Not long after the Flyers’ 2011 season came to a close, Bill Meltzer revealed some useful bits of information on Twitter that are simply too important not to point out. In case you missed it, here they are:
Too many Flyers failed to compete. There were also egos that got a little out of control this season.
Too many guys more worried about their ice time than winning, too many guys who wanted the easy way out.
There’s a lot of blame to go around. I think some of the offseason moves will answer the questions as to which players didn’t compete enough
To whom could he be referring? The first names that come to mind are Nikolay Zherdev and Dan Carcillo.
Zherdev’s issues were a public matter. There’s little doubt that he was unhappy with being frequently scratched and that he wasn’t given much ice time when he played. The moment that he was waived by the Flyers and ran out into a limo is a big part of the 2011 storyline that we all clearly remember. He did perform admirably in the playoffs, though it is likely he knew this was his best shot to land a lucrative free agent deal, since Paul Holmgren already hinted that he would not be re-signed. It is hard to make a case that Zherdev was not part of the problem.
Dan Carcillo started the season off on the wrong foot by filing for arbitration. The matter was resolved quickly but it certainly gives you some insight into his mindset. Carcillo only played 57 games this season, the second fewest of any healthy skater on the Flyers (Zherdev played 56). If the issue is that players failed to compete, like Meltzer suggested, then this is clearest in the case of Dan Carcillo. He was a shell of his former self this season, posting a mere 6 points and a team-worst -14. He rarely played with the edge necessary to make him effective and when he was noticeable on the ice, it was often for yapping at the referees.
Is that it, though? I find it difficult to believe that these two players could be responsible for the demise of the ’11 Flyers. It gets a bit more curious when you look at some of the responses Meltzer wrote to other people.
@maxatlof Some believed they knew more than the coach. Some worried about other people’s ice time. Some resented being called out by vets.
@mase4848 Cap likely goes up about $3M, subtract Zherdev ($2M) and that’s a start. Leino only UFA in line for a big raise. I think O’D back
Last night, it was pointed out by Amy Fadool that the Flyers have a losing record since Chris Pronger called out Claude Giroux. I’d hate to think that Giroux, a budding star in the NHL, could be part of the problem but it’s hard not to draw that comparison. I can not speculate on the issue, as very little news has been made public about this situation but I can say that the Flyers team that showed up on the ice around this time — and from here on out — was far from the same team that dominated the first half of the season.
It was reported that Ville Leino was unhappy with his time in the past and some people have speculated that he has not been the same player since the Flyers could not work out an in-season contract extension for him. He said he wanted to win and understood the situation. Was he unhappy, though? It’s possible but I doubt it. Although he was unable to replicate his playoff success from 2010, this was likely because opposing teams focused much more on his line this season and not because he was unhappy. If anything, his flaws were exposed.
Make note of the fact that Meltzer said that players were worried about the ice time of others. This could be interpreted a number of different ways. Players could be worried that others were getting more ice time than they were. Maybe this statement was more directly tied in with the first sentence that some thought they knew more than the coach and felt different amounts of ice time would prove to be more beneficial to the team. I take this to mean that some Flyers argued on behalf of others. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are known to be friends with Dan Carcillo and it would not shock me at all if they were of the opinion that Carcillo should not be scratched and they openly vocalized those concerns.
The final player worth mentioning is Kris Versteeg. While he helped the team in many ways, it is likely that he did not have the impact that Paul Holmgren expected he would and, so far, he has not been worth the price of first and third round draft picks. Did his arrival have an impact on Leino? Was he a poor fit on the team and hurt the chemistry? Was it a mistake to add a player who helped to defeat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals last season? Was Matthew Sekeres right in saying that he is a bad influence? Maybe he brought too much swagger and, with a championship under his belt, felt justified in questioning Laviolette’s decisions. I do not have the answers to these questions but it is likely that he will come under a microscope this offseason and many people will call for him to be traded.
Whatever the case is, Meltzer’s remarks could help to explain some of the curious roster decisions Laviolette made this season. It’s hard to be a winning coach when you’re fighting your own team too.