I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve finally figured it out. The Flyers went for broke two summers ago when they traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, a move that freed up money to get a supposed all-world goalie and a gaggle of young talent. Setting aside the fact that Ilya Bryzgalov has been a colossal disappointment thus far (don’t tell me he hasn’t), it was the wrong strategy from the start. Even if Bryz was the goalie the Flyers expected him to be when they paid him $51 million, the players in front of him wouldn’t be experienced enough for it to matter. Going for the goalie was a win now move. Trading Richards and Carter, already veterans and all-star caliber players in their mid-twenties, for young, high-upside players was a win later move. Those things don’t mesh. Now we’re seeing what the worst-case scenario might look like. The Flyers' youngsters exceeded expectations last season, but – now that Sean Couturier, Matt Read (Sell! Sell! Sell!) and Brayden Schenn aren’t sneaking up on teams – they’re due for a sophomore slump, and there are now too few veterans to fill the void left by their inevitable step backwards. Instead:
Eric Wellwood– he’s the fastest player to ever play the game who WASN’T GOOD AT HOCKEY (!!!).
Ruslan Fedotenko– they traded him away for his prime and even his prime was mediocre.
Scott Laughton– a baby!
Wayne Simmonds– Scott Hartnell, 2.0.
Jakub Voracek– still can't get a read on him.
There’s nothing wrong with any of those guys (I like most of them!), but somehow, in the past 18 months, the Flyers have replaced All-Stars (by choice and circumstance) with rookies, uncertainties and mediocrity.
Just two years ago, they were one of the best teams in hockey, led by Richards, Carter, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger and Danny Briere. But they traded Richards and Carter, a move that freed Giroux and James van Riemsdyk (remember him, the guy the Flyers signed to a $25 million contract based on his play in, like, four games and then traded away to Toronto?) to become the faces of the team. But JVR was terrified of corners and now he’s gone. Pronger will never play again. Briere is aging. And now Giroux is left with the weight of the world on his shoulders. The Robin role? Played by Hartnell, who, oh by the way, didn’t do shit during the lockout and it’s showing. He got a six-year extension worth nearly $30 million despite the fact that any sane observer would tell you that his 37 goals last season should be expected to be the exception, not the norm. He was last year’s reactive signing by the Flyers, following in the footsteps of JVR and Carter the two previous years.
All that is to say nothing of Bryz disappointing us at every turn. There will inevitably be comments about how it’s not his fault, the defense sucks, and he hasn’t played poorly. And that’s right– the defense does suck. It’s awful. Putrid, even. But just because you can’t blame certain goals on Bryz, doesn’t mean you can’t be aggravated by the fact that he never steps up and bails his defense out. Three goals on the first five shots last night. Not acceptable. Not for a guy that you expected to be a difference-maker. Bryz is Sean Burke. He’s Ray Emery. He’s Robert Esche. He’s Antero Nittymaki. He’s every average goalie that has passed through the pipes over the last two decades. He’s fine. He’s a professional netminder. He stops the puck. But he doesn’t stand out. He’s not Martin Brodeur. He’s not that guy, even though the Flyers are paying him to be that guy. Oh yeah, he’s a flake, too. Don’t pretend that he’s not. He’s not bailing anybody out. He’s not a star. He’s not the guy they need him to be. He just is. And that’s not good enough.
Is this an overreaction? Maybe. It’s only three games. Preseason games, basically. But in dog years, this shortened schedule, it’s like six games. The Flyers are 0-6, and it’s not just because of their defense. They have too many question marks and a goalie that refuses to just once win them a game. AND SOMEHOW MICHAEL LEIGHTON IS STILL ON THE TEAM.
Brayden Schenn has a disciplinary hearing with Brendan Shanahan today for leaving his feet for a hit in the second period.
Racism? Alive and well in New Jersey. Some Tweets about Wayne Simmonds during his two mix-ups last night:
There were others, but you get the point. We still have a long way to go, America.
The Canucks’ GM says that the team has a trade in place for Roberto Luongo. Some think he could be talking about the Flyers.