A Vulgar, Bitter, and Disrespectful Obituary for the 2013 Flyers
Last Tuesday when the Orange-and-Black traveled to the crumbling Coliseum to face the Blue-and-Orange, it was the Bullies who came away black and blue. That all-but season-ending loss to the Islanders led many local and national hockey writers to cut bait on this no-good, very-bad, lockout-shortened, overpaid, oft-injured, ineffective, unlucky, uncoordinated, ungainly, uninspiring team.
Hell if I’m going to miss out on the fun!
The Flyers are now many points back with few games to go, and just wrapped up their fourth loss in a row. They currently have a 1 in 625 chance of getting the 8th playoff seed.
What the puck happened?! Damn near this exact same team earned 103 points last season! They were +32! They pummeled the Pens in the playoffs! They have the best player in the world! How could everything fall so heels-over-ass apart?
Let’s take it back to the summer.
Having allowed Matt Carle to leave for a perfectly reasonable contract offer from Tampa, the Flyers’ front office stepped back from the plate and pointed to dead fucking center. Shea Weber! The 26-year-old-basically-a-young-Pronger defenseman from the Nashville Predators signed a record $110 million contract offer sheet to come to Philadelphia. GM Paul Holmgren knew that the Preds’ FO would rather pull out their own teeth than lose the franchise’s most promising young player, even given a return of the Flyers’ next four 1st-round draft picks, so Homer structured the contract in the most asshole way he possibly could. Weber would be paid $26 million in the first calendar year. The whole Predators franchise is worth, in total, $167 million. They operate at an annual loss of approximately $3.4 million. They couldn’t possibly match it…
Looking back, the Predators opting to retain Weber was just the first sign of things to come. Of all the bounces that didn’t go the Flyers’ way this year, this one was the biggest.
Still, there were many reasons to be optimistic as the leaves turned and fell. The Flyers extended the contracts of two burgeoning scorers: ugly beard enthusiast Jake Voracek and pugilistic power play specialist Wayne Simmonds. Young centers Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier had each matured a year after impressive rookie returns, and they had paired up for a lethal lockout line combination in the AHL. Claude Giroux finally got to wear the ‘C’ on his jersey. Iron Man Kimmo Timonen was returning and was to be paired with Brayden Schenn’s older brother Luke, a physical young defenseman with impressive tools and a lot of upside who seemingly needed a change of scenery. Nick Grossman had proved himself a useful enough asset to earn an extension, and Brayden Coburn was perennially solid. And the Cosmonaut couldn’t possibly be worse than the previous year, right?
Wrong. All wrong. Let’s start with Mr. Bryzgalov.
Ilya’s season came in three acts:
Act One – “Well, at least he’s stopping all the pucks he’s supposed to stop.”
Act Two – “Did I really just see him duck away from that shot?!”
Act Three – “Steve Fucking Mason is better than you.”
Yes, Steve “Backup to your former backup” Mason. Steve “Doesn’t know how big his pads are allowed to be” Mason. Steve “Got the keys to the car in Columbus and drove it into the Scioto” Mason. That guy. Incidentally, of all goalies that have played in at least 100 games since 2010, Mason is 41st out of 41 in both save % (.899) and goals-against-average (3.12). That is bowel-droppingly bad. Yet the Flyers’ coaching staff deemed that he was a better option than the Ilyonnaire in the most crucial game of the entire season. Outstandink!
Good luck in the KHL next year, Bryz! I hope your private jet and solid gold toilet give you solace.
Then again, maybe that’s not totally fair. Bryz started a completely ridiculous 37 of 40 games, including 8 back-to-backs! EIGHT! No goalie can deal with that kind of punishment. Salary or no salary, the body can only take so much. Great job, Lavy!
So who is next to blame? Let’s go with the “defense.”
What the hell, Braydon? Coburn earned a Flyers career low in points per game, a career high in penalty minutes per game, and career worst +/- with -10. He was so abysmal that the team actually got better when he was replaced with AHL call-ups. Want an example of just how helpless Coburn was this year? Even though he only played 33 games, he still leads the team with 31 giveaways. Coburn was easily hurt the most by the departure of Matt Carle, and he was never able to recover before mercifully injuring his shoulder in March. Still, his abysmal +/- was only 2nd worst on the team among D-men. That odious honor goes to…
Bruno Gervais. I believe Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take… unless you’re Bruno Gervais, and miss 100% of the shots you do take, too. That shit is hopeless.” I can’t count how many times Gervais flung one 5 feet wide only to have an odd-man rush come right back in his face. Honestly, Gervais looked like a pretty good depth pickup at the start of the season before he started playing big boy minutes. Hell, even given the added responsibility, he’s probably been no worse than the Flyers’ 4th best defenseman this season.
Ugh, why am I even bothering to call out any individual on defense? The whole unit has been a travesty. Behind the top pairing they’re not very talented and underperforming to boot. Even Iron Man Kimmo Timonen, for all his skill and savvy, has had a poor year by his standards. No, he certainly hasn’t lost anything in the offensive zone, and he’s still a master of positioning, but he’s getting beat with speed in a way you just never saw from him two years ago. As a result he’s taken more penalties per game than any other season in his Flyers career.
So let’s take a quick recap: The Flyers defense is either old, injured, or crap, and their disinterested starting goalie gave way to the worst goalie in the whole league over the last three years. Excellent. But even this, ALL of this might have been overcome if the Flyers had been able to score.
But first, just so I don’t stop writing and jump out the window, I do have to point out a positive. Two forwards actually played above expectations this year: Jake Voracek and Zac Rinaldo.
The Kladno native took the mantle following the departure of fellow Czech winger Jaromir Jagr and he excelled. Voracek did it all. He skated well, passed well, shot well, forechecked well, defended well, and he even got in a fight! He’ll finish the year with the most even strength points on the team by a wide margin, and has an excellent chance to surpass his career high in goals despite the short season. He’s an excellent player and he’s locked up for just $4.25 mil a year until 2016.
Rinaldo was a very, very bad hockey player last year. Despite his gaudy hit totals, he did little to prevent opponents from scoring and even less to help the Flyers score. And he drew tons and tons of stupid penalties. This year he’s still a pretty bad hockey player, but he turned around just about everything else. Rinaldo is #2 in the league in penalties drawn/60 minutes among players who played at least 20 games, he ‘only’ took 2.3 penalties per 60, and if memory serves none of his five fights resulted in instigator penalties. On top of this, Rinaldo continued to be an absolute bowling ball. The Zac Attac registered 32 hits per 60, the league leader by far (next closest was Ryan Reaves with 25.5). He also scored 3 goals! If Rinaldo keeps his temper down, continues to draw penalties, and maybe starts to develop some skill at killing penalties, he’ll surely solidify his position on the roster and in the league.
Ok, enough of that. Back to the bullshit.
Scott Hartnell got hurt, and when he came back he completely forgot how to shoot. So he started hacking the shit out of people. He was demoted to the 3rd line for a stint, and currently resides somewhere just outside of the doghouse. He is certainly is not in the good graces of the coaching staff. After scoring a career high 37 goals in 2011-12 and earning himself a $4.75 mil per year extension, Scottie has just 8 points in 24 games despite logging 16:27 minutes per night. #HartnellDown, indeed.
Wayne Simmonds is tough, excellent at forechecking and one-on-one puck possession, and he’s a demon in front of the net. That said, he really wasn’t very good defensively and you need more from your starting 2nd line winger in even strength play. Likewise, didn’t score a single goal directly off of his face this year, so it’s clear he wasn’t really trying.
Baby Schenn put up a career high in points this year despite the shortened season, and he was the main reason the 2nd line power play did anything positive at all, but neither of those things constitute high praise. Someday he’s going to be a really good two-way hockey player, but he was nothing close to the nearly-point-per-game player that some thought he’d become this season. Granted, when you get stuck with this guy for half the season…
Seriously, Danny? I was trying my best to put up with it, but it’s just too much. He’s never been much of a forechecker, and he’s always been mostly clueless in the defensive zone, but I’ve had it. Once he stopped scoring, it was all over. Briere’s frame always meant that he worked best in space, and his speed allowed him to find that space. But he’s lost a step (or five), can’t find the twine when he does shoot, hardly even bothers to backcheck. He made everybody around him worse, and his time away with an injury made the team better. All for the low, low price of $6.5 million!
Briere’s polar opposite on the team is Sean Couturier. He’s very big, very physical, very savvy on defense, and he makes all the hustle plays that help gain and maintain possession. He does, however, have one thing in common with Briere. Coots also had a season from hell. Despite creating some very good chances for himself, Couturier scored on just 5% of his shots. He got buried almost exclusively on the 4th line for the entire year, and only put up 12 points for the season.
Matt Read jumped out to a hot start, but Lavy kept moving him from line to line and Read never seemed to regain his 2011-2 form. Max Talbot was having a pretty decent year, but then he broke his leg. Simon Gagne knows what he’s doing, but he’s too old to do it anymore. Mike Knuble is a corpse. Tye McGinn was playing pretty good hockey, but got his face bones punched in, and was later inexplicably scratched in favor of Harry Zolnierczyk and Jay Rosehill, of all people. Go figure.
But by far the most disappointing thing about this entire season is Claude Giroux’s relapse. Granted, he’s still the best (or at worst the 2nd best) player on this team, and he deserves to wear the ‘C’ given how many minutes he plays, how many faceoffs he takes (and wins), how many penalties he draws, his work on the PK, and how many goals he creates. But Giroux dropped from 1.2 points per game last season to just .95 this year, which is right in line with what he produced two years ago. At age 25, Giroux is supposed to be in his prime, and if his production continued to improve as most expected it would, this team might not be on the outside looking in.
Mercifully it’s just about over. All that’s left for us to do is pray for health and a high draft pick (and subsequently pray that Homer doesn’t do something phenomenally stupid like trade away Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn for Roberto Luongo). Despite all the crap, the core of this team still has youth and upside, and there’s plenty to look forward to down the line. But screw this year, I hope we can all agree that when it’s over we’ll dump it in the Schuylkill and the entire tri-state area will never, ever speak of it again.
(All stats taken on 04/13/2013)
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