February 16, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell (19) scores a goal past Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) during the 3rd period of a game at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Sabres, 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Bird Dog Dominates

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Scottie Hartnell was by far the most pleasant surprise for the Flyers this season especially when you take into account how he started the season. Bird Dog had a rough go of it early on. Mostly finding himself little ice time and was even dropped to the 4th line on a few occasions. Hartsy struggled to find his place amongst the newly revamped Flyers offense. He was seemingly a man without a home. Many were calling for a trade early on last season. At a point it did look like the end of the road for him in Philly. He was slowly becoming an obsolete player, but if there’s only one thing Scottie has going for him it’s this – he’s got heart. He keeps pushing and does not give in to media and fan scrutiny. I’ve never heard him comment once to reporters about unfair treatment from the media and fans (and he got both at the start of last season).

The problem I had with the heavy criticism if Hartnell’s play early last season was that whole dynamic of our offense changed drastically over the previous offseason. Nobody really knew what role they would have in the new offense besides G who was clearly going to be counted on to do the heavy lifting. Part of it also falls on Laviolette as he is the one who has to utilize his players to get the maximum he can out of him. It just took Lavs a minute to figure out Hartnell’s place in the line-up. He also had to take a bunch of new pieces and fit them together in a new puzzle.

In December though Bird Dog was re-born. He was moved onto a line with G and Jagr and it was on from there. He had reinvigorated energy and really started producing points at an all star level. He specifically began to take a large role on the power play. Harts started pounding the net on the pp. He scored much of his pp goals planted right in front of the goalie or from the low slot. He ended up with 16 powerplay goals this season which was good for 2nd in the league. His play was deemed worthy enough for the NHL fans to vote him into the All-Star Game which was his first appearance in one. The G line had its final piece and began clicking on all cylinders once Hartnell was put on it.

Speaking generally there are 2 types of point producing forwards in hockey – 1) the do it yourselfer: these types of players need no help to put up points on a regular basis and can basically will the puck in the net. Any team. Any line. Any game. They have a scorers touch and an unbelievable amount of skill mixed with relentless desire to score. And 2) the supporting cast: these types of players will get it done but need a little help from their friends to do so. When given the time and the space they will produce at an extremely high level, but they need another part out there with them to be effective. This is not to take anything away from these types of players at all because they are finishers and deserve plenty of respect. Hartnell obviously falls in the latter category.

Bird Dogs’ season before and after joining the G line are basically polar opposite. Before he joined the G line he was struggling to get ice time and couldn’t even get 1 quality shot on net a game and also was not crashing the net getting rebound goals. He also failed to cause a ruckus in front of the net as he tends to do when he is being productive. He is a trouble making goal scorer when he is playing well. A true power forward in every sense of the term.

Hartnell overall had a career year last season finishing with a 37/30/67 points line. He had a career high in goals, which was his 2nd career 30 goal season, tied a career high in assists and had a career high in points. He became an important part of the pp (who could forget the Hartnell-Simmonds high low screen) and gained the Philly fans support by being productive and entertaining ala Hogan Hartnell. I believe Jagr will be resigned and the G line will be in tact for next season. If that is the case Hartnell could be looking at his 2nd All Star Appearance in a row.

-John LaMarra

Twitter – @popesnipes77

E-Mail – [email protected]

 

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