Today is my 25th birthday. It’s also the trade deadline for this NHL strike-shortened, bastard of a season. The chaos has already begun with Jay Bouwmeester headed to St. Louis, Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh, and just yesterday Jaromir Jagr to Boston and Ryan Clowe to the New York Rangers. By 3 PM EST, it’s safe to assume other players — some with big names, others without — will also be on the move.
The Flyers made a curious yet oh-so-classic-them trade in acquiring, ahem, enforcer Jay Rosehill from Anaheim for the fungible Harry Zolnierczyk. BECAUSE JAY ROSEHILL WILL TOTALLY DETER OTHER TEAMS FROM HITTING CLAUDE GIROUX! Because, wait, why, exactly? Yeah, okay. Make no mistake, this trade sure smells like a direct response to Jakub Voracek taking it upon himself to fight Steve Oleksy after his legal check on a pirouetting Claude Giroux. If it was a Flyer laying that hit on an opposing team’s star, we would’ve reacted with joy and exultation. The hit didn’t even seem that hard, honestly. But I guess you can’t let other players take liberties with your captain, have to stand up for him, defend his honor, display team unity, so on and so forth. I did like how Jake threw those punches, that was cool. Man, do I adore him. Anyway, two instigators (one for regular instigation and the other for instigating a fight with a visor on), a fighting major and misconduct later, Voracek had racked up 19 minutes in penalties, the Flyers were down 5-on-3, and within a 30-second spurt were down 4-2 on the scoreboard. Then, well, you know what happened. Starting with under eight minutes left, Giroux made up for his costly turnover on the Capitals’ third goal with a top-cheese one-timer from his office on the power play. Then after a blocked shot and scramble, he fed Kimmo Timonen for another one-time slapper that seeing-eyed its way through a mass of bodies and past Braden Holtby to tie the game with just under 10 seconds left. For a team that was teetering on the brink, with its season literally hanging in the balance, this was insanity. Beautiful insanity. Of course, that insanity was amplified 1:34 into overtime when Ruslan Fedetenko — who could’ve had a hat trick in the game if not for his hands of stone — and Timonen executed a perfect give-and-go. Just when you think you can count the Flyers out for good, they go ahead and do that.
Oh, and before all this, somehow the Flyers managed to beat the Boston Bruins. They have beaten the Bruins like one time since Game 7 of that historic 2010 Semifinal series. What the hell is going on? With a win today over the Canadiens, the Flyers will have their first real winning streak of the season, and they’ll move back to within two points of the 8th seed, the only hope they have of salvaging this 48-game season with a playoff berth. The Race for Eighth is very much on, and the Flyers are jockeying with six other teams.
Back to the trade deadline. I don’t see the Flyers making any significant moves (Edit: Of course, now they’re being linked to Keith Yandle again and are reportedly looking to “make a splash,” because this is the Flyers we’re talking about, so fasten your seat belts). Not even for a rental, and not in a trade that hurts their outlook for the future. Let the other desperate fringe teams myopically mortgage important assets for quick-fixes-who-won’t-actually-fix-anything, don’t follow suit. I’ll always be scared of him doing something impulsive and dumb, but I think Paul Holmgren has to have a pretty good, realistic idea about this team’s ceiling. He has to understand, in his heart, a team that hasn’t once achieved a legit winning streak in two-and-a-half months likely won’t suddenly develop the consistency necessary to make the playoffs, let alone win there. But there’s always the intoxicating “what if” of sneaking into that 8-seed, and, of course, playing the Penguins in the first round. Nevertheless, the mind-numbing, almost comical avalanche of injuries — now Grossmann, Coburn, Meszaros, Talbot — piling up one right after the other sure doesn’t make it feel like the right time to buy. Hold steady, plug in the young guys, let the rest of the season play out however it will and assess the totality of this operation in the summer. Patience is not a bad thing here. Remember, Bruno Gervais played 19:51 against the Capitals on Sunday. NHL veteran journeyman defenseman Kent Huskins, acquired from Detroit for literally a ham sandwich on Saturday, played 16:02 in his first game as a Flyer. Phantoms call-up Oliver Lauridsen clocked in at 11:16. In light of such information, let’s try to view the situation rationally and not delude ourselves about what to expect.
I’ve written off this Flyers team so many times this season, I can’t seriously buy in now. But, well, I’m certainly not averse to trying if they get on a roll! I do thoroughly enjoy exciting, winning hockey after all.