Posts Tagged ‘ Philadelphia Flyers ’

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.

Really?

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

Advertisements

Rights to Bryzgalov, Now What?


The Flyers new hope between the pipes?


For the Philadelphia Flyers the offseason started shortly after the handshake line on May 6th, for the fans it may have started directly after the all-star break, when the wheels started to fall off of a bus that was previously headed to the Stanley Cup finals. Ever since February rolled around fans have hemmed and hawed regarding the goalie situation more than any other subject surrounding the team.

The organization as a whole has tried to alleviate some of the blame given to that specific position, trying to deflect towards ideas such as numerous injuries, intermittent spouts of lackluster play without explanation, and an overall loss of control or team accountability. The problem with these ideas is simple; none of them will fly with the fans. Goaltending has been a hot button issue for the Flyers since the 88-89 season, before Hextall’s contract issues started to effect his play, but there is a possibility that a savior is on the horizon, or so everyone hopes.

Yesterday the Flyers traded Matt Clarkson, a 2012 3rd round pick, and a conditional pick for the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov.

What does that exactly mean? The Flyers are now the only team that can negotiate a new contract with Bryzgalov until July 1st, a day where he is set to become the cream of the crop of the 2011 free agent class. Making a move to acquire rights to a player is a risky endeavor given the propensity most players have for testing the open market. At the same time, this is not the first time the Flyers have traded for negotiating rights, most recent of which was the move to negotiate with defenseman Dan Hamhuis last off-season. In that instance, a contract was never agreed upon. In theory, the addition of Bryzgalov makes the Flyers a top-tier contender for the Cup next season, but getting to that point is a lot harder than many fans might think; so before everyone rejoices and thanks the Flyers for finally answering their prayers it is a good idea to wait and see what happens at the negotiating table.

Bryzgalov made $4.5 million dollars last season for the Phoenix Coyotes and is easily the biggest reason the team has been competitive over the last two years. Now, at 31, initial reports are that Mr. Bryzgalov wants a 5-year deal somewhere in the range of 30-32 million dollars. That would average out to make him the 5th highest paid goaltender in the league, and the second, or third, depending on money, highest paid Flyer on the team, next to Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen. With 78 regular season wins over the last two years the contract amount he seeks is not astronomical, but the Flyers aren’t interested in his regular season stats. They currently have a team that finished second in the standings in the regular season, yet they did not finish where they wanted.

Each year the Flyers have excuses due to their consistency to lose when it matters most, in the playoffs. And each offseason the front office makes a collection of moves that will hopefully help the team, without ever really answering the bell on a stud goaltender, for a few reasons. They don’t grow on trees, and they aren’t necessarily required to win a championship these days. Many fans have been screaming for a “legit, playoff experienced goalie”, while at the same time throwing out two prominent names of Tomas Vokoun and Ilya Bryzgalov. Now fans are staring at the possibility of cheering for the latter choice next season, but is that a good thing?

Recently, with a subpar back-end playing in front of him Mr. Bryzgalov has faltered in the playoffs. In 2010 he lost in a first round series that went 7 games, while sporting a 3.44 GAA, which is passable but not superb. In 2011 he was swept in 4 games, with a GAA clip of 4.36 and a save percentage south of 88%, both of which are not good. The Coyotes were certainly not as talented as the Flyers are up front, but their defense was just proven to be suspect, at best, even after you take away the bad goals allowed by Boucher and Bob. Is it worth over six million dollars a year to get a passable playoff goalie? Is it worth dumping a fair amount of cap space to put him between the pipes for 5 years?

If the answer is a resounding yes, which is a forgone conclusion at this point, then some things need to happen in order for the Flyers to create enough cap space to sign Bryzgalov. Offering money to current unrestricted or restricted free agents is going to be tough. That list includes Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Carcillo, Ville Leino, Darroll Powe, Sean O’Donnell, and Brian Boucher. Acquiring cheap replacements for that crop of players is unlikely, putting many of those positions up for grabs amongst the young farm system guys in training camp. Seeing those players go leaves the Flyers with six empty roster spots and a total salary cap hit of $55.65 million next season, $3.75 under the cap.

Depending on the players involved there will need to be two, or three, big dumps of salary to generate enough cap room, fill the necessary voids, and sign Bryzgalov.

Pay attention to the small fact that Briere, Richards, Hartnell, and Timonen have ‘no trade clauses’ in their contract, making them immovable entities. Taking that into account, the easiest solution is to take a player that can generate some trade interest, usually reserved for a younger player, and has a substantial cap hit; namely, Jeff Carter (sorry ladies), and his $5.75 million dollar contract per year. In conjunction with that the possibilities are abound, and could include trading Kris Versteeg, $3.075 million next year, or Matt Carle, $3.45 million next year. Last but not least, there is still the question of Bobrovsky. It is clear that he is in need of some tutelage, but given his age and his $1.75 million dollar annual cap hit, he could be an extremely inviting proposition for a smaller market team that has the luxury of time without as much pressure.

The idea that the Flyers could finally have a true NHL proven talent at goaltender next season is enticing, but there are far too many variables at this given moment to justify throwing a party or prepping the parade floats. A top-level goalie is nice, but only when you can work it into the framework of the team. We don’t live in the pre-salary cap NHL world any longer, despite our constant wishes. While the goalie is the most important piece to the puzzle, there still are many pieces that have to be accounted for. If signing Bryzgalov leaves us a few pieces short than the same outcome is sure to come along next offseason.

Contract disputes might leave Bryzgalov in the dark

Taking A Different Look At It


After countless articles written about this Flyers team, and the pending Game 7 in Philadelphia I’ve decided to go a different route and take a look at the series from the Sabres’ fans point of view. Here it goes. For the record, I am 100% a Flyers fan, but I did this objectively.

Dear Buffalo Sabres,

What is going on? How are we facing elimination in an away game seven match-up against a team that has started three separate goalies in one playoff series when we could have ended their season at home last night? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we have Ryan Miller? He’s supposed to be the ultimate equalizer.

Yes, our team isn’t as talented or as deep, even though both teams have had 10 goal scorers in the series.

But the Flyers leading scorer in the regular season was Jeff Carter, who is currently injured. Their biggest power play chip, Chris Pronger, barely played a lick in game 6 after sitting out the rest of the series and, from the looks of it, is still nursing his hand injury. (get it, nursing, because he’s a cry-baby. Pretty good, right?) Their captain, Mike Richards, has yet to put the puck in the net and nearly decapitated Tim Connolly yet received no retribution from any Sabre? Isn’t Mike Grier on this team for the sole purpose of making guys pay for such acts? I heard that they aren’t even going to review the hit, why does the NHL hate the Sabres so much? Their best plus/minus guy in the regular season, Matt Carle, is a minus four in the playoffs, yet they’re still tied.

Their goalie carousel is playing out like a soap opera. One of them, Michael Leighton, was an AHL guy the whole season, except for one game, and they decided to start him? Are you serious? In related news, it will probably sweep the daytime Emmy’s. That would be like starting Patrick Lalime. Even he had more starts in the regular season, four, than Leighton, and I think he sits in the box with our General Manager. Miller has two shutouts, and if he didn’t face so many shots this series would already be over.

Isn’t Danny Briere like 5’6”? I seem to remember that when he played in Buffalo! How do we constantly let him through our defense without sending him to the ice? He’s the Flyers top goal scorer for Pete’s sake. Isn’t it about time Tyler Myers just starts following him up and down the rink already? Every time I see that little guy skate through us I dream of what it would be like to see a mini-me line with him and Nathan Gerbe giving the one-two punch. It’s a shame we couldn’t re-sign him, but not surprising. This is Buffalo after all.

Ultimately, game seven will come down to the Sabres needing to actually score more than one goal to win. Thomas Vanek needs some help out there! He has five goals, no assists, and is a minus six. That single stat line shows that we don’t have any true goal scoring threats outside of him and our defense is not playing up to the usual standard. When will Drew Stafford wake up? He has taken the most shots on the team and has only one goal. How about Jason Pominville, where did his goal touch go? It’s a known fact that the Flyers goalies stink, why isn’t everyone just shooting from where ever they can?

With firepower abundant on the Flyers bench we need to figure out a way to continue to exploit the Flyers goalies in game seven. If their wingers get open they can pinpoint their shots much better than our roster could ever dream.

Miller can only do so much; we need someone to step up! Maybe Brad Boyes will finally justify us trading for him mid-season. He has yet to register a point in the series, so now is as good a time as any.

If we think we can win based solely on Miller shutting the Flyers potent offense down again we are in for a rude awakening. The big guys in that locker room are going to wake up. From Briere to Zherdev, that entire line-up can score, even their defense. Here’s hoping they don’t do it until next October.

Sincerely,

Nervous Buffalo fan