Flyers view Bobrovsky as a possible NHL stud goaltender down the line they should strongly question this decision internally.

Not allowing the kid to prove himself will become a detriment to his overall confidence level and may eventually come back to bite the organization in the rear.

That being said, hopefully Boucher finds his playoff magic, Leighton will not have to be used, and everyone can celebrate a spirited effort in a Flyers victory tonight.