An Early Christmas Present for Caps’ Fans: December Agony in Philly

FlyersballQuite near happy hour last night, a Friday happy hour, I learned that the Philadelphia Flyers, presently lodged in 10th place in the Eastern conference, fired their head coach, John Stevens. A popular preseason pick for the playing of hockey in June, the Flyers this December instead are in disarray. With this very happy happy hour news instantaneously it seemed like Christmas. A white one, with Bing and Frank belting out carols on the stereo, the eggnog hearty, a warming fire crackling in the hearth, and triplets under the mistletoe.

Oh, and Dale Hunter tending bar.

I tried to remember when last a fantastically hated foe had, during the holiday season, offered up so warming a spectre of self immolation for our merriment. I couldn’t.

In fact, when last in HockeyWashington was a Friday happy hour as elation-laden as yesterday’s? Never has Christmas seemed to have arrived so early in Washington as with yesterday.

Sure seems like a wise decision now, doesn’t it, by NBC to go thumbs down on the Caps (17-5-6) for the Winter Classic in Fenway in favor of Philly.

Conventional wisdom after the Orange and Black this past summer offered Chris Pronger a contract enriching him well into his fifties was that Philly was a Cup contender, well positioned to challenge defending champion Pittsburgh for supremacy in the East. This despite the fact that, confronted as they pertetually are by pedestrian netminding, general manager Paul Holmgren identified banished-to-Russia backstop Ray Emery as his team’s savior.

Emery isn’t the scapegoat for the Flyers 13-points-behind-Pittsburgh woes. But in fantasy play, what round would you draft him in? The Ottawa Senators, conversely, were serious about addressing their weakness in net after a disgusting season last year. They acquired Pascal Leclaire — a top 10 in his draft year talent, and one who required Antoine Vermette going the other way to secure. Organizations that are serious about winning recognize that they must have elite talent at the most important position on the ice, and preferably elite depth there as well. The Flyers are serious instead about spending.

But to return to Pronger, envisioned by Flyers’ management as the final missing link (despite being past his pime), his salary will drop down to $7 million a year in 2013-14. He served as captain in both St. Louis and Anaheim, and Philly management apparently didn’t envision a potential scenario in which there could be a leadership struggle between the veteran Cup-winner of a blueliner and 24-year-old Mike Richards.

A coal and switches standing at present

A coal and switches standing at present

Flyers’ fans in general are also quite pleased with the Daniel Briere (floater) signing. He earns $8 million this season.

Basically, the Flyers season thus far is best summed up as: they party hard in Center City and play soft inside Wachovia.

There was a special playlist of seasonal carols available for online listening last night at sports radio WIP out of Philadelphia. My hunch is that the carols will continue there all weekend long — you ought to imbue yourself with seasonal cheer by giving it a listen. I opened a premium bottle of wine for the caroling last night. Here’s a sampling of the Yuletide mirth on WIP’s rotation:

  • The Ridiculous Penalties of Scott Hartnell
  • Jesus H Christ But We Miss Knuble
  • Excessive Loyalty to Bobby Clarke
  • Coburn: The Farce That Is His Physicality
  • The Islanders GM Could Still Be Our no. 1 in Net
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas in This the Cup-less year 34

Christmas is a season for acts of charity, scenes of splendor, gatherings of merriment and mirth. It is also, it seems to me, a season during which we in Washington widely wish that holiday candles would set ablaze all the orange wigs worn by all of those ridiculous-looking Flyers’ faithful forking over C notes-plus in Wachovia Center for this $55 million, 10th-place club.

They’re a little glum this holiday season. So send them a holiday card, and craft within it the merry message that in Washington we, too, have a sports team owner named Snyder, and that we’d be willing to carry off a straight-up swap of theirs for ours. But they have to keep Briere.

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13 Responses to An Early Christmas Present for Caps’ Fans: December Agony in Philly

  1. Dcsportsfan1 says:

    Careful about poking a stick in Philly’s cage. We all know about another team from the Keystone state who went through the same issues last year.

    I do love that the Briere thing hasn’t worked out. We signed Nyls the same off season and I really think we got the better of that deal..

  2. Cathy W says:

    I don’t think it is a Christmas present for the Caps fans. The Caps beat Philly in the first game after Hanlon was fired and Bruce was hired and then went on to come back and make the playoffs. After what happened with the Caps after the coaching change, I would not make your assumption as there is still enough time left in the season for Philly to turn it around.

  3. mooky says:

    Agree with both of the above comments – Philly is still a very dangerous team, so I’m not singing tidings of comfort and joy just yet. Cathy makes a good point about the immediate impact of Gabby on the team a couple years back. But the difference here is that there seems to be turmoil in the locker room with the Pronger/Richards drama. Since Pronger was from a West Coast team, I didn’t pay all that much attention to him, but I read enough that I had a general sense that he may have a level of toxicity in the locker room and concluded that he wasn’t a character I’d want on my team.

    I’m just thankful Knuble came here — and I think he’s got to be feeling good about his decision to come here, too.

  4. Got Stanley? says:

    Gotta agree – after coaching changes, the Caps in ’07-’08 and the Pens in ’08-’09 turned things around pretty good in both cases. I wouldn’t count the Flyers out just yet.

    Now granted, tonight ought to be interesting, since LaVioletter hasn’t had time to really seriously talk to the guys yet let alone have a practice or implement any changes, so we may not see immediate changes. But I wouldn’t laugh at the Flyers yet.

  5. tim g. says:

    im a flyers fan and i thought that list was pretty funny..

  6. Jim says:

    If the Flyers have any issues it would be suiting up not one, not two, but THREE enforcers every single night with Lappy, Carcillo, and Asham/Cote providing marginal play aside from the fisticuffs. In a hockey age where a lot of teams have set the enforcer position aside in favor of icing 4 complete lines, it begs the question of how much influence Clarke still has over the GM. Plus, as was mentioned in the article, the Flyers also have a few guys who play like enforcers but are clearly wearing visors…ahem Scott Hartnell ahem. Coaching changes can only do so much if the player leadership is not there or is at odds with itself. Maybe Mike Richards should put head hunting aside and try to score some goals?

  7. Jim,

    You make I think a good and important point about what might be termed an inherent imbalance in talent on the Flyers’ roster. For instance, I see a big dropoff in talent and impact on the blueline after the Big Three (Coburn, Timonen, and Pronger). Coburn’s actually regressed a bit, in the minds of many Flyers’ fans. Parent’s perhaps ok, but he sure seems to have plateaued. I also never understood their dealing away Umberger. What a pain he was for the Caps — especially in the ’08 postseason.

  8. HUTCH says:

    I do agree that coaching changes mid-season are the catalysts of change in hockey (and the doom of a team in other sports), however if Philly doesnt have the caps-like resurgence this year, I feel they will be out of cup contention for quite some time as they will not have too much in the salary cap to work with. We should not yet sleep on an always dangerous and thuggish Philly squad with thier backs against the wall. Yet, ’tis the season,’ and as a caps fan, i believe in a couple of weeks we will have the gift of an Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Green and Knuble line…..the gift that keeps on giving…all the way to the cup

  9. Ari says:

    Yeah, strikes me as counting some chickens a little too early. The Flyers are still over .500, very much in the playoff picture, and armed with one of the most potent rosters in the league. “Disarray” may be a bit of an overstatement. They’re going through a little bump, much like Pitt did last year – in fact, Pitt’s was much worse. I would hate for Philly fans to be waving this premature eulogy in our faces next Spring.

  10. Tony Fletcher says:

    Way to jinx tonight’s game Keeley…

  11. CapsFan1975 says:

    It’s too soon for anyone to give up on Philthy.

    Nothing like the Caps playing a team who just fired their coach — as if Philthy needed any more incentive.

    Snyder is Anglicization of Schneider which is German for “tailor” and was based on the German root word “schneiden” which means “to cut”. Incidentally, the name “taylor” if, of course, from tailor which was itself derived from an old Anglo-French word, taille, that meant “cut”.

  12. Brad says:

    Wow, gloating about another team’s misfortunes in December?!? Bold, yet foolish.

  13. odessa steps magazine says:

    Imagine how many times we are going to see the Flyers on NBC, now that Comcast bought the network.

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