I didn't spend yesterday night watching my team get swept.
I've said this continuously since the Bruins scored their 5th goal. That Flyers team was not my team. My team played the Chicago Blackhawks in the Finals last year; My team was tearing into the the entire league in January; and then they stopped playing. Just fell off the face of the earth. Frankly, I've been looking for them ever since.
Text conversations between the collaborator and I have been funny, but vastly inappropriate for the blogosphere. He and I are, with good reason, upset and disgusted with how this season transpired, with how terribly this team underachieved. I will leave it at that. I'm done looking back on what went wrong.
That being said, I swore I wouldn't write this blog. That being, the 2011 off-season as I would handle it.
However, in listening to 610 WIP this morning, I heard so many tools call in and say what they felt we needed to do (far too many, I fear I may never erase the stupidity from my head.) I remember saying this to my brother:
"If these dudes are allowed to speak out loud and publicly about this, then I will. our fan base deserves better than a bunch of hammers who have nothing better to do but call in and preach about how we need goaltending or a better defense. I promise you they know nothing about hockey, nor the business of it."
Of course, if you know anything about anything, you know that even the sheer concept that either of our goalies failed us is an inch away from debilitatingly ignorant. Brian Boucher, especially, bailed us out far more than he screwed us. And Sergei Bobrovsky will do nothing but improve over the next few seasons. For the record, this is almost exactly why we never have any good goalies. Our fans are impatient with them. I don't think a big name goalie is anything more than a quick fix, and would impede Bob's development. However, we may need to do that in order to win with this core and it's quickly closing window of opportunity.
And our defense literally could not get any more talented on paper. When Andrej Meszaros is your 5th defenseman, you've managed to pad your back end with enough talent to win a cup. 1-6, our defensemen are the best in the league. I still believe that.
However, changes do need to and will be made, not just on the defense, but everywhere.
I'll start today with the perceived (and then real) fates of the free agents that played the majority of their season on the big boy roster.
Danny Carcillo- There is a perception among Flyers fans that we need Danny, and if we're talking about Briere, then we do. Danny Carcillo, however, is far more expendable. That breaks my heart to type, I promise you. Unless we can bring him back for under a million dollars next year, his roster spot will be filled by Matt Clackson, Zac Rinaldo or a combination of those two and Jody Shelley. Car bomb, as he's affectionately known , is one of my favorites and it's going to suck seeing him go, but there are a mess of teams that can afford him more than we can, plus his production can easily be replaced. I wouldn't put it past Homer to bring him back, but don't expect it.
Ville Leino- Ville's got to come back. Especially since there are two top 6 forwards who will actively be shopped via trade. One of which wasn't on the team when the season started and the other was on the block last year. (The latter is Hartnell, and I say 95% chance he's not wearing orange and black next year.) Ville loves it here, he loves that he got a second chance that Detroit took from him. And Homer is creative with his contracts, so there is no doubt that Ville and he will meet halfway on a deal to keep him on Briere's wing next season.
Andreas Nodl - If I'm Homer, Noodle comes back next year. That isn't even a question. He kind of broke out last season, and by kind of I mean he definitely did. Playing a prominent role, I feel like he could easily match the production of someone like Zherdev, who without a doubt won't be back. If Andreas doesn't return, Kyle Wellwood will get a strong look in training camp.
Sean O'Donnell - I am 50/50 on OD, and that is inexcusable. At times, he's been our best defenseman, but that might have more to say about the defense's failures as a unit than about O'Donnell's production. He's old, almost elderly, but he brings leadership and experience to this team that is slowly starting to not need either of those things. I feel like I would bring him back to be the 6th or 7th guy, but I would put money on him not coming back next year. If he does, he won't be playing with Meszaros much, because Mesz will no doubt be expected to play a bigger role next year. If OD doesn't return, I expect him to either retire or play for a younger squad out west that needs his experience.
Darroll Powe - Powe should, and will come back. He was one of the grind-it-out guys that played consistently during the playoffs. No one's kidding themselves here, Powe won't progress any; he's a lifetime 3rd or 4th line center, but he's a solid player. He's got allot of heart and he knows how to play the game, he and Blair Betts are invaluable on the penalty kill, in my opinion, they're the best. No one that could immediately replace Powe on the roster would be able to produce on his level (which admittedly doesn't say much) at his price. Kalinski is the only guy that comes to mind, so if Powe doesn't return, look for him to take his spot.
Nik Zherdev - Nik Zherdev, despite his awesome number (numbers in the 90s look so sick on wingers) doesn't come back next year. Especially not at a 2 million dollar cap hit. I won't even dignify this with an explanation, because if you need one, you need to watch more hockey. There was one time, one play, one 15 second period of time that I saw this guy earning his money all season.
Brian Boucher - This is going to sting. My heart physically hurts right now. If I'm Homer, Boucher comes back, because I have faith in both he and Bobs. Plus, goaltendng did not do us in this year. Boucher bailed this team out far more often then he dug us in a hole. But alas, I'm not Homer, and it's pretty obvious that there will be a goaltending change soon. That change will most assuredly involve Boucher not coming back. It was hard enough to watch Bouch leave the first time a few years ago, but this is going to be worse. Knowing we came so close to getting him a championship last year is what's going to do it for me. I have a soft spot for Brian Boucher and Simon Gagne, and I always will. I may live out the rest of my years never liking any Flyers as much as I liked those two. That being said, I feel like my goodbye to Boucher will be short and sweet. I won't harp on anything, I'll just say goodbye. He's obviously a shell of his former self, and that is to be expected at 34. He's still a solid goalie, and it wouldn't surprise me if he caught on somewhere as a back up. Anyone who blames him for this season isn't a fan, nor are they intelligent. Real Flyers fans owe Boucher a great debt of gratitude, and I feel like I shouldn't need to say that. Since he was drafted by the Flyers in 1995, three images are emblazoned in my head of this guy. Those being:
1. His draft day photo.
2. The save. If you don't know it, google it.
3. His utter destruction of anything in his path when he got pulled the other night.
I will miss me some Brian Boucher, and I will miss him dearly. What hurts more than seeing him go, is seeing him go like this. But I'll save the pleasantries and I'll say thank you and I'll leave it at that.
We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death.. Life is just a place where we spend time between games.