At work today, I was listening to several of The Tragically Hip's (I still haven't purchased "World Container" yet!) albums and reminiscing about my first Hip concert experience last month at The Chameleon Club here in Lancaster, PA.
It's a small, dark, smoke-filled box that can hold about as many people as the local Tim Horton's in downtown Toronto. But the magic they created that night is a feeling that will never leave me. The passion, the vocals, and the performance by Gord, the lead singer resonated as pungently as the smell of cigarettes and stale beer throughout the club. The band played so smoothly and effortlessly, it was though they were a bunch of NHL players freely skating on the open ice.
The experience left me wanting more.
The same could be said about the '06-'07 Philadelphia Flyers.
The season commenced with much optimism. It was a young team, but the youngsters showed burts of brilliance in their rookie campaigns. Everyone knew that the losses of Keith Primeau and Eric Desjardins were huge, especially in the locker room. But the Flyers were hoping that forwards Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger; defenseman Freddy Meyer and goaltender Antero Niitymaki would be able to cushion the blow.
In hindsight, that was very flawed thinking.
The young Flyers struggled this past season. They struggled with scoring, they struggled with consistency and they struggled with injuries. Freddy Meyer ended up being dealt to the Islanders and Antero Niitymaki lost his starting job to deadline acquisition, Martin Biron. And more stories were written about Peter Forsberg's foot than his play on the ice.
The season ended abruptly and without a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I was left wanting more.
With that in mind, I've decided to combine two of my favorite things (The Hip and The Flyers) and review their '06-'07 season with titles of Hip songs:
The Dark Canuck - On September 12, Bob Clarke signed RFA center Ryan Kesler of the Canucks to a one-year, $1.9 million offer sheet. The move was viewed by many, most notably and loudly by Canucks GM Dave Nonis, as a back-handed move by Clarke as the Canucks were up against the cap. Vancouver eventually matched the offer, but fought cap problems all season long.
Toronto #4 - In their fourth contest vs. the Maple Leafs this season, Jeff Carter got called for a hooking penalty 1:15 into OT. The Leafs Bryan McCabe scored during the ensuing power play. This game was also of importance because Mike York actually registered a goal - a GTG with just 5:00 minutes to play in the 3rd period.
It Can't Be Nashville Every Night - On November 29th, their only game against Nashville this season, young Flyers defenseman Jussi Timonen suited up against his brother, Kimmo, for the first time in an NHL game. The Flyers end up losing the game on a late goal by winger Martin Erat.
Summer's Killing Us - The summer of 2006 wasn't a good one for the Flyers. They lost key leaders C Keith Primeau and D Eric Desjardins to retirement. The pair meant just as much to this team off the ice, as they did on the ice.
The Kids Don't Get It - Young Flyers Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Antero Niitymaki struggle to improve their games during their sophomore seasons. All three came down with fairly serious injuries that really hampered their progress.
The Lonely End of the Rink - It was not a good season to be a goalie for the Flyers. Neither Antero Niitymaki nor Robert Esche established themselves as the Flyers top goaltender and both consistently let in soft and back-breaking goals.
Are You Ready - The constant foot problems that plagued C Peter Forsberg killed any chance the Flyers had at obtaining consistency with their lines. Forsberg played in only 40 of the possible 56 games this season before being dealt to Nashville on February 15th.
Fireworks - The Flyers tumultuous season comes to a head when forward Todd Fedoruk and defenseman Joni Pitkanen exchange punches and shoves during practice in late January.
Looking for a Place to Happen - The Flyers end a franchise-long drought of home losses by defeating the St. Louis Blues, 4-3 in OT on February 10th. The win snapped a 13-game home losing streak and it was the first time the Flyers had won at home since November 24th. This was also the Flyers first win in OT this season.
Escape is at Hand for the Travellin' Man - Defenseman Alexei Zhitnik, acquired from the N.Y. Islanders earlier in the season for Freddy Meyer, was once again dealt - this time to the playoff bound Atlanta Thrashers. The Flyers received young defensive stalwart Braydon Coburn in the deal. The Thrashers were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
The Drop-Off - On December 11th, the Flyers waive forward Petr Nedved. Petr has clearly lost a stop and the coaching staff decided to give his minutes to younger players, like Ryan Potulny.
A Beautiful Thing - In a late-season loss to the Islanders, winger Simon Gagne scores his 40th goal of the season and 200th of his career. Gagne became the 13th player in team history to reach 200 goals with the Orange and Black.
Throwing Off Glass - The Flyers get a much-needed physical jolt with the return of Denis Gauthier to the lineup in late January. Gauthier missed about three months with a shoulder injury.
700 ft. Ceiling - The Flyers have a new (and younger) sense of direction with the deadline deals made by then-interim GM Paul Holmgren. The Flyers acquired goaltender Martin Biron from the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round draft pick; defenseman Braydon Coburn from Atlanta for Alexei Zhitnik; defenseman Ryan Parent and forward Scottie Upshall (and a first round pick) from the Predators for Peter Forsberg and defenseman Lasse Kukkonen from the Chicago Blackhawks in a three-team deal for Kyle Calder.
The future looks bright for the Flyers. The have their #1 goaltender in Biron, a solid defense corps and with a few free-agent forward signings (or trades), they should be a playoff team in '07-'08.
At this time next year, I'm hoping that the only thing I'm left wanting is to see Gordie and the boys play another phenomenal live set.