Vinny’s Demotion is the Right Call

Philadelphia Flyers head coach Craig Berube has reportedly juggled his line-up today, moving veteran center Vinny Lecavalier down to the 4th line. He’ll be skating with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo unless something else drastically chances. This is a savvy, and courageous coaching move for Berube. Demoting a prized off-season acquisition whose making big money is never an easy decision. But in this case, the tough call is the right one.

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How Far Can the Flyers Ride Special Teams?

It should be no secret that the 2013-2014 Flyers are an average team at even strength. They currently sit at 17th in 5v5 Goals For/Against at .95, smack in the middle of the pack. And if we look at Fenwick Close %, a good stat for measuring puck possession success, the Flyers are 24th out of 30 teams at 48.8%. Simply put, they tend to get out-possessed, out-shot, and out scored at 5v5.

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MacDonald, Grossmann Acquisitions Indicative of a Larger Problem.

Since the loss of Chris Pronger to a career ending injury, the Flyers defense has been in disarray. What was once legitimately one of the best Top-4 defensive units in the league has gotten progressively worse since then. And with Kimmo Timonen set to retire after this season, the Flyers are in desperate need of some young, puck moving talent on the back end. But inexplicably Flyers brass has chosen to go in another direction entirely.

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Don’t half ass it NHL: Either make the Winter Classic a novelty, or make the outdoor game a tradition.

Let’s face it, profits aside, the current outdoor game strategy…sucks.  There are 6 NHL outdoor games this year, and I don’t know when a single one of them aside from the Winter Classic is happening.  If not for a Rangers fan in my office, there is no way I’d know about tonight’s outdoor game in New York.

The problem isn’t that it’s worn out, it’s that this specific idea is poorly executed. Don’t half ass this outdoor series. Either do one (or two if you want an all-Canadian game) per year and make it special, or go all out and make it something the hardcore fans will enjoy and the casual fan will remember.

Let’s face it, there’s no way the owners are going back to one game a year anytime soon, so with that in mind, here is how I would fix the Stadium Series by going full measure:

  • I’d be far more interested in the outdoor games if I knew “Hey, on Feb 15th the Flyers have their game!”  Instead of having 6 games a year for an exclusive club of big revenue markets, hold 15 outdoor games a year and give every team a spot at the table.  Sure some matchups might be duds (Florida/Tampa!) but it would give struggling teams something to sell to their team every year.
  • If you’re going to hold 16 of these games (or even 6) don’t just cram the games into two months: spread them out over the year. Give the people up north the opportunity to experience a hockey game outdoors in warm weather like a baseball game in October, then the next time put it in the January. There’s no reason to make Edmonton play Calgary in -30F when their game could be in comparably warm temperatures (10s or 20s) during November.
  • Instead of just a cheesy rivalry night pitting teams that aren’t even rivals make every Wednesday night for 15 straight weeks an outdoor game. Use these games to highlight actual division rivals, pitting last year’s playoff opponents against one another when possible.
  • Finally, make the Winter Classic a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Final where winner gets home ice for the game (when possible) so that the big game feels like an honor, not something given to whichever market will pad the coffers. (For example, this year’s WC would be Boston @ Chicago on New Year’s Day). The fans will come anyway..we’ve proven that through three lockouts in 20 years.  Put hockey in my city, and I’ll pay a premium to go see it.  Put it on TV and it’s the only reason I don’t cancel cable.

This fix gives every city should get one of these games every other year and maintains the importance of the Winter Classic. Right now the novelty of the Winter Classic has become a cash grab that feels stale.

In short, NHL, if you are going to saturate the market, then accept that the novelty factor needs to become a tradition in order to survive.

Jets @ Flyers Scoring Chance Summary

After a rough road trip in Florida, the Flyers came out strong to start their Black Friday home game against the Winnepeg Jets. First period chances were 8-1 in the Flyers favor. Overall chances were 15 to 12 for the Flyers, and with a dead tie in even strength chances 12 to 12. Despite some modest push back from the Jets in the second period, the Flyers were firmly in control and finished the game out strong. A solid rebound win for the team and some great individual performances to look at.

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Flyers @ Panthers Scoring Chance Summary

The Flyers transition game struggled against the Panthers forecheck. Clean breakouts were a rare commodity and as a result the Flyers got outchanced at even strength 16 to 12. Although the Flyers did slightly edge the Panthers in total chances, 19 – 18. For whatever reason, Berube’s squad couldn’t adjust to the Panthers pressuring the breakout at the Flyers blue line. It was difficult for any Flyers line to sustain offensive zone time, and puck support in the O-zone was lacking tonight. Even if a player got control of the puck, he had no open plays to make. All of this aside, this was still a winnable game for the Flyers. Florida wasn’t dominating by any stretch and the Flyers had their chances late in the game and on the powerplay. And as expected, Berube struggled to get his match-ups on the road. On to the individual line grades.

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Stamkos walking without crutches or boot

In a sign of how tough hockey players are, two weeks after breaking his tibia Stamkos is already walking without either crutches or a boot.  That’s insane.

Thoughts:

1) Hockey player.

2) Stamkos might just get back in time to help save the lightning from falling completely out of the playoff picture.

3) I won’t get into how Stamkos will affect advanced metrics at the Olympics to prove my point because even an absolute idiot could build team Canada without advanced stats.  Suffice to say, this is not a good thing for Team USA.  We are already decided underdogs at Sochi because our goalies have been under performing except for Ryan Miller, and Canada has us crushed on depth at every skater position. I would have to assume that Stamkos would play as Crosby’s winger in Sochi. (Leaving a top 4 center combo of Crosby-Tavares-Thornton-Toews).  He’s more of a sniper than a play maker, and might actually be the best sniper in the world, so it makes sense to put him with the best passer in the world when you’re talking about the Olympic level.  A powerplay of Anyone-Crosby-Stamkos at the Olympics will be all but unstoppable.

Islanders @ Flyers Scoring Chance Summary

Despite the lopsided score in the Flyers favor, the Islanders outchanced the Flyers 25 – 18 total, and 19 – 16 at even strength. To really get a sense of how this game went, we cam break it down into two halves. For the first 25 minutes, the Flyers controlled even strength play and put up 11 scoring chances to only 4 for the Isles. The beginning of the second period was marked by the Flyers scoring on 3 consecutive chances. With the huge lead, the Flyers performance dipped, and the Islanders took advantage. Following Giroux’s goal, the Isles went on a 21 to 5 tear, including 2 goals of their own. Trying to sit on the 3 goal lead almost cost the Flyers but they managed to salvage a win with some solid penalty killing in the final 5 minutes of the contest. Read on for the line grades.

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