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The Flyers beat a bad Los Angeles Kings team on 80s night Saturday 4-1.
That sounded a lot like the 80s, when the Flyers would beat up on bad teams regularly and the Kings were regularly bad.
I want to talk about 80s night a little bit later, because the Flyers organization missed another great opportunity to really engage the fans – but that’s not the primary reason you clicked on this post.
No, you want some analysis. Some break down. Some Facebook Group chat talking points.
Fine, I’ll get to those first.
Let’s start with a guy who was a subject of some weird trade rumors yesterday:
Trading A Guy We Brought Back For Another Guy We’d Bring Back
I’ll get into this trade rumor in a minute, but it involves James van Riemsdyk.
I’m sure that would be music to the ears of many of the hoi polloi on Flyers Twitter. JVR has become a bit of a pariah to them – long, expensive contract plus limited production equals angry tweets and virtual torches and pitchforks.
And to some extent they are not wrong – paying JVR #7 million a year for the rest of this season and three more years after it is not a good contract. But, I never put that on the player. If a team offered you or I money that we probably didn’t deserve, would we take it too?
So yes, be mad at the team (in this instance, former general manager Ron Hextall) for handing out a bad contract that hurts the team in a salary capped world, but don’t blame the player for the contract.
Especially not a guy like JVR, who does not laze about on the ice. The one thing that can be said for him during this down season scoring-wise is he has continued to play a smart game. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s been positionally sound. He’s been a much better defensive player than anyone ever wants to give him credit for being. He has handled demotions in the lineup like a pro and been a good soldier.
But, man do the Flyers need him to produce to help this sometimes moribund offense.
Well, Saturday was his night to do just that. JVR had a goal (on the power play, no less), and two beautiful assists on a pair of Travis Konecny goals for his first three-point night since Oct. 26 vs. Columbus.
The Flyers power play, which has been searching for answers for some time now because of continued inconsistency, has been trying a two-man, net-front presence in recent games to try and create more traffic and more second and third-chance opportunities.
It’s also designed to create some chaos in the form of deflections and re-directions, meant to harangue opposing goalies.
And last night’s goal by JVR showed just how that can be successful:
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) January 19, 2020
It’s hard to see from that angle but there’s actually a double deflection off Claude Giroux’s shot. First JVR gets it with great hand-eye coordination and then it deflects off the blade of Matt Roy’s stick, who has his back to the play as he’s trying to mark Konecny in front.
This is why you always hear coaches preach getting to the net and creating traffic in front. Things like this happen more frequently when you do.
But the more impressive part of JVR in this game was his passing.
Reunited with a line of Giroux and Konecny, with Giroux at center, JVR was at his best. That line didn’t work well in previous iterations, but boy did it look good against the Kings.
Check out this nifty pass from JVR to Konecny:
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) January 19, 2020
That made it 1-0. Then he later found Konecny again with this gem of a pass:
— x-Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 19, 2020
Notice he has his head up looking for options. He also shows great patience waiting for Konecny to get into scoring position. And then he slides a silky smooth pass over to him. And TK wanted JVR to know how good a pass it was… and then reiterate a second time to the rest of his teammates who want to celebrate with him:
Here's why people love Travis Konecny. He scores the goal, but is effusive in his praise of his teammate. "Great f*cking pass! What a pass!" pic.twitter.com/0coDxRJmtL
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) January 19, 2020
It was a good combination and one coach Alain Vigneault plans to keep together:
“I thought after the last game that I was going to keep (Kevin Hayes) with G. But after watching the game, I just felt that it was probably … I was looking for something else and putting G back in the middle was an option that we had and it worked out tonight. We’re going to come back with that also next game, but it was it was good for them too. They got us good momentum at the beginning and I thought they played a real strong game.”
Hayes was shifted back down to third line center, where he usually flourishes, but I wonder how long that lasts. Michael Raffl left the game in the third period after being crushed by a big hit by Dustin Brown. The Flyers had no update after the game, but one person told me that he was pulled from the bench by the independent spotter to be checked for a concussion. One never wants to speculate but when you add a big hit to a spotter pull to the fact that he didn’t return to a delayed update on his health, it’s not out of left field to assume he is concussed.
So, the lineup could juggle again on Tuesday.
Now, the trade rumor.
I got to the arena late last night, and when I got there, Russ was in a full blown conversation with fans on The Press Row Show about a trade rumor that was being linked to a well-known Canadian analyst and former NHL player. I don’t want to say who, because I have tried to find audio of the rumored report and can’t and there is nothing about it on social media, but before I was to chalk it up to fan fiction, there was conversation among other respected reporters at the game last night who were not involved in The Press Row Show and they were talking about the same trade.
So, wherever it started, it had some legs.
The alleged deal had the Flyers sending JVR, Shayne Gostisbehere and a high draft pick to Los Angeles for Jeff Carter and Alec Martinez.
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher did suggest he’d like to add another right-handed center, but that’s the only part of this trade that would make sense for the Flyers.
Carter is not what he used to be. He’s a step slower now at age 35. He’s not as good in his own end as he used to be. He still has that pretty wrist shot, but he needs space for it to fly, and he doesn’t get that space as often as he used to get.
He’s also under contract for two more years beyond this one at $5.2 million.
Martinez for Gostisbehere is basically an even swap of two similarly-paid, under-performing players.
The Flyers would be giving up the draft pick to compensate LA for taking on more term and more salary on JVR than Carter, albeit for a younger player.
Russ asked me when I walked in if I felt there was anything to it and I emphatically stated on The Press Row Show that no, this was not likely to happen.
As the night progressed I started poking around with a variety of people – both employed by the Flyers and not – and I came to the same conclusion – this is not going to happen.
While Fletcher may be looking for upgrades at both positions (forward certainly and maybe experience on defense) a reunion with Jeff Carter doesn’t appear to be in the cards – at least not in this fashion.
Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim have taken a lot of abuse for their play together of late – including from me in this very space.
But the Flyers doubled-down on the duo as a pair yesterday, sending Mark Friedman back down to the AHL despite playing well in his short stint here, and activating Justin Braun, who was out of the lineup with a groin injury.
However, Braun didn’t go back to his second pair role with Sanheim, instead falling to the third pair with Robert Hägg.
AV kept Sanheim and Myers together and the duo didn’t disappoint, playing maybe their best game as a pair this season.
Myers chalked it up to video work the two did together with assistant coach Mike Yeo. AV agreed when I asked him about that last night.
“A lot of it is decisions with the puck and a lot of it is gap,” Vigneault said. “For them to have gap they have to have confidence that their forwards are going to be there. Part of that is Yeo showing them the video to trust that the forwards will be there. They need to read the play and have confidence to, in our language, kill plays. Kill plays in front of them and go the other way. Yeo is doing a nice job of working with all of our young defensemen at this time.”
He’s not going to get a lot of publicity after this game, but Brian Elliott was really good against the kings. Rebound control. Staying square to the shooter. Smothering chances. Frankly, he should have been the third star of the game behind JVR and TK. The Flyers are going to need a few more of these out of Elliott before Carter Hart returns from his abdominal injury to stay in a playoff spot in the ever-tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.
OK, here’s my latest criticism of the Flyers and fan engagement.
They had an 80s night but had very little Flyers nostalgia from the decade.
First of all, if you’re going to have a throwback night, the teams should wear the jerseys from that decade.
Instead, the Flyers wore their bastardized blacks and the Kings their modern road whites.
I wouldn’t expect the Flyers to trot out the Cooperalls (although for one game wouldn’t that be a hoot?), but a throwback to the decade should be complete with the look – and not just the in-arena hosts dressing in 80s garb.
Secondly, why not bring back some players who played in the 80s that fans don’t often get a chance to see? Fly some alums in, show them on the scoreboard during the first period and then have them stationed at kiosks on the concourses during intermission to sign stuff for fans.
Wouldn’t it have been a pleasant surprise when you went to buy your $13 beer to see Murray Craven sitting there to take a selfie with? Or as you laugh at the person forking over some cash to go to the rage room and break stuff you could, instead get your jersey signed by Tim Kerr?
Other teams do this all the time. The best at it is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have former players seemingly at every game chatting with fans.
And where were the highlight packages of games form the 80s? Yeah, there were a few brief clips in videos of games between the Flyers and Kings over the years, but instead of showing Gritty breaking things that say “Kings” on it (this trope was overdone the first time we all saw it), How about 30-second clips of some of the best moments of the decade? There sure were plenty of them.
Hint to the new, clueless bosses: FLYERS FANS ARE NOSTALGIC!!!!!
If you are going to celebrate the 80s, do it in the way your fans will appreciate. Not a series of stupid Cameo videos from David Faustino, Ernie Hudson and the stupid Cobra Kai sensei wearing his dojo robes 35 years after the movie.
That’s not what these fans want. Know your audience.
(Editor’s note: Speaking of an audience, mark your calendars. We’ll be doing a live “Press Road Show” edition of Snow The Goalie for Flyers/Penguins on January 31 at Odd Logic Brewing Co. Come on out, have some beer, yell at Sidney Crosby, and call Malkin a nerd.)
For more Flyers coverage, check out Snow The Goalie. Follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook and Twitter. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy preview every Flyers home game pregame and recap the first and second period action during intermission breaks from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts (@AntSanPhilly @JoyOnBroad).