This past Flyers season was filled with a lot of drama and storylines. Despite the fact that the Flyers are not in the playoffs, there is some reason for optimism and there is lot to think about as the postseason rolls on.
One of the chief storylines concerning the Flyers right now revolves around defenseman Tony DeAngelo. DeAngelo, if by some reason you haven’t heard, was benched for the final five games of the season. Despite some great offensive abilities, he has struggled on the defensive side of the ledger, including a team leading -27 in the plus/minus rating.
While he generates a lot of firepower and juice on the power play unit, leading the team with 19 points on the man advantage, his defensive liabilities have hurt this team more than once, especially when you factor in the relative youth and inexperience of many of our blueliners.
After the season, DeAngelo has spoken to reporters. He has expressed his displeasure at some things, but at the same time talked about his enthusiasm for others. Here are some big takeaways from his talk.
He’s Upset at the Benching
Gee….you think. This is Pulitzer winning journalism here. But let’s look at what he said:
"“He’s the coach of the team, so you’ve got to respect that and I respect what he does. Do I agree with it, what happened in the last five games? Absolutely not. I think it’s ridiculous that I didn’t play the last five. That’s one thing. But he’s also the coach of the team. It’s not my job to decide that. All I can worry about is being a good teammate, which I think I did. Tried to stay out of the way. I don’t want to be a distraction to anybody, these guys had stuff to play for — there’s milestones guys are trying to get to, guys are trying to play for contracts next year.”"
First of all, he understands that there are young guys on this team that need to showcase what they got if they want to stick around in the NHL. He also understood that Justin Braun may have been playing his last few games and was looking to get his 200th career point (didn’t happen).
At the same time, the competitor in him wanted to play. He wants to be on the ice every game. He doesn’t feel that it was the right decision (Kevin Hayes said the same thing when he was benched in December). He’s trying to put the team first, which is a good move on his part.
But he also has to learn to respect the coach, even if he doesn’t agree with the decisions. He also was wise not to make it a bigger distraction than it could’ve been.
He Knows He Needs to Improve
"“I’ve got to play and I’ve got to play better,. I’m pretty accountable of myself…I didn’t think I was great defensively all the time. There were some games where I was real good. Early in the year, I thought I was really good defensively, and then kind of dipped, then the points weren’t coming — it was all over the place. Too inconsistent. I thought it was very frustrating for myself to be that inconsistent this year, especially after the year I had last year [in Carolina], where I thought I was very consistent. I can’t blame Torts for that — me being inconsistent and him not being happy about it. That’s stuff that I take responsibility for and I was pissed about. It was a disappointing year for me in that sense.”"
The competitor in him realizes he needs to get better. He did have a great year in Carolina (10 goals and 41 assists) compared to this year (10 goals and 31 assists). But his defensive stats were a lot better too: +30 compared to -27, 39 giveaways compared to 57.
Maybe it was because he was paired up with better defenders than the Flyers have: Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, and Brent Pesce. Maybe it is that Carolina is a first place team that can actually score. Who knows?
But the thing is, he understands that he was struggling on the defensive side of the puck. Perhaps he can work things out with John Tortorella and improve on it so he can be a major part moving forward. Maybe he was pushing himself too hard and screwed up more because he was doing too much. Whatever is lacking in his game, he needs to figure it out.
He Wants to be a Flyer
"“The way I put it: I love being a Flyer. My whole life I’ve wanted to be a Flyer. Now that I am, I don’t take it for granted at all. It’s something that means a lot to me, so we’re not going to let any relationship stuff get in the way. I’ve wanted to be a Flyer forever,. As far as what’s going to happen, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. Even if I’m back next year, if I’m back after that year, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. As long as I’m wanted here, I’ll be here.”"
No matter what sport it is, you always want to play for your favorite team. Growing up, I wanted to play on the Phillies. I wanted to be a star player for years to come. One little problem…I kinda, sorta sucked at playing baseball. Dream denied!
DeAngelo is living out two dreams. One of them is playing in the NHL. The other is paying for the Flyers. He has both dreams right now. Don’t squander it.
It’s a good sign that he is not demanding at trade. I also found this bit interesting: “if I’m back after that year.” To me, that is a sign that he is open to an extension.
If he can put this year behind him and grow and improve, if he can rebuild the relationship he has with Tortorella and become the player that Torts wants him to be, he could become an major piece of the future of this team. He’s only 27 and should be entering his prime.
If he can put it all together, imagine him with a blueline group of Cam York, Egor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Nick Seeler, and/or other young stud defenders. He could be the leader of that young hungry group. He still has value.
If these are sincere comments, than who knows. Maybe he could end up being one of the great Flyers of all-time. We’ll have to wait and see.