Scott Hartnell is a fan favorite in Philadelphia, and loathed everywhere else. He was part of the turnaround after that dreadful season that saw us hit rock bottom. And in the run to the Stanley Cup Finals this past season, his contributions were huge. Of course playoffs matter most, but he had a disappointing regular season prior to that. So is he really worthy of his 6 year, $25M contract?
When he came over from the Nashville Predators with Timonen, I’d never heard of him before. He was already in his 6th season, and was coming off back to back 20 goal seasons. Not bad, considering the Preds were a defense first team, that never featured any breakout offensive stars (except Paul Kariya for a short period). So he came here, added hustle and grit, chipped in some goals, and helped us climb out of the basement all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Season two was when he really began to stand out. His role in the offense was similar to Mike Knuble: Dig the puck out of corners, and use his size in front of the net. Create traffic, get a few deflections, chip in rebounds, just get the dirty goals. And he did his job well, scoring 30 goals.
After that season ended, the Flyers felt Knuble was expendable, that Hartnell could step into his role, and he was let go. And Hartnell did not come close to what we expected of him. He went back to putting up the same numbers that he had in Nashville, despite having far more talent around him. He was rarely noticeable on the ice most of the time, and he had long scoring droughts. He followed up his 30 goal campaign with a 14 goal season. And, like the prior two seasons, he continued to take stupid penalties. He plays with emotion, which of course we love, but he doesn’t always have self control. He retaliated, took lazy hooking penalties, and put the team in a bad spot. If the Flyers were hoping that we wouldn’t miss Knuble’s presence in front of the net, then that experiment failed.
So how do I feel about him? I’m all mixed up because of what we saw in the playoffs. He was hungry, he didn’t take stupid penalties, and he scored timely goals. But can he sustain that type of play for an entire regular season, and have a repeat performance in the playoffs? He should have it in him. He doesn’t score lucky goals; he plays a game based on using his strength. I think for him to put up the type of numbers that he’s capable of, he needs to be more consistent around the net. He needs to get his ass in front of the goalies face, and not let anyone move him. And his shot and his quickness are underrated. He doesn’t have great hands, but he can still maneuver enough to create some space and get off a few shots. For what he’s done so far, I’m not sure he’s worthy of his contract right now. So if he waived his no trade clause, and moved him for another player, I wouldn’t shed any tears.
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