The Olympics are a time for reflection…
With things as tight as they are in the lower half of the Eastern Conference, the 2 week Olympic break could be a be a blessing or a burden. Which one it is will be decided later once the Flyers get back on the ice. Several players are off to Vancouver, battling for national pride and glory while the others are using their vacation for personal matters.
So, now that we have this lull in Flyers hockey, let’s take a look back at the first 60 games (not individually mind you) and see what we can derive from the season that was and eventually will be again. In other words…
What Have We Learned?
We’ve learned that Paul Holmgren can make moves that will help this hockey club.
- The John Stevens firing has put this team in a place they needed to be. That is under a coach that won’t take any half-stepping from anyone. He doesn’t want to be your buddy, he wants you to work. While the line shuffling may rub people the wrong way, Coach Laviolette is learning where he can put players to get the most out of them.
- At first, noone could understand the Michael Leighton signing. It took the top 2 goaltenders getting hurt to reveal this diamond in the rough and who can honestly say the Flyers wouldn’t be where they are right now if it wasn’t for him?
- Dan wrapped up the Ville Leino trade pretty well, so there’s no real need to revisit that one.
We’ve learned that we may have put the hopes of this season on the shoulders of the wrong man. The Ray Emery signing came with mixed reviews and while some were optimistic, most refused to believe that Emery could take the team to the next level. An abdominal injury and possibly torn labrum later, the pessimists could be right after all. While Ray did have a great season in the KHL last year, they have a system in place where a #1 can only play a certain percentage of games with no more than so many in a row. With the Flyers, his most recent run was 8 straight and another in the early season that ran into the teens. Expectations ran high. But when expectations run higher than physical limitations, bad things will happen (something I know far too well).
We’ve learned that the Flyers of this season are not the Sharks of last season. If they were, Brian Boucher wouldn’t even be close to the sickly 4-11-1 record he’s touting so far this year. If any of the rumors are true about the Flyers picking up another goaltender because of Emery’s injury woes, Boucher should be involved in that trade. He’s the low man on a 3 man pole and can’t handle the weight of Leighton’s unexpected success.
We’ve learned that it’s not how badly you lose or who you lose to, it’s what you do after those losses that defines you as a team. In 2010, the Flyers have not lost more than 2 games in a row and other than the 5 game slide from Nov/Dec have not gone more than 2 without at least getting a point. Coming off those, they average 3 wins and have had a 5 and three 4 game win steaks this season, including the one they rode into the break.
We’ve learned that Toronto hates us. Okay, maybe hate is a little strong to use in this instance. They just don’t like the Flyers very much. How’s that? If it was one instance, then it would be different. But the fact that, on two different occasions, goals being called off that were so obvious, it makes me wonder who trained the monkeys that are working the instant replay in Toronto.
We’ve learned that no matter what some players do, they will always be jeered because of their contracts or their past. Danny Briere is usually first on the hate list while a true underachiever like Scott Hartnell slides under the radar and into opposing goaltenders. Ray Emery is doomed to crucifiction with his 16-11-1 record as Brian Boucher cruises on by on Emery and Leighton’s coat tails because he’s “Boosh”. Philadelphia fans are called the most passionate sports fans on the planet. It’s just a shame they’re also the most fickle. When you’re scoring or winning fights, you’re a God. When you’re not, we look for the first bus to ship you out of town. It’s sad, but it’s true.
Finally, we’ve learned that it’s not just leadership that will lead a team to greatness. Heart, passion and the will to win trump all when it’s focused and honed into a winning attitude. Guys like Darroll Powe, Arron Asham, Dan Carcillo and Ian Laperierre who go out and give every last ounce of drive and energy every shift for a common goal will motivate everyone around him. It’s like a virus. It’s infectious, taking root in everyone around them. They may never score as many goals as Jeff Carter or get as many assists as Chris Pronger, but these “role players” as they’re called, play far beyond the role that was written for them.
Olympic ice hockey starts today for the men and even though I’m against NHL players participating in the Olympics, I’m going to watch and cheer for our boys playing for their respective countries. But twice as much for Team USA. I hope you will all be watching too.
Never forget, keep your head up, eye on the puck and you can never go wrong with high to the stick side. 😉