No more skate sharpeners. No more glove dryers. No mare taping of sticks, ankles, knees or anything else. The season has ended. It was over far earlier than we had wanted or expected. What went wrong?
The team was flat. They couldn’t score. They couldn’t defend. Worst of all, it didn’t look like their care. “Blame the coach! Blame the captain! Blame the goalies! Blame the GM!” That’s what we’ll hear from national media that doesn’t know the team. That’s what the message boards will say, mostly thanks to trolls that don’t really understand what they’re watching. But really, whose fault is it, and why?
For one thing, we can look at injuries a bit. That’s not an excuse, that’s a reason, partially. Coming into the season, we boasted a deep group of defensemen. Depth is good, but the only person we couldn’t really replace was Pronger. The rest of thfany whye guys are above average, and capable of making plays. But he stands out significantly. He is more sound in his end, and more consistent on offense than anyone else. With him hurt in the beginning, middle, and end of the season, it made things much, much worse.
In addition to that, I’m sure we’ll find out more and more about various players’ ailments. Richards will probably need wrist surgery. Good luck winning faceoffs, taking shots, fighting, or throwing hits when your wrist is messed up. We grew to love him because of his heart. That quality doesn’t just vanish. Something had to be wrong for him to play like a ghost of himself. Now we know. Injuries are something that many teams deal with. That’s why in the end, the teams that stayed the healthiest are the ones playing in June.
Still, injuries are not the #1 reason. Despite who’s in and out of the lineup, we still had enough to win. Nobody ever promised us that the goaltending would be a strong suit. Blaming Boucher and Bobrovsky, and even Leighton for not being great is stupid. We were told they’d be good goalies, that would make the easy saves, but wouldn’t steal games for us. All season long, that’s exactly what we got out of them. In the playoffs, Boucher took a step back. But it’s exactly what his career has been. He’s never earned the #1 job anywhere, and bounced around everywhere, because he’s not consistent enough. I like the guy, I’m fine with him here. But he’s not the man.
That’s what I put most of the blame on Peter Laviolette. His system is great. It suits our team perfectly. But his management of player personnel was horrible this season. Completely horrible. Let’s review:
- Nikolai Zherdev: Ok, he doesn’t play defense. Is that why we got him? NO! He’s here to score goals. If you don’t like his attitude…then why even bring him here? He should have played 82 games, and every playoff game. Keep him in game shape, find him linemates that will feed him the puck, and enjoy a 30-40 goal campaign. Instead, we had bums like Jody Shelley and Andreas Nodl fumbling pucks and contributing nothing.
- Mike Richards: He’s not a scoring machine, but he’s got enough offensive capability to be more than just a shutdown, defensive forward. Give him linemates that can score! Instead, he’s had Carcillo on his line, sometimes Powe, and sometimes guys that can actually play like Giroux. He had JVR there before JVR figured out that he’s big enough to dominate. Speaking of which…
- JVR: What took so long to get him going?!?! In the playoffs he was our best forward. In practices, and while watching tape, why has our coach not figured out how to get the most out of a guy picked 2nd overall? Why didn’t we see him dominating play back in October. Things got so bad that he was benched at some point in November or December. And why didn’t anyone know that he had the hardest shot on the team until the skills competition?
- Danny Briere: He doesn’t like change. He likes playing with Hartnell and Leino. Keep him with Hartnell and Leino.Maybe they won’t score in every game. Maybe they’ll have a drought for a few games. But let them work their way out of it. They compliment each other well, and they like playing together. Keep the players happy, and you’ll get the results we wanted. They won’t just forget how to play with each other. But when you keep shifting them around, it throws them off. Briere has clearly stated this, in public, on numerous occasions.
- Jody Shelley: EVERYONE knew this was a wasted contract. Still, you played him. He didn’t scare anyone. He didn’t inspire anyone. He didn’t add any value to the team. Unless the GM is pressuring you to play him because he was under contract, there’s no reason for this idiot to be on the ice. Ever.
- Sergei Bobrovsky: He came out of nowhere and was our opening day starter. He started more games than Boucher. But, we screwed up twice with him. First, he played in 11 straight games in Oct/Nov after having split time with Boucher. The season in Russia is shorter. Why did we start wearing on him so early, rather than building up to it? Anyway, down the stretch, he proved to have the hot hand, and earned the starting job for the playoffs. He played brilliantly in Game 1, allowing a single goal. He faltered in the next game, and was suddenly reduced to street clothes. What. The. F@%.
Hell, the goaltending situation was mishandled so badly that it deserves it’s own post. Check back tonight or tomorrow morning for that.
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Topics: Andreas Nodl, Brian Boucher, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Coaching, Dan Carcillo, Danny Briere, Injuries, Jody Shelley, JVR, Michael Leighton, Mike Richards, Nikolai Zherdev, Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers, Playoffs, Scott Hartnell, Season Review, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ville Leino