As the Flyers roller coaster season goes on, where some of it excites us while other parts just makes us fans sick, there is a question that needs to be answered. What are the Flyers going to do with Scott Hartnell?
Throughout the past seven seasons I’ve grown to love Hartnell. I loved him for his heart and his unwillingness to give up. He may have not found the score sheet night in and night out but he did things that made a difference. Hartnell became my favorite Flyer on Dec 11, 2008. I was in attendance. Rod Brind’amour was on the jumbo-tron during a commercial break, speaking of his memories of the Spectrum. Just after the puck dropped to resume play, Hartnell drilled Brind’amour then dropped the gloves and gave a bloody beating to Casey Borer. Here’s a link to the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI95TqAwA2Y
At the time it was 1-0. Going into the 3rd period it was 5-1 Carolina and Hartnell has the lone goal. Just a few min into the 3rd, Hartnell scored his second and later on went to record a hattrick and the Flyers came back and won the game 6-5. That was it for me and Hartnell instantly became by favorite Flyer.
I’ve dealt with a lot of backlash for standing up for a guy who skated hard but would go games without a point. Despite posting a 37 goal season two years ago, Hartnell has fallen. Last season, despite being injured and the team having issues offensively, Hartnell’s value on the ice continues to plummet this season.
Currently Hartnell has 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points through 32 games. The Flyers are only five games away from the half way mark and if he gets 1 or even 2 points before that he’s on pace for a 32-34 point season which is below his average. Minus last season, Hartnell has given the Flyers several good seasons in point production with an average of 45 points in the last six seasons. However if you look at his totals last year he played 32 games and finished with 11 points and here we are, same amount of games played and he has 14 points. If you multiply last year to a full season, he's right on pace for the same totals.
Hartnell is in the first year of six year contract extension with a 4.7mil cap hit. At age 31 if his numbers are dwindling, they’re more than likely not going to get better. As a fan, it pains me to say this, but I have to be realistic about it. It’s obvious his magic with Giroux is gone. The past two seasons at 32 games each is proof of this theory.
The issue is, Hartnell was thrown down to the 2nd line with Simmonds and Schenn in the absence of Vinny Lecavalier. Vinny returned last night however, forward Steve Downie is going to miss 7-10 games. When he returns, Downie will more than likely return to the 3rd line where he, Read and Couturier have been nothing short of dominant. The top line which consists of Giroux, Voracek and Raffl has done nothing but shine since Hartnell was removed. Then the 2nd line has Lecavalier, Schenn and Simmonds. Where does that leave Scotty? Now many have stated that he’ll end up on the fourth line with Hall and Rinaldo but I will tell you this; there’s no such thing as a 4.7mil fourth line winger. The Flyers didn’t sign Hartnell to play on the fourth line. They signed him to be a big body, board crashing, puck winning and garbage goal winger to create some space for Giroux. However, Hartnell has failed to fulfill his roles as such.
Sometimes it’s the system. Coach Berube’s system is vastly different from Lavy’s and perhaps Hartnell doesn’t play well into the system. It happens and maybe it’s happening here. Truth is, as much as I love Hartnell in a Flyers uniform, I just don’t see it anymore. After years of being mediocre and not being the dominate team that everyone expects them to be, have gelled some chemistry. Although, they’re far from being the final product of what I think the organization is finally shaping them up to be, Hartnell isn’t part of this plan. It’s going to be hard to move him. For one, he has a No Trade Clause. Hartnell could waive it, or he could chose to blow GM Paul Holmgren off and say no, although I doubt he’d do that. Second, he has a very unfriendly contract with a cap hit that is just shy of 5 mil. Finding a buyer can be hard. The Flyers are not going to just give him away and they’ll want something of value in his return. In the right setting, Hartnell can be very valuable just like his 37 goal season back in 11/12.
The way the lines flow right now, Hartnell doesn’t fit anywhere. Even though they’ve been scratching Meszaros who has a cap hit at 4mil, I can’t see them healthy scratching 8.7mil worth of salary. From what I’ve heard the Flyers haven’t attempted to shop Meszaros and are keeping him simply as depth. (Silly if you ask me.) That does not mean he can be dealt by the deadline. Hartnell however, isn’t depth. There are plenty of injured plagued teams out there that could use a guy like Hartnell.
However, that all depends on if they want to pay his contract.
I will miss Hartnell. I’ve enjoyed his service, his humor and his clutch in the 2010 Cup run. However, like everything times change, teams change and it’s time that the Flyers and Hartnell move on.
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