Stephen McDonald is special to spikeeskin.com. Born in May 1975 Steve has been a Flyers fan from birth. Every time he gets out of bed the stiffness and soreness are a reminder that the Flyers haven’t won a championship in a long, long time (Steve wrote this not me (Spike), so get off my case. I’m not making fun of the Flyers and their robot fans.) Follow Steve on Twitter @_spmcdonald.
On Monday night June 11th the Los Angeles Kings became the first 8th seed to win the Stanley Cup, the first in the 45 year history of the franchise. They proved that in the post-lockout (and possibly pre-next-lockout) NHL, the hottest team entering the playoffs can ride the hottest goalie and overcome the odds to make a championship run.
Much has already been said and written about the departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Rhea Hughes from WIP suggested that he Flyers brass has egg on their face after the LA win. I don’t necessarily disagree. Her comment got me thinking why it didn’t work out for two clearly talented players here in Philadelphia.
Mr. Snider said last week he wished them well, I believe him. Moving Richards and Carter was not as much about them not being good enough to win the cup as it was building a better team. After years and years of skimping on goaltending the Flyers boldly reshaped the roster.
It was time to bring in a legitimate top tier goalie. Ilya Bryzgalov was the best goalie available so the Flyers went after him. In order to acquire Bryzgalov they needed to redistribute their cap money to fit his large salary. As they looked at the roster and the jigsaw puzzle that is the salary cap they had to make a decision. I don’t think it was as simple as; “can the team as currently constituted with Richards and Carter as the center pieces win a championship?” I think it was more along the lines of, “We have a vision now of what we think is needed here.” Richards and Carter were still valuable commodities and they needed to get younger/cheaper to act on the new vision. These guys were not totally buying into what the team was doing (see dry island) so they were moved before no trade clauses became a factor. Giroux, JVR and company can move us forward with a better goalie.
The Flyers have stated every year they have been in existence that the goal of each season is to win the Stanley Cup. It hasn’t’ happened in 37 long years but you have to admit, they never sit on their laurels. They are truly trying to win every year and have reinvented themselves several times in that pursuit. Those are steep expectations but reasonable and all teams should be focused on winning.
We as a fan base are no longer rational when it comes to what we expect from the Flyers. I anticipate backlash from these comments, but I do feel at this point we have lost touch with reality.
Winning isn’t the goal anymore with the fans. Perfection is. Every soft goal, every shoot out loss, every losing streak is scrutinized and elevated to the level of a crisis. It’s no wonder Bryzgalov, and Richards before him had trouble dealing with the pressure cooker that is being a Flyer.
Everyone loves Bernie Parent. He’s an affable ambassador of the team and a legitimate hall of fame goalie who was instrumental in bringing the city its only two hockey titles. Only God saved more, right? In today’s snarky world of blogs, twitter and overall sarcasm what would have happened if Bernie let up a weak goal in a key game? Are we to assume he never blew a game? If 45 microphones and cameras asked him to painfully reconstruct every short-side goal that he would have “liked to have back” would he have stood tall and endured it all or crumbled? What if they asked him after every game? Would he still be the hero he is today?
Richards was infamous for his snarly demeanor with the media. Was he always that way or was the incessant criticism ultimately too much for him to handle? The guy has won on every team at every level, except for the Flyers. I know I know he made millions of dollars, whatever. Doesn’t mean he has the personality to withstand that kind of, well, abuse.
Athletes and others love to blame the media. The media are hired by their respective employers to cover the teams and write the stories that wait for it; people want to pay to read. Whether it’s buying a newspaper or frequenting a free blog that keeps track of hits to sell advertising, activity is the goal. The reporters ask the questions that the masses are interested in hearing. When they don’t they are criticized as apologists (see Dave Spadaro). So I don’t necessarily blame the media. I blame the new culture of sports in Philadelphia. The job of the media is to keep us informed whatever the topic. If they wrote an article about how hard Mike Richards works in the weight room instead of why the team got shut out for the third straight game despite multiple power play opportunities, no one would read it. We’d instead turn our ire to the reporter.
We are the problem. I’m not advocating what former Governor Rendell may refer to as the Wussification of our town. I’m just thinking that we should relax. Mike Richards probably didn’t have to deal with this in LA because no one cares about hockey there like they do here. He also wasn’t made the captain of the team and expected to have all the answers on and off the ice. He could relax and lend his talents on the ice to winning a championship. He was expected to play a supporting role. And guess what whether we like it or not he did a good job at that. And maybe he did it every day with a raging hangover because he drinks too much and chases skirts all over town. No one knows and it doesn’t matter because he won. Mike Richards the Flyer was good enough to win the cup. He wasn’t willing to deal with the misplaced pressure of being the leader of the Flyers and therefore was no longer a fit.
We get caught up in negativity all too much. I do feel strongly that a teams’ goal should be to win championships every year. The goal should not be perfection every minute of every game and every day for the entire season. We have the right to hold athletes and teams accountable. We pay their salaries with our ticket purchases and all that good stuff. But the bottom line is unless Mr. Snider and Homer bring robots in here we may be damned to repeat the last 37 Stanley Cup free years unless we all just relax.