May 07, 2011
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is Marty Vance of the Buffalo Sabres blog Bangin' Panger, fondly recalling the 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
By Marty Vance, Bangin' Panger
Today we are here to honor the President's Trophy, Eastern Conference Champions, Atlantic Division regular season champion Philadelphia Flyers. A sad day indeed as the Schuylkill flows wit' the tears of the Flyer Faithful.
But worry not: The ravenous mongrel horde has moved from the enclosed confines of the CoreStates Center, First Union Center, Wachovia Center, Wells Fargo Center to Citizen Bank Park, allowing them free reign to accost your grandmother under the bright, blue sky!
So are we gathered here today because Paul Holmgren was willingly and enthusiastically Bobby Clarke's protégé and chosen successor?
Was it because Peter Laviolette handles goaltenders worse than Gordon Bombay?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Do we need background? Let's have some background.
Since we're all Flyers history majors, we all know that Paul Holmgren was the assistant to the General Manager Bobby Clarke from the 1998-1999 season until he inherited a 30th place team a month into the 2006-2007 tilt. Lo and behold, during those eight seasons as assistant GM, or whatever title he held, he didn't learn from a single mistake that his soup-for-brains predecessor made.
It's always been the Philly way to disregard the guy within the blue paint; it's not Philadelphia Flyer hockey without goaltender controversy. Since Ron Hextall, can you name a goaltender who donned the orange and black and not laugh? It's a terrible lack of commitment to the one position that plays 60 minutes a night; or, in Michael Leighton's case, 18 minutes a night.
So when Holmgren was finally handed the keys to his very own NHL franchise; does he veer from his mentor? No, of course he doesn't. He assembles a group of forwards whose depth is unmatched by 29 other franchises, he compiles an enviable defensive corps, all the while mortgaging the future and neglecting the goaltender position.
He targets over-priced backups with beautiful, piercing blue eyes. He brings in high-risk high-reward free agent with a "troubled" past. He works the waiver wire like Laviolette at an orange tie rack. He signs the undrafted goalie that beat out Semyon Varlamov(notes) for a starting position who isn't Michael Neuvirth or Jose Theodore(notes). He brought back a guy who was on the Flyers' roster in 1999 ... in 2011.
Basically; He continued the Bobby Clarke way.
So what were the results of Paul Holmgren's commitment, or lack thereof, to the men of the crease? Well, it's ugly. In 5 years as GM, six different goalies have started more than 20 regular season contests in a Flyers uniform. Only one (Antero Niittymaki(notes)) lasted more than 3 years on the roster.
So to recap, that's five years as GM, six different netminders that have started more than 25 percent of the regular season, and — surprisingly! — Zero Stanley Cups.
Worse yet, in those same five seasons, there have been 10 different goaltenders to start a regular season game in the City of Brotherly Love. I'm not even sure the Islanders are that pathetic. Probably. But I'm still not sure.
But let's be honest; you can't always blame the GM for all goaltender miscues; it takes a special hand to so egregiously mishandle and misappropriate his net so badly that Charles Wang chortles. (Please note: Garth Snow was at one time a Flyers goaltender. Coincidence? Yes, probably.)
So please, let us take a moment to bow our heads and finally lay to rest the myth that Peter Laviolette knows what he's doing as a coach in the National Hockey League. Laviolette was universally praised for the benching of his starting goaltender early in the playoffs with the change backstopping the franchise to a Stanley Cup. Oh sorry; I was reading The Raleigh News & Observer from 2006 ...
Trying to capture the same lightning in a bottle that vaulted the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup (and completely destroyed Martin Gerber's(notes) psyche, and consequently, his career); Peter Laviolette used all three roster goalies in the first round. He's started and yanked two others in the conference semis. Even Mike Keenan calls Laviolette a one-trick pony.
Jesus, Flyer goalies made 17 appearances in 11 games. I wasn't even entirely sure that was statistically probably until it happened. Hell, Gallup says more Flyer forwards believe Obama was born in Kenya than believe in any current Flyer netminder leading the Orange & Black to a Cup. Seriously, Gallup.
But who wants to continue to harp on goaltenders when even Damien Cox could recognize the absurdity of that situation. The writing was the on the wall since the All-Star break.
They compiled a 13-11-8 record over the last 3 months of the season. They were outscored 94-84 in that same stretch. Granted, I do hear the parties at Temple are especially bumpin' come March, and John Cheney is done creeping out all the coeds.
But in reality, the Flyers looked disinterested. Their play grew increasing lazy. As each increasingly inconsequential regular season game passed, so too did their playoff hopes. They slowly slid down the standings to the point where the Penguins, with a roster full of Richards, Carcillos, and Prongers (and by that please read: whiners, divers, and elbowers), were almost able to catch them for the Atlantic Division crown.
It would be a disservice if we didn't get to personally say goodbye to everyone on this Flyer roster, everyone that matters anyway.
To Mike Richards(notes): We say thank you. By engaging in a war of words with Lindy Ruff, you completely fell off your game. A 2.3 shooting percentage? Chalk up another Flyer that Hextall had better stats than.
To Daniel Briere: Good luck to you this offseason. Patrick Kaleta(notes) is willing to help complete your eHarmony profile, but he probably already told you that. After all, he just assumed your personal issues stemmed from climaxing too early in the Buffalo series.
To Jeff Carter: Injuries be damned, Daniel Carcillo totaled more playoff points than you. I don't even need to write the joke.
To Catfish Carcillo: A commendable effort this playoff season, somehow managing to dress all 11 postseason tilts while averaging barely over 8 minutes a night on the ice.
To Chris Pronger(notes): We will see you again next year. It is so refreshing to see a man so bravely put on his pads, knowing full well that no matter what, the Philadelphia Flyers organization is contractually obligated to pay him until he's 42 years old. This man is a hero, a hero who won't retire until he's 43.
And with that, we are finally able to lay the 2010-2011 Philadelphia Flyers to rest. A 4-7 playoff record and an early May exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs … isn't that pretty much par for the course?
By the way, how does Monday 9:00 a.m. at Aronimink sound?