Category Archives: 2008-09 season

Flyers look for redemption tonight vs Leafs

After a listless 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, the Flyers’ management gave the team absolute hell.  General Manager Paul Holmgren called out individual players and coach John Stevens searched for ways to get his team motivated with just a handful of games remaining and playoff seeding in jeopardy.

But thanks to the schedule makers, the Flyers will have a chance for redemption tonight, as they host the Leafs at 7 p.m., in what can’t be called anything less than a must-win game.

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Holmgren pulls no punches calling out listless Flyers

Anyone watching the Flyers’ 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, asked themselves how a team, just six games away from the post season, could play with so little emotion.  And that’s exactly what General Manager Paul Holmgren asked after witnessing the awful performance.

“We’ve got six games and we have to pick it up,” Holmgren said in published reports. “We’ve got top start playing the type of game that will allow us success in the playoffs. The way we’re playing now isn’t good enough – if we do get it.”

The Flyers spent the entire second period in their own zone, chasing the puck and making no effort to go the other way.  They turned the puck over countless times in the neutral zone and rarely won battles on the boards.  There was no skating, no hits and nothing to suggest the team cared about being on the ice.  The contest could be described as a 40-minute long even strength penalty kill, with some flashes of energy at the beginning and end.

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JVR to start pro career tonight versus River Rats

After two years of waiting and months of speculation, Flyers’ fans will finally see top prospect James van Riemsdyk in Philly colors.  After signing a try out contract with the Philadelphia Phantoms earlier this morning, JVR will suit up to dress when the Phantoms take on the Albany River Rats tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum at 7 p.m.  JVR has had experience playing with the majority of Phantoms in prospect camp, prior to Flyers’ training camp.  He played specifically with center Jonathan Masumoto.

The former second overall pick in the 2007 draft will give the Phantoms, who are four point behind the Binghamton Senators for a post season spot, a boost to the playoffs.  The acquisition has riled up excitement for the game tonight, which is sure to spike in ticket sales due to fan interest in JVR’s game.

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Flyers ink JVR to entry level contract

The Flyers have just announced that top prospect and NCAA standout James van Riemsdyk has forgone his last two years of college to turn pro and sign a multi-year entry level deal with the Flyers that won’t begin until next season.  van Riemsdyk could play as soon as tonight with the Phantoms, on a try out contract.

“We are pleased to have James in the fold and look forward to monitoring his development more closely,” said Holmgren. “It was a difficult decision for James to leave school, but we both believed that it was in his best interest to do so. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the University of New Hampshire, and in particular, Coach Dick Umile and his staff for not only their understanding but their dedicated work with James over the last two seasons.”

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Holmgren leaving decision to JVR

With less than a minute to play and the game locked at one in the University of New Hampshire’s NCAA playoff match up with Boston University, Flyers’ prospect James van Riemsdyk took a hooking penalty that set in motion what should be an interesting post season for JVR.  The Terriers scored on the power play, ending the Wildcats’ season.

Now that his season is over, many believe that the former second overall pick in 2007 will decide to join the Flyers’ organization, forgoing his junior and senior years of college.  But it might not be that easy.

“I’m not sure how soon it will be, but in the next couple of weeks or so, I’m going to figure out what I’m going to do,” JVR told the Boston Globe.

The Flyers have tried to get JVR out of college before and failed miserably, putting a behind-the-scenes rift between JVR, his family and Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren.

“The environment he’s in now, it might be time for him to move on (from college),” Holmgren said in January. “We tried to get him to come out last summer and he thought he was better off going back, and we said, ‘That’s fine. We’ll support your decision.’ But I still think he would have been better off if he came out last year.”

And with everyone expecting the Flyers to now pounce on an undecided van Riemsdyk, it’s oddly enough not going to happen.

“We’ve talked during the year,” Holmgren told the media yesterday. “I won’t do that (call JVR and family). It’s van Riemsdyk’s decision to make.”

The quote by Holmgren screams of frustration from prior attempts with contact his family.  He clearly knows where the family and player stands on the situation and doesn’t feel like his opinion matters, or else he would apply it.  This  ‘souring’ by the Flyers could have been the root of why JVR’s name popped up at the trade deadline.

Many scouts believe that JVR’s mediocre year was due to the lack of competition.  van Riemsdyk is a top caliber player and needs to be challenged at every turn.  If not, players who eclipse others in the league, tend to develop bad habits.  So when the Flyers wanted him in the AHL to get better and NHL-ready, JVR declined, saying he was happy where he was.

“I’m just trying to wait until I’m ready,” van Riemsdyk said in January. “[The Flyers] have obviously given me their opinions as to what they’ve thought I should do, but I’m kind of going to my support group, which would be my parents, my whole family, and my family advisers to help me make the decisions about hockey.”

Eklund from hockeybuzz.com is reporting that JVR may possibly be close to turning pro, which is what most expect.  However, if JVR does return to college for a third year, it would be an unbelievable decision, turning his name to mud in the Flyers’ eyes.

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Sbisa has his mind set on the future with the Flyers

Currently playing the role of top defenseman for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL,  Flyers’ prospect Luca Sbisa has big goals in mind and his offseason already planned.

“I’m going to go back to Switzerland for a little bit this offseason and will finish up some college credits,” Sbisa told Al Alven of Philadelphiaflyers.com. “After that, I’ll be spending lots of time in Philly to work on some things. I want to try to add more muscle, improve my strength and work on my speed, so I’ll be working very closely with [Flyers trainer] Jim McCrossin.”

Sbisa has logged about 30-35 minutes a game and has played in all aspects for the Hurricanes, who are up 3-2 in a best of seven series with the Saskatoon Blades.

“I realized when I got back to Lethbridge that this was a chance for me to do some things I missed, like playing lots of minutes and getting power play time,” Sbisa said. “I really did miss that stuff. It was also a chance to go for a championship and try to contend for the Memorial Cup, which would be great.”

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“HA HA HA” Boston’s Edwards stuns viewers with laugh after boarding

During the second period of the Flyers –  Bruins match up on Sunday, Bruins’ forward Milan Lucic threw himself  into the turned body of defenseman Randy Jones.  The borderline play could have been cited for boarding, but wasn’t, sending the Flyers’ home crowd into a groaning frenzy.  That’s when Bruins’ play-by-play man Jack Edwards struck.

“Lucic hammers him! And down goes Jones,” Edwards screamed into the mic.  “And how’s this for irony, the crowd wants a call for a hit from behind! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.”

The reference was due to an incident last season, when petite Bruin Patrice Bergeron, turned his back to a charging Jones, who put him face first into the boards, ending Bergeron’s season with a severe concussion.  Jones, who is not known for dirty (or physical) play, was suspended and was apologetic.  But apparently Edwards doesn’t forgive and forget.

The evil laugh and unprofessional nature  shocked out of town Philadelphia fans, who watched the telecast from Yahoo Sports, which streamed the Boston feed.

“That was the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever heard in a sports broadcast,” said one Philly fan located in Boston, on the message board Flyersphans.com.

But Edwards still wasn’t finished.  What the youtube.com video doesn’t show is Edwards yelling “Cry me a river!” after a replay of the hit.

Edwards  reputation proceeds him as an enormous homer.  And despite whether you are for or against the Bruins or Flyers, it’s hard to disagree.

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Devils feeling the Flyers’ late season press

With just eight games left in the regular season, the Flyers are starting to heat up.  And at the same time, the seemingly invincible New Jersey Devils are falling apart.

After dwindling in the distance, 11 points behind the Devils for the Atlantic Division lead, the Flyers have closed the gap to just six points with a game in hand.  The Flyers have won four of their last five games, including a big win over Jersey.  The Devils are headed in a different direction, losing four in a row and making it possible, that if they can’t turn their situation around quickly, they might just get caught.

“We’ve lost four in a row now and we’ve won one of our last six, so I’d say it’s a big game,” said Devils coach Brent Sutter about his team’s upcoming game against the rival Rangers. “The reality of it all is that at this time of year every game is a big game. Every game is a desperate game because you know your opposition is going to be fighting for something. We’re still fighting for something. Philly wins tonight and they’re six points behind us with a game in hand.”

With Jersey looking for answers and off tonight, the Flyers have a golden opportunity to gain further ground when they host Eastern Conference leader Boston tonight at 7 p.m.

“I think the most important thing is taking each game individually and try and improve our point total,” said Flyers coach John Stevens, when asked about catching the Devils.  “We want to get our team game together and if we’re playing well and winning a good share of games we’ll get where we need to go.”

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International parade continues, Flyers ink Lehtivuori to try out

One day after signing prospect Mario Kempe to a Phantoms try out, the Flyers added another international prospect to the minor league club.  The Flyers signed 5-foot-11, 167 lbs. Finnish defenseman Joonas Lehtivuori to a minor league try out.

The 20-year old former fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft is a small puck-moving defenseman that has good puck handling skills and can score.  He has a small frame that may limit him in the North American game, but there is no doubt he has a high ceiling of talent.  He will need to add weight and learn how to out smart forwards rather than out muscle them.

Lehtivuori had four goals and eight assists in 44 games  with the Ilves Tampere of the low scoring Finnish League.

The Flyers most likely hope fellow Finn, Kimmo Timonen, can help Joonas learn the ropes a bit quicker.  A similar style blue liner, Timonen doesn’t have to cross the language barrier to help Joonas get comfortable.

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Flyers sign Swedish goalie Johan Backlund

The Flyers made a splash in the international free agency market, by picking up  6-foot-2, 200 lbs. goaltender, Johan Backlund on a one-year contract.

“Johan is a player who we have watched over the last couple of years and we really like,” said Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren . “He will bring depth to our organization at the goaltender position.”

The 27-year old posted a 2.56 goals against average in 49 games with Timra of the Swedish Elite League.  Backlund was a sought after by multiple teams, but signed with the Flyers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Backlund is low risk, high reward (as are most goalies).  He has potential to be a decent NHL backup, but needs to prove himself under fire.  He possesses a standup style with good reflexes and uses his size well.  He is well-rounded, not excelling anywhere specific but also not lacking.

The Flyers’ system is terribly barren at goaltender.  With next to no prospects even close to playing major minutes at the AHL level, let alone NHL, something needed to be done. Backlund will likely become the backup to any starter for the Flyers, considering both Marty Biron and Antero Niittymaki will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2008-09 season.  The Flyers will likely let Niittymaki walk due to his bad hip and try to re-sign Biron.  However, sources say that Biron’s agent is riding up the price of the backstop, which puts the future of Biron in Philly in question.

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