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5 Reasons to Miss Mike Richards

The shock is still wearing off on Philly fans after Thursday’s franchise-altering trades. While many fans were not surprised with the Carter trade to Columbus, captain Mike Richards was traded less than an hour later to the Los Angeles Kings. Being a big Richie fan and realizing that his t-shirt and jersey joins my Gagne one (and possibly my Carcillo shirt), it was a hard pill to swallow. Not to mention that I was receiving all this news on my phone because I was in the parking lot at the Susquehanna Bank Center (Tweeter/E-Center) hanging out with my fellow Parrotheads getting ready for a Jimmy Buffett concert. I was more shocked than anything, realizing that by trading BOTH Richards and Carter, the Flyers shipped their two first round picks from the 2003 draft that have been the makeup for the future of the franchise for years. However, as much as I liked Richards, I understand the move and we got a good return for the trade. LA gets a top-six center that can play anywhere and will love partying in their town (had to slip that in). We get a great prospect in Brayden Schenn, and some grit on our back end with Wayne Simmonds likely filling a 3rd line role this upcoming season.

Jeff Carter’s trade brought a good return too, with Voracek filling a much needed void at winger and getting the 8th overall pick to draft a good two-way center. Even with the result of the trade, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. I was looking forward to seeing Richie captain a few Cups during his time here. I had visions of a grizzled Mike Richards in his early to mid-30s with salt and pepper in his playoff beard laying hits and scoring shorthanded goals to win a Stanley Cup. It sucks, but things happen when you get swept in the playoffs after expectations are high. While there are plenty of reasons to miss Mike Richards when hockey rolls around next fall, with the help of my memory and Youtube, here are my top five.
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Bryzgalov’s Rights: Where to Go From Here?

Yesterday evening twitter feeds and hockey blogs blew up with the news the the Flyers had traded Matt Clackson, a 3rd round pick, and a conditional pick (Holmgren confirmed not a 1st or 2nd) to the Phoenix Coyotes for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s rights in hopes of getting him signed before free agency on July 1st. As Flyers fans, we’ve been speculating since our untimely exit from the playoffs on the Flyers motives for addressing our goaltending issue. This move comes as good news to most Flyers fans who hoped for a goalie to mentor Bob and be ready to win now. But it also comes up as a problem due to our salary cap situation, so how are we going to do this?
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Flyers’ Forwards: Team Toughness, Leino, Carter, Versteeg, etc.

Another big part of the Flyers’ off-season will be the re-signing of their forwards. Ville Leino, Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe, Nikolai Zherdev, and Andreas Nodl will all be free-agents on July 1st, and the Flyers don’t have the cap space to accommodate all of them. Not all of them will be re-signed, especially with guys like Wellwood, Rinaldo, and Holmstrom hoping to crack the Flyers line-up during training camp. The forwards this year were arguably as deep as any other team, but they lacked execution during the second half of the season and could not seem to fully sync for more than a game at a time in the playoffs. There are a lot of options this off-season to fix the team, and many overlook the play of our forwards because of the goalie situation this playoff. But there definitely was something missing from our forward corps this season, so how can they fix it?
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Back to Philly with Pronger; Bloodbath?


Game 4 had a lot of events that caused Flyers fans to yell at their TVs; I was one of them. Even with the poor call on Mike Richards that should have only been two minutes, the Flyers failed to get back in a game down 1-0 just like in the first game… even though they carried the play for most of the game. They can’t have that happen tonight, with the series tied 2-2 and heading back to Philadelphia. Some gamesmanship is going on right now, with Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff calling Flyers “whiners”. Kind of funny considering this is the same guy who complained about calls for the past ten years in the playoffs, specifically when they played us in the early 2000s. He can say what he wants, tonight is going to be interesting.

The Flyers plan on coming out physical and hungry for the puck, as our captain alluded to yesterday. Ruff can say what he wants, barring some bounces and saves from Miller, I feel the Flyers could easily be up 3-1 in this series, if not finished 4-0 already. Tonight will be a huge game for either team, because the next win is going to lead to elimination. It’s a best of 3 series now, and the Flyers NEED this one. Can’t go back to Buffalo and give Miller a chance to steal another game. This series should be ours, and they need to get nasty and smack the Sabres right in the mouth.

Jeff Carter injured his knee last game and should be out for the series, leaving either Nodl to come back, Shelley, or probably Ben Holmstrom. Chris Pronger fully participated in team skates the past few days and took some slap shots today. He appears ready to go, and most of the media points to him playing tonight. Let’s see if he can drop Tyler Myers and Patrick Kaleta, lord knows they deserve it after last week’s game between Myers dragging Richie on the ice and Kaleta opening the door while Zherdev is being checked into the boards. The latter being a VERY dangerous play. Guys can seriously get hurt in an event like that.

Buffalo Sabres fans on the internet have this sense of entitlement the past few days, calling Flyers fans whiners and glorifying their wins. The Flyers are hands down the better team, the Sabres have hands down the best goalie. These are the same fans who were crying for Enroth to start the playoffs and criticized us for booing at the end of game one. What now? They’re loving Miller and booed their own team last game.

Can’t wait till 7:30 tonight. The Wells Fargo Center is going to be rambunctious as usual, I wish I was going. Put-up or shut-up time for both teams, let’s hope the Flyers get some gritty goals and punish Buffalo every time they touch the puck.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Playoffs

 

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Game 4: Swing-Game

Game 3 was the definitive test to see which team was going to take a hold of the series and control their momentum, but Game 4 tonight will be the swing-game. Up 2-1, the Flyers are facing a Buffalo team that needs a win to avoid going into Philly down 3-1. The Flyers want to win tonight to bring this series closer to an end, but they’ll have to match Buffalo’s work ethic. The Flyers have been one of the best road teams in hockey all year, let’s hope they can finish one out tonight.

A few notes about Game 3:

Nikolai Zherdev finally got a start, and scored the eventual game-winning goal. Nice to see Z get on the score sheet, hopefully he can help create more chances.

Speaking of that goal, it came from Richards and Versteeg; two players many fans have been demanding more of lately. Versteeg made a great play along the boards to force a turnover and found Richards, “Mr. Patience” as Coatesy calls him, who waited a few seconds before finding Zherdev for the easy tap in.

James VanRiemsdyk was once again an absolute BEAST on the ice. The big playoffs we’ve all been calling for seems to be coming to fruition… Let’s hope it continues.

Jeff Carter finally got on the scoreboard with a POWERPLAY GOAL. That smart guy who writes on this site predicted a Carter goal, and what better way than on a struggling powerplay? Let’s see if he can string two strong games together.

The star of the night, Brian Boucher made 35 saves on 37 shots. Albeit one goal he probably should have had, Boosh was a rock in set and kept things steady throughout the game. The defense did a great job of collapsing around him and keeping Buffalo to the perimeter, especially in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period with Buffalo pressing and a few Buffalo powerplays.

If the Flyers put another effort in like the past few games and can find a way to get their powerplay consistent, they should be able to take this game. They’re the better team than Buffalo, and Miller is starting to get frustrated. Boosh needs to play another strong game to slow down our goalie carousel, and the Flyers need a full 60-minute defensive effort with some help from our scorers. I’ll to try and use my magic and will… maybe Mike Richards can get one tonight? It’d be nice to see our captain get his first of the playoffs tonight.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Playoffs

 

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Game 3 in Buffalo

The scene of the series shifts from Philly to Buffalo tonight. After a crazy, penalty-filled 5-4 win over the Sabres on Saturday, both teams will be looking to establish some momentum in the series. 1-1 series ties are often dangerous considering they take home-ice away from the higher-seeded team. I don’t think we will see as many powerplays as we saw on Saturday, and for the Flyers sake I hope we don’t. Their powerplay struck only one out of nine times, although some of their setups did look improved from previous games. Another emerging storyline is the Flyers’ goaltending… surprise! Bobrovsky was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals, the third being what most fans would call “soft”. Boucher came in and calmed everything down in relief, letting only one goal in to seal the Flyers victory. Apparently Michael Leighton will be backing up Boosh tonight. Bobs will be sitting in the press box to watch the game for the first time all year.

Once again, James VanRiemsdyk was a force on the ice and is developing into a big presence on the ice. Hopefully my prediction holds through the rest of the series/playoffs. Claude Giroux has also stepped his game up, and his back-checking has been amazing in hindering Buffalo crossing the Flyers’ blue line. Carcillo even got rewarded with a gritty goal, and that’s the kind that will win this series. Tonight should not be as high scoring as Saturday, and hopefully the Flyers can get a lead and protect it. Buffalo should feel good they got the split on the road, but they also should have some doubt growing now after letting five goals on their prized goaltender and supposedly good defense that helped them remain so hot down the stretch of the regular season.

Nodl suffered a cut under his eye during the game and will not play tonight per the Flyers twitter. This leaves Zherdev, Holmstrom, or Shelley to fill in for him. I’m hoping that Zherdev finally gets a chance to play, but we shall see. Pronger apparently particpated in the team skate this morning, so his return should be coming soon. I’m thinking Game 5. Carter has been snake-bitten lately in the first two games of this series and I think he’s finally going to put one in tonight to put down all of the doubters regarding his playoff capability. Richards should also find the scoresheet tonight, he’s way overdue and the internet fans are getting anxious. Regardless that he’s a great defensive forward as well, people get pissed when he does not produce a plethora of goals.

So in my eyes, Carter and Richie should have big games tonight, Boucher should get the start, and Zherdev should get a shot to play. Look for JVR to be crashign the crease again, and maybe Giroux can give us another dazzling goal. Game 3 is usually the game that sets the tone for the rest of the series. If the Flyers win tonight, all the pressure is on Buffalo to win Game 4 before going back to a possible series-ending game in Philly. If the Sabres win tonight, the Flyers have to hope to get Game 4 to take back home-ice. Should be a wild one tonight. LET’S GO FLYERS!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Playoffs

 

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How to Beat the Salary Cap?

Late last week, the Flyers signed former NHL forward Nikolai Zherdev. As speculated in my previous post and pretty much everywhere in the hockey blogger community, Zherdev would be getting a small contract from a club who was willing to take a gamble on the young forward. The Flyers were rumored to be in the front-running for it, and they landed a one-year deal supposedly worth $2 million. Not a bad price to pay for a guy that could pan out to being quite an offensive force out there with a roster that already has the talent we do. Of course, with this signing comes the inevitable question of where do we go from here?

In this day’s NHL, you can be over your salary cap by up to 10% during the off-season, but must trim it down before the season starts. Using CapGeek.com as my source (they’re pretty reliable), I’ve noticed that the Flyers are bit over $1 million in cap space. $1,422,263 to be exact. I’m sure we will be shedding Bartulis’ contract by putting him down in the AHL this year and that would free up $600,000. But what up the other $822,263? Dropping Cote would cut $550,000… but that would still leave us at $322,263 to free up before opening night. This is where my previous angst of the Shelley signing comes into play. We would be about $500,000 under the cap granted we sent down Bartulis and Cote and did not sign Shelley. Also, the Meszaros contract is quite big at $4 million a year; even if I do think he has an upside.

This cap hell has led many to speculate that somebody has to be traded, and it’s true. Someone has to be traded in order to get prospects or cheap players back and create more salary room. Pundits have been throwing Simon Gagne around as he has apparently attracted interest from the Kings, but no deals have been made. Talks have been going on, and they will be just that, talks. As long as the Ilya Kovalchuk Show goes on and we wait for him to be signed with a team willing to overpay him for his services, Gagne will remain a second option for a team that needs a scoring winger. Scott Hartnell’s name has been flying under the radar, along with Jeff Carter. Hartnell’s contract and NTC would get in the way, but the Kings apparently had interest in him a few months ago. Carter’s move makes the most sense because we won’t be able to sign him for the pay raise next year, considering Giroux is up for a contract extension next year. Trade Carter for some prospects and/or some picks, and you have $5 million to work with for emergency cap space, and maybe even another goalie signing. Turco or Esche maybe? Another veteran presence to battle with Leighton for a spot would be great.

Even so, I’ll be back soon with another post.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2010 in Flyers Talk and Other

 

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