On Nov. 7, 2008, forward Steve Downie was shipped out of Philadelphia in a box labeled ‘lost cause.’
The Flyers groomed the 2005 first-round pick for three years, until they simply had enough. He took too many penalties, earned one too many suspensions and appeared as if he would never be able to ride the fence of tactful aggression and being a barbarian.
That was all true, until he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who transformed the young but chaotic talent into a player.
“He’s made a conscious effort to do that,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman told the Windsor Star with regards to Downie controlling himself. “We want to reassure to him that he is a good player and his play in the playoffs is showing that. He’s got great hockey sense, he’s got good skills and he sees the ice very well. We want him on the ice, we don’t want him in the penalty box. We try to encourage him to do that and I think he understands that.”
The future of Dan Carcillo in Philadelphia is up in the air once again.
For the second season in a row, the truculent and maniacal forward is tapping into restricted free agency with the Flyers, looking for another contract. And for the second season in a row, general manager Paul Holmgren has to make a decision whether to extend his $1.075 million deal, or walk away.
This time, it should be the latter. But it has nothing to do with his performance.
The offseason chatter surrounding the improvement of the Flyers has focused primarily on goaltending, Mike Richards’ captaincy and potential trade opportunities featuring Jeff Carter.
Yet, while those topics may headline the solutions put forth to avenge their embarrassing second-round playoff exit, there is a more fundamental problem the Flyers need an answer for— where was the fight?
“We got slapped around and that was a little harder to take,” general manager Paul Holmgren said after his team was swept from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins. “I think we have to take a look at some things and see where we are going.”
With their need for a bona fide starting goaltender listed as top priority in the offseason for the Flyers, all eyes shifted immediately to Phoenix Coyotes backstop Ilya Bryzgalov, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
But while Flyer fans fall in love with the prospect of acquiring the soon-to-be 31-year old 2010 Vezina Trophy runner-up, one giant hurdle could stand in their way — Coyotes general manager Don Maloney.
“I think the process is identifying priorities, who’s the most important and the second-most important and on down the line and then going out and executing your plan,” Maloney told the Arizona Republic. “Certainly, Ilya Bryzgalov is very important to us.”
The Flyers’ goaltending situation can truly be described as in flux, while also being in need.
And with many varying options on the table for general manager Paul Holmgren this offseason, one thing is for certain — the Flyers require a workhorse between the pipes and according to goalie coach Jeff Reese, Sergei Bobrovsky isn’t it. Yet.
“Everybody develops a little bit differently,” said Reese. “I thought [Bobrovsky] had a very very good first season and in my opinion, has a chance at a real bright future and to be a No. 1 down the road. It’s probably going to take two or three years to come along, but you never know, it could be next year. For now, it’s probably going to take a couple years.”
Mike Richards isn’t the problem and neither is his captaincy with the Flyers.
After being swept out of the postseason in effortless fashion by the Boston Bruins in the second round, fingers were pointed and blame was assigned — most of it landing on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, who was playing with a torn ligament in his wrist.
VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers coach Peter Laviolette spent his Monday afternoon conducting somber exit meetings with many of the players, breaking only to joust passionately with the media for nearly 40 minutes.
Yet, what the second-year Flyers coach did the most during the slowly moving clean-out day was go to bat for captain Mike Richards, who had guns drawn at him over the Flyers’ second-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
“I wish we were practicing today,” Laviolette said, when questioned on his captain’s leadership abilities. “I don’t think you should go on a witch hunt for Mike Richards just because we’re not. That doesn’t make sense to me. This is the same guy who led this team to within two games of the [Stanley] Cup last year.”
VOORHEES, N.J. — To put it softly, Kris Versteeg’s short time in Philadelphia could have gone better. However, there may have been a reason behind the gritty forward’s lack of tenacity late in season and in the playoffs.
Philly Sports Daily learned on Monday that Versteeg will undergo surgery on his abdominal area during the offseason. The injury is suspected to be a sports hernia.
“I’m going to get the body fixed up right now,” he said, “do the surgery, recover and get ready for next season.”
The second-round series against the Boston Bruins was a summation of all that came before it.
Trailing 3-1 late in the third period of Game 4 at TD Garden, with his team facing elimination, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette pulled Sergei Bobrovsky for an extra skater. Instead of gaining momentum, pushing their war-torn bodies to the limit and scraping up any amount of remaining pride to go down fighting, the lackluster and empty Flyers failed to gain the zone and were unable to set up the least bit of offense. Holding the man advantage, the Flyers were still outworked.
The Bruins scored on the empty net before Laviolette pulled his goalie once more in a last-ditch effort down 4-1. The Flyers barely even tried to stop the Bruins who added another empty netter to make it 5-1.
They were wiped out of the playoffs in four games by a team that wanted it more.
As the Flyers went down in flames on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, to get swept out of the second-round series by the Bruins, smoke of an uncertain offseason quickly filled the air.
Lost in the haze of disappointment and blame, however, was the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who provided a flicker of optimism in an otherwise empty 5-1 defeat.
“He was real big in the net,” said defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “He didn’t make the fancy save but I think sometimes with goalies when they don’t make the fancy save is when they are playing well. A lot of pucks were hitting them. You can’t fault him tonight.”