Amid the gift-buying hype of the holiday season, we would like to step back for a minute and continue our tradition of compiling a list of our top ten Flyers-related Christmas wishes. It goes without saying that we want the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup. So, we will just leave that one off the list and assume we are all on the same page there.
10. Continuation of improved communication between players and fans
Two events that occurred on Twitter this season reaffirmed my belief in humanity. Neither was particularly Earth shattering but both deserve recognition.
The first was Scott Hartnell and the mainstream media’s adoption of Seth Hastings’s #HartnellDown hashtag. Hastings keeps track of the amount of times Scott Hartnell falls per season via his Twitter account. This is not the first time Hartnell embraced something that can be construed as embarrassing and he deserves to be applauded for that.
The second was the public expression from athletes of unfiltered emotions for injured players through social media outlets like Twitter. Some Flyers, including Matt Carle and Ian Laperriere, make a positive habit of openly stating their concern for those who get injured and their joy when players recover. It may not seem like much but nobody is pressuring them to do this. It is one thing to wish someone the best when a microphone is shoved in your face but it is much more genuine when a player does it of his own accord.
These instances help to create a bond between players and fans. They feel and think the same things we do. They are not above a little ridicule and can take a joke just as well as we (hopefully) can. It is a trend that I hope continues to grow in coming years, as it will bridge the gap between fans and hockey players and should ultimately help the sport grow.
9. Consistency in net
Despite the gem the Flyers found in Sergei Bobrovsky, the team tied up a ton of money and years in Ilya Bryzgalov. While the entertaining netminder stole a few games for the Fly Guys this season, he has also played poorly through stretches and admitted that he got “lost in the woods”. He has been a good goalie who cannot be blamed for many of the losses but perhaps he has yet to prove he is the elite goalie the Flyers wanted. Bryz is capable of playing at a higher level. Here is to hoping he does that through the duration of his time in Philly.
Paul Holmgren takes a lot of risks. Often, they pay off. He is particularly good at finding reclamation projects and restoring them to their former glory. Other times, it also seems like sometimes he rushes to make a move just for the sake of doing so. With Chris Pronger injured and his career possibly in jeopardy, we hope that Holmgren remains calm and waits for an opportunity to present itself while giving the defensive prospects a chance to prove themselves and earn an everyday spot on the roster.
7. The strength to overcome adversity
Over the last few days, many people subscribed to the notion that the Flyers could survive without Pronger but the loss of Claude Giroux would be too much to overcome. I think the Flyers need to look no further than the West Side of Pennsylvania to see that does not have to be the case. Claude Giroux could very well return tonight for the game against the Dallas Stars but that does not mean he is back for good. His concussion symptoms can return — not to mention the fact that players routinely lie about injuries to get back in the game — and he could be out long term. If that happens or the Flyers lose any other important players, it should be a reason for the players to grow together and work that much harder to beat the odds.
6. A commitment to developing defensive prospects
For all of the areas where the Flyers thrive, developing defensemen is not one of them. Yet, assuming Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Brayden Schenn are considered prospects, defensemen comprise the deepest part of the organization’s current prospect pool. If the Flyers want to continue to play at a high level through the upcoming seasons without continually rebuilding the team each offseason to remain cap compliant, it is important that the organization gets the most out of affordable prospects like Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall, Oliver Lauridsen, Blake Kessel, et al.
5. A Calder Cup championship for Michael Leighton and the Phantoms
The thought of Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup winning goal against Michael Leighton still gives all of us nightmares but Leighton performed well and helped carry the team to the Cup finals, despite the fact that he was literally and figuratively out of his league. Leighton is a great AHL backstop and deserves to be recognized as such.
Currently, the Phantoms are second in their division but eighth in the conference. The team should be higher up in the standings but the plethora of injuries the Flyers suffered resulted in call-ups that depleted the AHL roster. When the Flyers get healthy, the Phantoms should rise in the standings. It would be nice — and well deserved — to see Leighton, who is in the final year of his contract with the Flyers, go out on top by hoisting the Calder Cup over his head at the conclusion of the AHL playoffs.
4. A young, franchise defenseman
In the absence of Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen picked up his play and proved once again that he capable of being a number one defenseman. However, the Flyers most glaring need is still to find a young top-pairing defender who can fill those shoes when Timonen retires and/or if Pronger never returns. Now may not be the time to rush and overpay to acquire someone for the sake of it but the Flyers could make some moves at the draft to bring a guy like Ryan Suter into the fold if Nashville is unable to re-sign him. *keeps fingers crossed*
3. Ideal conditions for the Winter Classic
The temperature is currently 52 degrees and partly cloudy. The 10-day forecast predicts the weather will average in the low 40s through the remainder of December. At no point does snow even enter the picture. It is hard to say what the weather holds in store for January 2 but the temperature could potentially be too warm for an outdoor game.
A lot of people worked very hard to put together the Winter Classic and even more scrimped and saved to be able to attend this potentially once-in-a-lifetime event at Citizens Bank Park. For the sake of those people, to whom this event means so much, we hope that the weather is perfect for the Winter Classic and that all people involved have an incredibly memorable day.
2. For Bobby Clarke and Eric Lindros to bury the hatchet
Both Clarke and Lindros seem willing to let bygones be bygones but is that just for the sake of the alumni game or for good? We’d love to see these two integral parts of Flyers history come together as friends — which should not be difficult as long as Eric’s dad stays out of the picture — and give each other a big ol’ Chris Farley style “Brothers don’t shake hands” hug. Lindros should be back in the Flyers family for good.
1. A solution to the concussion epidemic and a return to health for all injured players (Yes, even Sidney Crosby)
This is a lofty goal but that is the nice thing about wish lists; they do not necessarily adhere to the constructs of reality.
The NHL cannot afford to regularly lose star players like Crosby, Pronger, and Claude Giroux. It is simply not good for the sport, regardless of where your loyalties stand. We hope the NHL dedicates more resources to solving the concussion issue. Whether it means slowing the game down, improving the protective gear players wear, or letting players police themselves, as Bobby Clarke suggested, something needs to change and fast.
It is heartbreaking to see a player’s abilities weakened or his career cut short due to any injury. Even worse, though, is if that player’s quality of life is affected. Even if players like Pronger and Crosby never step foot on the ice again, one can only hope that they can still live normal, pain-free lives.