Woah…that’s a blast from the past. And a rather unwelcome one as well. At least if you are a long time Flyers fan.
So first, let’s get some backstory going here. Alexander Daigle was a top prospect in the early 1990s. He was fast, had a wicked shot, and was expected to be Canada’s answer to the fast moving Russian defectors, like Sergei Fedorov and the Bure Brothers. He had loads of talent up the wazoo. He was drafted first overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1993 draft after tanking to get him. It’s thanks to their efforts that we now have a lottery in place.
When he arrived at the NHL…he was ok at best. He could skate, but he seemed hesitant to do battle in the corners. He shied away from the big defenders of the day. He’d rather dump the puck in rather than carry it in or fight through the space for a goal. Even more so, he got paid. Why put your body on the line when you might get hurt?
After a few mediocre seasons and a few shenanigans (a hold out and getting kicked off a plane for joking about a bomb on board). He was traded to Philadelphia for prospect Vaclav ‘Vinny” Prospal and former first round bust Pat Falloon. It was expected that he could straighten up in Philly and be a dynamic scorer on the Eric Lindros-Rod Brind’amour led team. That did not happen.
In parts of two seasons, he played just 68 games and scored a measly 12 goals with 19 assists. Bobby Clarke tried trading him to the Oilers but, when that fell through, just kicked him off the team. Later on, he would be dealt to the Lightning. I also remember rumors that Clarke had kicked him off the the team bus in front of the team, tossing his bags off as well. I haven’t been able to verify this now, but I do remember hearing the story. And with Clarke, anything is possible.
So what does that have to do with today’s team? Quite a bit actually.
Daigle got paid a lot of money, got to play the game he loved, and was just fine and happy being mediocre. It didn’t matter if he played well or if the team did well. It didn’t matter to him. And with a guy like Clarke at the helm, that wasn’t going to fly. Neither would it with former owner Ed Snider. Snider built this team up to being a winning juggernaut.
Since the epic 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, it seems that the Flyers have become complacent. I can’t quite put my finger on the problem, but a whole cavalcade of coaches have come and gone without an answer. Peter Laviolette was deemed too tough on the players. Craig Berube couldn’t cut it, but won a cup in St. Louis. Dave Hakstol couldn’t get the team to buy in; but yet Seattle will probably make the playoffs in their second season. Alain Vigneault, a Jack Adams Award finalist, lost the team. John Tortorella is trying to change the culture of the club.
Somehow, losing became the norm for this team along with playing a subpar/nonchalant style hockey. Just making the playoffs was better than succeeding…and even that ended up being replaced with coming close to making the playoffs.
I’ve heard various rumors that certain players didn’t really care about what happened to the team, “as long as they got theirs”. I hope that isn’t the truth as it would mar my opinion on some of the players over the last 10 years. However, I think that there is some truth to this. The current team has struggled to stay consistent all season. You may see the Flyers clean house soon and get rid of players who are no longer buying into the concept that you give your all all the time.
This might not be an easy process. Habits are hard to break; bad habits are harder to break. This team needs to shake off the idea that just being in the NHL is good enough. Good enough is never good enough. The late 90s Flyers could’ve done a heck of a lot better with Prospal on the wing instead of Daigle who clearly played like he didn’t give two craps about playing.
Likewise, this team will clearly do better when all the old habits of playing just “so-so” is gone. That blasé attitude had no place in the locker room, on the ice, or as a part of Flyers hockey. I’m not sure who needs to go or how it will be remedied. But when it happens, you will see this team take off. I do feel that Coach Tortorella is the right guy to fix it. It’s just a matter of how much he has to undo while heading a team in the hardest division in the NHL.