When Ray Emery left the Flyers in March of 2010 after only nine months with the team, it was not on his terms. Nor was it on the team’s terms, exactly. Emery was not able to finish riding out his one-year deal with the team thanks to a debilitating disease known as avascular necrosis.
It was an issue that not only threatened his career, but could hamper him for the rest of his life.
“I understood that there was a possibility that I might not play again, but it was just kind of what’s the next step after I found out I had that condition,” Emery told Philadelphia reporters via conference call on July 5th. “The next step was finding the best doctor, the best procedure… the next step after that was taking care of it, and just getting off crutches and getting out of a hospital bed, just one step at a time.”
After a grueling rehabilitation process, Emery signed a deal with the Anaheim Ducks in February of 2011. In ten appearances during the regular season, he had a 7-2-0 record and led the team into the Stanley Cup playoffs, where he played in six games and finished with two wins and three losses.
Just a few months later, Emery was invited to the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp on a tryout basis, to see how he was performing post-injury. That October, Chicago signed him to a one-year deal to back up Corey Crawford, and while he performed well during his first season (15-9-4), it was the 2012-2013 season in which Emery shined.
Emery finished the season with a 17-1-0 record, a 1.94 goals-against average, and a save percentage of .922 in 21 games played, stats that made a big impression on Flyers owner Ed Snider:
“All he does is win.”
So impressed were the Flyers that they announced the signing of the goaltender to a one-year deal last Friday.
When the Flyers season starts this October, it will have been about three years and eight months since Emery stood between the pipes for the Flyers. Things have changed in that timeframe, both for the team and for Emery himself.
He’ll be supporting a myriad of new players, while just a small handful of his old Flyers teammates still remain. He only got a little taste of Peter Laviolette’s system, as the coach took over from John Stevens midway through Emery’s time with the Flyers. And sources say he’s coming in as a more mature man, both on and off the ice.
In regards to his maturity, Emery told reporters, “I think I’ve kind of changed my outlook. When I was younger I wanted to play all the games, and got a pouty attitude when I didn’t. Now, you start to realize that if the team is successful, that everyone does well.”
Now that’s an attitude – and a guy – you want to have on your team.
For the Flyers and for Emery, this move was a smart one. After the debacle of signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a ridiculously gargantuan contact, the team was able to unload said contract (and said player) through the buyout process, and now they’ve got themselves a heck of an interesting goalie tandem.
Flyers management has already said that they have not decided on who will start in net for the Flyers once the season begins. They expect Emery to battle it out with Steve Mason for the starting position during training camp, and only after that will a decision be made.
Emery has become not just a stronger and smarter goaltender since his last time in Philadelphia, but a more competitive one as well. He said that he is looking forward to working with Mason, and that doing so will help the both of them get better. The two men already have experience working together, as they skate together during the summer in Toronto.
In an offseason already full of moves – some more major than others – for the Flyers, this signing is a win-win all around. Emery’s play, experience, and attitude will be a welcome addition to the team both on and off the ice, and his strength and growth should make his second go-’round with the team a success.