Internal Politics is Costing Us the Fight For Chemistry

Created 3 years 321 days ago
by Michael DeNicola

Tags: Brayden Schenn RJ Umberger Vincent Lecavalier Wayne Simmonds
Views: 1857


by Michael DeNicola

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 --

I'm one of the last people that's owed an explanation from Craig Berube and/or Ron Hextall. I'm a fan of the sport, a fan of the Flyers, and I have zero connection or background in competitive hockey as far as participation is concerned. But with that said, that doesn't negate how I'm feeling; I want an explanation. I want to hear it from Craig Berube, or perhaps even Hextall could clear up a few concerns of mine. I want this explanation to be detailed, not vague and laced with cliches. 

I have my suspicions, but they're based entirely on my own assumptions from the very little I have observed. Again, I'm a fan; I watch games, I listen to interviews, I comb through statistics, and I read the morsels of information regurgitated by the beats on a need-to-know basis. I'm not in that dressing room, I'm not talking to the coaches and staff, I'm not mingling with the players. 

Simply put, I'm a bystander.

Prior to Vincent Lecavalier returning from injury, the Flyers had something going with Brayden Schenn, Bellemare and Simmonds as our provisional second-line. Brayden was going on a three game points streak, and Simmonds was clicking with Bellemare who was creating space for both of his linemates. Wayne is one of our more lethal weapons, having scored six goals and twelve points through the season so far. Schenn has had difficulty establishing any momentum in his game, but he seemed to have found it, both offensively and defensively, while skating with #17 and 78. And lastly, Bellemare was proving to be quite the versitile utility player by complementing Schenn and Simmonds in the offensive zone, and adding assurance through the transition and defensive zone. 

Things were good. We had scoring depth beneath Voracek, Giroux and Michael Raffl. 

But as Vincent came closer and closer to returning from his injury, the more we all feared what was ultimately going to happen. 

Once again, bench boss Craig Berube shuffled the lines. Once again, Vincent Lecavalier, his $4.5 million cap hit, and his unending search for a home in our Top 6... took complete ownership of priority. The internal politics, once again, rose from the muck and disrupted a flow. 

Chief kept Line 1 in tact (more to come on that later). But he completely disassembled the second scoring line: Lecavalier obviously slotted into 2C while Simmonds remained at RW. RJ Umberger took a trip up the depth chart and took a seat to Lecavalier's left flank. 

Our head coach's reasoning?

He has the size factor correct. The combination averages a height of 6'3", 205 pounds. As far as his theory on cycling the puck in the offensive zone? Perhaps it'd be a sound assertion if those three actually executed on the preceding plays that lead to cycling opportunities....

Which they don't.

The problem is not their cycling game. We saw a little of it on Tuesday night, and it was hot garbage, but that's not my point. Wayne Simmonds is shackled to two linemates who fail hard at the possession game: Umberger is a borderline NHLer anymore, and Lecavalier has been dragging his teammates' performance down the pipes for the last four playing seasons. Wayne is developing into one of the League's top three power forwards, but he has his limitations. 

In our win against Edmonton -- it wasn't that he was having a bad game, per se. But it was blatantly obvious that Simmonds -- one of our biggest weapons in the OZ -- looked awkward and uncomfortable. He wasn't being given an opportunity to play HIS game. Lecavalier and Umberger do virtually nothing to set him up in areas that cater to his strengths. 

In other words, if that combination remains together, Simmonds is basically by himself. He will have to carry the mail on his own, and that will only cripple his opportunity offensively. And when one of our hottest scorers is suffering offensively, the entire fucking team suffers. And when the team suffers, so do the points in the standings. 

Brayden Schenn took a boat trip down the depth chart and slotted into the LW spot, adjacent to Couturier and opposite of Matt Read. 

There's not a whole lot to say about this threesome as far as output is concerned. I'm not seeing an influx of offense from the introduction of Schenn. The main issue I have is knowing how long it takes Brayden to find consistency in his game. He's been assigned all over the lineup in his early tenure; it's tough to criticize a young skater when he spends less time on one line than Donald Trump spends combing that hair of his. 

I must admit, I've sort of lost my patience with Schenn over the past month and prior season. It's not so much what he does with the puck, but it's more about what he doesn't do without it. I don't often see him helping this team when he's away from the puck. And because of that, I'm convinced the kid's Hockey IQ falls short of Raymond Babbitt in an accounting position. 

But when he was skating with Bellemare and Simmonds, together the line flowed in waves, up and down the ice. Together, they played a complete 200-foot game. 

Finally... Brayden Schenn caught the tail of a comet and he was enjoying a swell ride. But then...

... and it was downhill from there. 

I don't care about Vincent Lecavalier's career in Tampa Bay. I don't care that he hasn't missed the 20+ goal mark since his rookie year in 1998-99. I don't care how much of a weapon our coaches believe he CAN be on a Flyers scoring line. I don't care about a cap hit that large being assigned fourth line duties. 

I care about visible, tangible results. I care about consistency, development, chemistry, and production. Lecavalier fizzles out in each of those. He's in the twilight of his career; he has been on a steep decline for YEARS; he is a minefield in the middle of a fucking running track; and because our internal politics seem to run the ship, an entire team's progression is gambled on so we can continue our mission to find Vincent Lecavalier a home in our lineup. 

It's pathetic. And the worst of it all, it's costing us potential productivity from two of our team's younger, rising players. 

So, once again, I want an explanation. I want this explanation to be detailed, and without any hesitation or bullshit hockey cliches. 

If our staff is so damn adamant on finding team chemistry, then why does it tear down whatever little we have in the name of a black sheep?

Michael Raffl suffered a "lower-body injury" against Edmonton when he blocked a shot with his skate/foot in the 3rd period. 

Hextall mentioned Raffl will be reevaluated Wednesday, and some have speculated that it looked like a similar injury that put Lecavalier on the shelf for weeks. 

Raffl has turned into a big top line piece, having scored six even-strength goals, and compliments a red hot pairing in Voracek and Giroux. This could be a major loss, and would certainly impact Voracek's unbelievable scoring run. 

Looks like Chief has no choice but to shuffle the deck once again -- not that it wasn't likely to happen again anyway. But this time, perhaps Schenn gets another opportunity to skate alongside our two possession wizards.

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