More on the Bullies…
“Disgrace to hockey….Despicable…To the disgust of hockey purists…a savage spectacle… the bullies would bloody the face of the NHL….“
These are quotes in the first 3 minutes of the Broad Street Bullies special on HBO. Could they be any more disrespectful? The only nice things said about the Championship teams were made by the team members, or Philadelphia media, or Phil Esposito. Every other national or Canadian media or hockey experts had nothing nice to say. I am impressed with how Espo understood that intimidation is part of the sport and the Flyers intimidated but they were also VERY GOOD!
So I am going to say it here. The Bullies did not break any rule in the NHL! Let me say that again – no rules were broken by the Flyers of the 70s. Every penalty that was called was earned. Even with all the penalties and playing shorthanded MORE THAN any other team, they beat every team in the league and world for 3 years. Only the drag of injuries in 76 and the upcoming Montreal dynasty could stop the Flyers. With all the penalties, Bernie Parent had a 1.89 GAA for the 73-74 season. 1.89!!!! With tiny pads and gloves. 1.89!!! The Flyers had the best penalty killers that the NHL has ever seen. The likes of Clarke, Barber, Kinderchuck, Lonsberry, Clement, Crisp…..and Parent in goal. Dave Shultz was not a goon. He scored 20 goals in 1973-4 and had 16 assists to go with his 348 penalty minutes.
For those of you out there that hate the Flyers, they served every penalty minute they earned and they also had 5 30+ goal scorers on the team. They were talented and also the only team in the NHL to defeat the Soviet Red Army team since 1961. The next team to beat that Soviet team was Team USA in 1980.
There is nothing different with the Flyers than the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s or the Baltimore Ravens of the 1990s. Intimidation is part of all sports. You must admit there are ways to intimidate and the Flyers were the best at it. In the early 70s there were other teams built the same way that could not beat the Flyers in the mid 70s. The Blues and Bruins both tried and lost.
I will look now at both the regular season and playoffs and grade each of the Flyers players. I will grade them based on their role with the team.
Mike Richards: the emotional leader of the Flyers. Richards carried the Flyers most of the year. He was drafted as a defensive center and has proven to be also a scoring center at the NHL level with a Gold Medal in his case and on the cusp of a trip the Finals.
Jeff Carter: started slowly but was able to get things going in December and scored often after that. He had some injuries but still a force versus the Devils in the Playoffs.
Blair Betts: he was the PK superstar of the team. When he got hurt early, the Flyers struggled. When he came back, the Flyers played better. It was no coincidence.
Ian Lapperriere: true grit. This guy is a winner and did the exact job he was brought into to do.
Chris Pronger: this guy is the best playoff player I have ever watched. He raised his game not a notch – more like 5 notches once the playoffs started.
Matt Carle: the perfect partner for Pronger. He eats minutes up and was allowed to move forward because of Pronger’s defensive presence.
Ville Lieno: when allowed to play during the season he was more than solid. During the playoffs he was a star.
Danny Briere: had a fine year playing out of position on the wing. You can see in the playoffs back in the middle he dominated again. He played with big wingers in the playoffs and benefitted being away from the wall. He would have put up more points if Hartnell was better offensively. He was absolutely dominant in the playoffs.
Arron Asham: played 3rd line winger perfectly. He was physical and shows flashes of skill. He is the perfect complement to Giroux and JVR.
Claude Giroux: Claude is a star. The playoffs are his coming out party. He might be the best stick handler ever in Philly. Forsberg was past his prime with Philly. He has raised his game in the playoffs.
Dan Carcillo: the perfect pest with skill. He skilled some really pretty goals and was able to fill in with big minutes when the stars were hurt.
Kimmo Timonen: he is the ultimate warrior. He is slowing down skating but still hard to beat along the wall. He is also a very underrated passer of the puck.
James van Riemsdyk: started very fast as a rookie. Slowed down during the 2nd half of the year. He picked up again during the playoffs versus Boston. He looks as if he is figuring out the NHL game very well.
Simon Gagne: he was hurt early. Picked the game up late in the year when he finally started to dangle with the puck again. After missing a few games versus Boston, he DOMINATED on his return.
Scott Hartnell: was awful this year. Took bad penalties often. Could not score. Did not shoot the puck. Finally came alive in the playoffs to raise his grade from a D.
Darroll Powe: plays big minutes on the PK and possesses speed to burn, but does not have the shot to be more than an average 4th line player.
Braydon Coburn: looked lost without a top partner. He was thought to be a guy that could carry the 3rd pair behind Pronger and Timonen, but could not handle it. Raised his game back up during the playoffs when paired again with Timonen.
Danny Syvret: of the other defensemen on the Flyers, he was the only guy that played with at higher minutes. During December he played well with Timonen before getting hurt. Also possesses an underrated shot on the powerplay.
Oskars Bartulis: still an AHL defenseman and it showed badly.
Lukas Krajicek: looks solid unless he is attacked by speed. Not really a good option with the speed in the NHL.
Ryan Parent: had a bad year. I thought he was a solid choice for pairing with Timonen or Coburn, but he plays hot potato with the puck too much. He needs to work with Pronger to learn how to slow the game down some.
Ray Emery: played great, got hurt, returned and played well. Got hurt again. B+ grade for the time he played.
Brian Boucher: started slow, played well when Emery got hurt. He played great while the team sucked in December. Got hurt and lost his job to Leighton. Leighton got hurt and Boucher carried the team to the playoffs and through a round. B+
Michael Leighton: took the job from Boucher when he got hurt. Hurt his ankle and missed 2 months at the end of the season and the playoffs. Healed just in time to take over again for Boucher when he got hurt. A
Good Night and Good Hockey!
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