Once again the Flyers are orange. The black jerseys that Philadelphia has worn for years have been dropped for the more traditional look. The former orange thirds have become the new home jerseys as the blacks will now be scheduled in for specific games. The change comes at an important cross-roads in the team’s history of course; one that leaves many to speculate whether or not the 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers have an identity crisis.
Flyers training camp opened to a record attendance for the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ early Sunday morning. The excitement had not yet worn off from the incredible rookie scrimmage between the Flyers and Capitals where former second overall selection James van Riemsdyk showed exactly why he was taken so early with a four goal, five point performance. It had been standing room only in the Skate Zone for all open to the public practices all weekend.
It has been a number of years since Mark Messier strapped on that helmet, laced up his skates, and pulled the number eleven over his head. Now he wears a suit and tie instead of a sweater, the skates have changed into dress shoes, and even the locker has been replaced by an office where he pulls up a chair as the new assistant to Rangers’ President and General Manager GlenSather . To think these things can truly change a man though is foolish. Though a life in the administrative side of hockey sometimes calls for tough decisions that effect the lives of players, those same kids, as most of them these days are decades younger than the six-time Stanley Cup Champion, are the ones that Messier is looking to reach out to the most.
Joke all you want, but the Philadelphia Flyers are building something. It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize what is going on between General Manager Paul Holmgren’s ears these days with the offseason acquisition list looking more like who you’d want on your side in a back alley brawl let alone on the ice in front of thousands of insane Philadelphia fans. With Chris Pronger, Ray Emery, Ian Laperriere, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen added to a lineup that includes Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, Arron Asham, Darroll Powe, and Riley Cote there isn’t much there that’s left to the imagination despite Pronger’s comments during his official Philadelphia welcome party.
After months of speculation the Flyers have pulled a dramatic upset to win the away team bid for the 2010 Winter Classic over the Washington Capitals. It couldn’t have happened though without quite a bit of help. In this storyBettman’s plans to have Ovechkin on the biggest hockey stage of the modern NHL outside of the Stanley Cup Finals were foiled by NBC is spectacular deus ex machina fashion. The Flyers on the other hand, who were holding out to host their own Winter Classic in the near future, got to have their cake and eat it too thanks to the push for higher ratings.
It’s hard to imagine a professional prospect that doesn’t have at least a stub on Wikipedia. That may be the story of Patrick Maroon’s life though as a big power forward out of St. Louis, Missouri with the hands of a future highlight reel NHLer. There’s not much hockey in Missouri of course and even less in the way of future professional hockey players. In a world dominated by Minnesota, Michigan, and the North Eastern United States, Maroon stands out a kid who is doing everything he can to make it to the NHL.
In 2007-08 the Flyers intended whole heartedly to come back into the NHL with a sense of vengeance. It wasn’t necessarily a plan to beat up physically and mentality anyone who stepped on the ice with them, but bitter after the worst season in franchise history, the Flyers had an impressive parade of five total Flyers that watched some games instead of skating on the ice due to suspensions. Steve Downie and Jesse Boulerice were the first to fall to the trend, Boulerice with 25 games for a clearly dirty cross-check to the face of Ryan Kesler (video) and Downie with 20 games for a black and white call for leaving his feet when he lunged into a check on Dean McAmmond even though the result was far worse than the intention (video). While those were clear cut with their intentions to punish a certain player on the ice, two other suspensions to Randy Jones (video) and Scott Hartnell (video) didn’t show any true intent to injure. Both were hits when the player was in a vulnerable position and nobody wants to see that in the NHL of course. Still it’s clear that league cracked down more on the result because these are just penalty worthy offenses in an ordinary game when no one is hurt. The Flyers in fact have taken quite a few of these in the past two season and bounced right back up to not even a powerplay. It’s a shame that the league works this way, but there’s not much that can be done about it. The last of the Flyers to see time on the suspension list was Riley Cote with three games on a hit from behind on Dallas Star blueliner Matt Niskanen.
The season may be winding down, but there’s still the playoffs lurking right around the corner. It may seem like a short time, but the offseason is a long way off. While some teams will undoubtedly be looking at the 09-10 season sooner than others one thing is certain; the elite teams that have spent up to the salary cap ceiling will have to do some creative work to hold together for next year.
When teams have a terrible season the eventual payoff for a year at the bottom can change a whole team’s fate. The Carolina Hurricanes turned their 2nd overall selection in 2003 into a Stanley Cup Championship on the back of Eric Staal. The Columbus Blue Jackets got Rick Nash 1st overall in the 2002 Entry draft and the Washington Capitals got Alexander Ovechkin 1st overall in 2004. The Chicago Blackhawks scored Jonathan Toews 3rd overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane 1st overall in 2007. Pittsburgh has reshaped the entire face of its organization with Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall in 2003), Evgeni Malkin (2nd overall in 2004), Sidney Crosby (1st overall in 2005), and Jordan Staal (2nd overall in 2006).
Remember that awesome goal Scottie Upshall scored after picking off a pass in the offensive zone right before it passed the blueline yesterday? Remember him skating in at full speed and throwing it past the Boston netminder to tie an important game before the Flyers would eventually take control of it in the 3rd? Yes, but in the end all we have are memories.