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.”
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.”
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.”
VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers may be winless heading into Game 3 against the Boston Bruins, but that hasn’t curbed their confidence or enthusiasm one bit as they hit the road.
“There is a 100 percent belief in here that we can go into Boston and win the next game,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “There’s a lot of guys [in the locker room] that have battled through different situations and been able to win big games. I have no reason to doubt that tomorrow will be any different.”
Brimming with confidence and displaying an almost excited demeanor, when asked if the Flyers drew swagger from last year’s 3-0 comeback on the Bruins, Laviolette said they never discussed it.
Midway through the third period with the Boston Bruins and Flyers locked at two, the orange-clad Philadelphia crowd that filled Wells Fargo Center scrapped the U.S.A. chants that started the contest in favor off a more topical and rousing abbreviation — J.V.R.
To say that James van Riemsdyk was impressive in Game 2 would be an understatement. Scoring two early goals and pacing the Flyers’ spirited attack throughout, the 21-year-old seemed to have an awaken. Jetting into the zone, cornering defenders and powering to the crease, all while taking double shifts, was not just an errant good game — it looked more like the coming of age of a superstar.
“I think it’s just the experience and the confidence to have been in the playoffs before and learned from the guys that are such great playoff performers,” van Riemsdyk said.
VOORHEES, N.J. — It was a moment that defined the core of this Flyers team.
Coming from a 3-0 series and Game 7 deficit to take down the Boston Bruins en route to an eventual trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was not only historic, it is the watershed moment that all future playoff scenarios will be compared to. And what this particular returning group of Flyers will walk beside forever.
And for that, the Bruins seek redemption.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a good opportunity for us to hopefully exorcise some demons,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference told the Boston Herald, after advancing past the Montreal Canadians on Wednesday.
“As much as we learned lessons from last year and we’re not afraid to talk about those lessons, we’ve got a chance to make things a little bit better this time around.”