It’s a broken record but always up there on the list of things Flyers fans will always want to talk about, second only to the goalie situation.
When things are bad, it’s at the forefront of discussion, but when things are good, it fades to the background.
The loss of captain Chris Pronger to injury had fans and analysts questioning what the team was going to do as far as replacing him. Would they give the “C” to either Danny Briere or Kimmo Timonen, the alternate captains? Or would they look towards the future and give it to Claude Giroux?
Well, the regular season’s over and no one since Pronger has worn the lucky letter. Instead, Timonen and Briere kept their As, and Giroux got one of his own.
Lo and behold, without an official captain, the Flyers still made it to the playoffs and are now on their way to the second round.
Timonen, as always, was the team’s strong backbone. Never making excuses for himself or his teammates, he always challenged the entire group to play to their highest potential. Despite a lackluster season, Briere picked it up towards the end and has been living up to his “Mr. Playoffs” nickname so far. He showed much leadership in the first round as the de facto team rep when speaking to officials during games. And Giroux stepped up in a huge way with a terrific regular season and a monstrous first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His maturity level has grown tenfold since the start of the season.
Those three guys lived up to what that “A” meant, but they weren’t the only leaders on the squad.
You had Jaromir Jagr, 40 years young, whose work ethic is one that everyone can admire. Who else on the team – or even in the league – held midnight workouts (and got the rookies involved in them)? And even with his injuries throughout the season, he always played with a smile on his face.
There was Scott Hartnell, who fans couldn’t wait to trade at the start of the season. Hartnell established himself as one of the team’s best players, and the way he turned his game around and found such success made him a great role model for the younger guys on the squad.
There were the rookie leaders, Matt Read and Sean Couturier. Read had a breakout first year and was the leading goal-scorer among all rookies in the league. Couturier flexed his two-way skills all season, and made Evgeni Malkin – the league leader in points in the regular season – look like the rookie when matched up against him in the first round of the playoffs.
You had guys like Max Talbot, Wayne Simmonds, and Zac Rinaldo, all role players who made a big difference each and every time they took the ice. All three of those guys embody what a “Philadelphia Flyer” should be – gritty, hard-nosed, and resilient.
And then there was Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz, a leader? Just think about it. He might not have been very vocal in the locker room – or, if he was, he might not have always said the right things – but look at the transformation throughout the season. When Flyers leadership came to him and told him that he needed to stop making it all about him and start making it about the team, he did it, and his game turned around immediately. He did what was asked of him and what was best for the team, and that helped them tremendously.
The organization decided not to name an interim captain in Pronger’s absence, and they didn’t need to. The team is made up of a group of leaders, guys who provide their own guidance in different ways. With Pronger gone, each player has worn an invisible “C,” and they’ve represented all it stands for well.