Hey, Arnold! Q & A

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by Nick Arnold

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by Nick Arnold


Monday, October 13th, 2014 --



Here's a little segment we like to call Hey, Arnold! where Orange & Black Pack's Nick Arnold answers a handful of hockey- and/or Flyers-related questions submitted by our fans. We received some very serious questions, and, as you can imagine, some not-so-serious questions; but the comic relief gets its time in the spotlight as well. And judging from how this season has opened, each of us needs a little chuckle here & there. 



Question from Curt Wood: "Hey Arnold! Do you think the Flyers will go after a solid D man to fit into Pronger's role in the near future? We have young D prospects but management has given them the "you can groom in the AHL now, and lets wait" treatment. Do you think it will happen? Who goes, and who do we get?"


Hey, Curt!
Honestly, there are very few players throughout the history of the NHL that could fill the oversized skates of Chris Pronger. Off the ice, his leadership and knowledge were huge assets on any team he played on. On the ice, he was hated by 29 teams every year for his tenacity, power, and outstanding ability to quarterback plays from his own zone and from the blue line.


As far as trading for a defenseman of that caliber (or as close as they could get to a Chris Pronger), the options are limited. It's no secret that the Flyers are ailing on the blue line, and the loss of Timonen is huge. I honestly liked the Del Zotto signing, but in my opinion it is not a direct replacement for Kimmo, and he has a lot to prove and some big minutes to fill. All of that being said, teams know we're desperate. We won't be able to land a top pairing defenseman without giving up more than we'd like to. This isn't to say they WON'T try to come up with a plan, but if it were me, I would call up someone like Brandon Manning or Mark Alt before I start shipping our star players out to replace Pronger.



Question from Rory Yelrow: "Hey Arnold! If you could've picked two players from the 2003 Draft in place of Richards and Carter, who would they be and why?"


Hey, Rory!
Back then, I was only 14 and didn't follow the prospects heading into the drafts. Honestly, I doubt I even understood how that all worked. Having just entered high school, I had other things on my mind, like chicks and how I didn't know how to talk to them yet. So I can't answer this question from the viewpoint of my 14 year old self, but I can certainly answer it looking back and knowing how the players from the 2003 draft turned out today. I know that may not be the question you were asking, but it's all I've got for you. So bear with me.


Knowing our problems on defense in the last few years, I would draft a big, reliable d-man. One that fills the hole left by Pronger as closely as possible. You guessed it - I would have selected Shea Weber with the 11th overall pick. Last season into this season is the first time in a long time that the Flyers have solid defensive prospects being groomed from within the system, but we don't have a #1-2 guy on our NHL roster. Ever since Pronger was lost to a concussion, this fanbase has had constant pipe dreams about signing/trading for Shea Weber, so he's my obvious draft choice in retrospect.
My 2nd pick would have been Getzlaf, but he was taken before then. Therefore, with the 24th overall pick I'm taking goaltender Corey Crawford. 


If there's one thing the Flyers have had issues with, it's goaltending. Not to knock the beloved Boosh, but our #1 and 2 tandem in the Stanley Cup final consisted of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. Honestly, think about that for more than five minutes and blood will start to drip from your nose. We haven't had a serious franchise goaltender in two decades in my eyes. So in a looking back sense, Crawford could have been that guy assuming the Flyers didn't trade him away before he could win the Vezina on a different team the following season...



Question from Tim Simmons: "Hey Arnold! Is Coburn deserving of the flak? Also, sorry about the football shaped head."


Hey, Tim!

The venom being spewed in Coburn's direction doesn't surprise me from our fanbase. That isn't a knock on Flyers fans; hardcore/diehard fans are the most passionate, and Philadelphia fans are some of the most outspoken in all of sports. The issue here is that we seem to absolutely NEED to have a scapegoat. If you recall, the previous seasons it was all Matt Carle's fault. "Carle is nothing without Pronger! He is single-handedly bringing our defense down! His turnovers are killing us! He gives the puck away so often!" True, Carle's play wasn't the same without Pronger. Do you know why? Because when you play with a player like Pronger, you're only going to play better. His experience and leadership alone boosts the entire team. Playing on a pairing with him helped Carle just like playing on a line with Jagr helped Hartnell have a career year a couple seasons ago. Does this mean Hartnell sucked for not repeating that performance the following year? No. It means the fans expected a 2nd line player to play like a top scorer because it happened once.


Carle was a good #3/decent #2 guy being expected to play #1 minutes and skill level. So every mistake he made was under much more scrutiny. The same exact thing started happening to Coburn when Carle left, and now with Timonen sidelined it's turned into a cry for Coburn's head on a platter every time he slips up. If you put other top defensemen under the microscope the same as we tend to do with Coburn, you'll see similar stats and play. Granted they probably will be slightly better than Coburn's, you have to take the fact that Coburn is a #3 defenseman who has unfortunately absorbed the empty skates of Pronger. Is he deserving of the verbal lashing he receives from the Philly faithful? Not remotely. Do I understand the frustrations of a fanbase whose motto has been "Next year!" since the mid '70s? Absolutely.


And thank you for your thoughts and concerns on the misshaped head. I do what I can to cope.



Question from Chris Zawislak: "Hey Arnold! What do you think the Flyers can do to increase there ability to play team Defense? Would the best move be to attempt to increase this team's conditioning/speed or go outside the organization to find more strong two way players?"


Hey, Chris! 

As I stated in my reply to Curt, going outside the organization is probably not the best option seeing as other teams hold all the cards. If they've got what we need, they can ask for a price we can't afford to pay (or we hope to God Hextall knows we shouldn't pay). As far as conditioning and speed, I don't think it's about that so much as it's about effort on the backcheck. Our team isn't the fastest, but we're far from the slowest. I think we need to play a more defensive game. The issue obviously lies with our lack of a true top defensive pairing, but it also stems from our backchecking and our neutral zone play. As you pointed out, we don't have a lot of strong two-way players. Giroux, Read, and Couturier stand out to me as players who have shown they can get back and help out defensively, but it isn't enough. Sloppy play in the neutral and offensive zones and lack of backchecking have lead to many an odd-man rush or breakaway. To single a top player out, Voracek has on numerous occasions made an errant pass or one move too many and couldn't or simply didn't backcheck well enough to make up for it, leading to scoring chances or goals, and some of those shorthanded. 


My goals for helping out our defense and not leaving Mason out to dry:

  1. Stop making one pass too many
  2. Better breakouts from our zone and the neutral zone, less sloppy and unnecessary passes
  3. Work on backchecking up and down the lineup



Question from Shawn Nichols: "Hey, Arnold! With the exception of G, Simmer, and Coots-- are any of our forwards as good as we all think they are? (Not just points. Passing, possession, neutral zone, defense, intelligence) Or is it just a hometown bias that we expect them to play better than they are capable of? Because besides from a shittier defense, they look like the same team from last year and suck at all of the areas above."


Hey, Shawn!

I'm not entirely sure how to answer this one. You and I may have different opinions than every other Flyers fan on how "good" these players are or not. I know he isn't a forward but take Coburn for instance. Half the fanbase wants him traded or cut or thrown into the sun while the other half believes he's our best defenseman on our current roster. I think as far as our forwards go - especially players like Read, Vinny, Voracek, etc - there's definitely a bias or expectation we have of them. If you're on the top line, you better put up points Jake. 


Vinny won a Cup in 2003-04 with 66 points in the regular season and 16 points in the playoffs. In 2006-07 he won the Rocket Richard trophy with 52 goals. It's no wonder we expect a hell of a lot more of him with the length of the contract we signed him to (which of course includes a NMC). It's tough. This city has waited forever for another Stanley Cup. If you don that Orange and Black and you don't live up to the wildest of expectations, you're going to be scrutinized and crucified by this fanbase. This isn't to say our forwards aren't good or capable of performing better in the areas you mentioned, but the hometown bias you mentioned plays a big part. I feel like I'm just rambling at this point and I apologize if I didn't give as clear an answer as I set out to!



Question from Joe Wallen: "Hey, Arnold! Why is the Philadelphia fan base so hot and cold with a team that's still in rebuilding mode? Why can't we be patient but watch competitive hockey and wait another year or two for a team that could end up hoisting multiple cups if all goes right with prospects and the team keeps developing?"


Hey, Joe! 

Allow me to quote myself from my last answer: "It's tough. This city has waited forever for another Stanley Cup. If you don that Orange and Black and you don't live up to the wildest of expectations, you're going to be scrutinized and crucified by this fanbase."  Honestly, I know a lot of Flyers fans who are beyond thrilled that we are rebuilding and grooming our own players through the system rather than frantically wheeling and dealing for overrated rental players. But most of us have waited too long. I'm going to be 26 in January. I've never seen the Flyers win the Cup. I was heartbroken as a child in 97 when they were swept by the Red Wings, and I admittedly teared up when we lost in 2010 to the Hawks. I know how anyone born after 1976 feels. I can only imagine how it feels for the diehards who got to witness back-to-back Cup wins only to suffer for the next 4 decades. 


Philadelphia fans are a very emotional group, and rightfully so. It's that kind of passion that both makes me proud to be a part of it and yet makes me embarrassed at times. The people who are already damning this Flyers team after 2 losses are the same ones who will show up halfway through the season when we have a winning record going "I KNEW IT ALL ALONG!" But I digress.

My point is, as excited as I am for the future of this team with our current prospects being home-bred and not traded away for aging veterans, it's not enough to slake everyone's thirst for Lord Stanley's Cup. Almost 40 years is a long, long time to wait for a fanbase as passionate as ours. "There's always next year" just isn't cutting it anymore.



TWO-PART Question(s) from Mike Roberts & Steve Costello: "Hey Arnold, does Chris Pronger working the NHL office cause a conflict of interest even though he is on LTIR with the Flyers?"


"Hey Arnold! How do you feel about this whole Chris Pronger situation?"


Hey, Robert & Steve!

I figured I'd pair up your questions into one big answer --


It depends on who you ask. I've read about ten different articles and done as much research as possible and I haven't come to my OWN solid conclusion. Even if he recuses himself from Flyers-related rulings, his involvement in other Metro division cases could be seen as biased. Then there's the fact that it is in fact a CBA bylaw that no player being paid by an NHL team can be paid by the league as well. Despite not being an active player since November of 2011, Pronger is still on the Flyers payroll through 2016-17.


But on that note, it isn't Pronger's "fault", if you will, that he is still on the roster. He knew a while ago we wouldn't ever play again. However, rules are rules, and Pronger cannot retire without the Flyers absorbing his cap hit through 2017. It remains to be seen what the NHL and NHLPA will do about this situation. I can't imagine the rest of the league or NHL fanbases will stay quiet about this. It was deemed a huge conflict of interest when Colin Campbell was the NHL's Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations due to his son being a player in the league. With Pronger's suspension history and overall hatred from teams and fans around the league, the apparent conflict of interest isn't going to disappear quietly. Expect something big to come of this soon.



Question from Max Grossman: "Hey, Arnold! What do you think about the collective potential of Sanheim and Morin being put on the same pairing?"


Hey, Max! 
It's entirely too early to speculate. But put it this way... if both players continue to develop their game and that D-unit pans out, no pair of shorts in the known universe could contain my excitement.



Question from Nate Verschoor: "Hey, Arnold! Considering the 0-2-1 start, do you think the team is playing well, or just having lucky spurts?"


Hey, Nate! 

I think it's too early to tell, to be honest. The Bruins game had its ups and downs, but Boston is one of the powerhouses in this league. It wasn't our best game, but we didn't hand it to them either. The home opener had more disappointing play than the Bruins game. We came out strong in the first period, but played like garbage for most of the second. It wasn't until the last four minutes that we started to regain momentum. But on that same token, it filled me with hope for this team. In just four and a half minutes the Flyers scored three straight goals to tie the game. When they gave up another goal in the third, they answered right back before the Devils' goal could even be announced. This team has the scoring ability; we saw it Saturday night before our meltdown in the final stanza.


When we pick up momentum, we can hang with almost any team in this league. Again, it's too early to pinpoint any one thing, but in three outings it seems to me that we still have issues playing a full 60-minutes. If they put together an effort like they did in first 40-minutes versus Montreal, I think they win games even with the lack of defense.



Question from Tom McWain: "Hey Arnold! How long must we endure Pronger's name coming up every time there is a perceived defensive letdown?"


Hey, Tom! 
My guess is at least a few more years. That's just the way it's going to be when you have one of the greatest defensemen of all time play a stint on your team that gets abbreviated by a career-ending injury. Not to chime in on all the Coburn hate (because I totally disagree with most of it) but when you go from Pronger as your #1 d-man to Coburn, there are going to be scrutinies and comparisons, whether they are warranted or not.



Question from James Mandel: "Hey, Arnold! The remainder of October's schedule is flooded with ridiculously talented teams, say we only win one or two of those games and head into November 2 - 9, is coach Berube's job handed over to the next guy? and who could that next guy be?"


Hey, James! 

Honestly, you're probably right on target with the outcome if that 2-9 prediction comes to fruition. Hextall didn't hire Chief, and given his decisions thus far to change things up for the first time in a long time with this organization, it wouldn't surprise me if Berube got the boot and the torch handed over to someone else in the club, or even an outside hire. Who could it be? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it gets passed to someone like Lappy. Maybe Hextall wants to continue with a culture change and go to other sources. There were rumors (or at least discussions between internet dwellers) that maybe the Flyers would try to get Dan Bylsma. I, for one, am not for this. His inability to make in-game changes to team strategies would not fix any of our shortcomings or our apparent "hockey games are 60 minutes long?" problems.

I'd like to see someone like Ron Wilson get some serious consideration if Berube gets relieved of his coaching duties. While he hasn't coached in the NHL since the 2011-12 season, and his stint with the Leafs wasn't a very memorable one (or at least not memorable for any good reasons), he has tons of coaching experience. In his years with the Sharks, the team had 99+ points from 2003-04 to 2007-08. Going further back, his first year as head coach of the Capitals saw the team making it all the way to the Cup Final. His last job may not have ended well, but I think it would be a change for our club to have someone like him behind the bench should Chief not work out.



Question from Justin Case: "Hey, Arnold! I was born in 1976. Will the Flyers win a Cup in my lifetime?"


Hey, Justin!

Mikey D likes to do what we call "Bold Predictions" on our page, so I'll make one right here: The Flyers will win a Cup before 2020. Possibly even two.



Question from Simon Strivelli: "Hey, Arnold! Do you regret asking for fans to submit questions yet?"


Hey, Simon! 

Absolutely not. I have received so many great questions and am having a blast getting to sit here, research and talk about something I am extremely passionate about with our followers.



Question from Luis Rosario: "Hey, Arnold! So do you love Helga or not?"


Hey, Luis! 

This is a tough one. You see, after grade school Helga and I had a falling out. I moved to Philadelphia and she moved to Pittsburgh, so you can kind of see why we stopped talking. In 2009 I received an anonymous letter in the mail bragging about the Penguins 4-2 series win over the Flyers en route to a Stanley Cup victory. The handwriting looked familiar, and the hearts that replaced the dots over the i's were a dead giveaway: it was her. As much as it stung to know that she had converted to root for those damned Penguins, it felt good to just read her handwriting again. Maybe I'll see her again someday. Maybe not. But deep down I think a football-shaped part of my heart will always love her.



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