Now that was a beautiful goal.
Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers.
37-37-8, 82 points (6th in the Metropolitan Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
If you’re an NHL team that sets a league record for most starting goalies used over the course of a single season, it’s unlikely that said record is synonymous with winning.
Here’s the list, in no particular order:
Eight starting goalies, one more than the previous record of seven held by three other teams with the most recent being the 2007-08 Los Angeles Kings.
Cam Talbot set the record in February, but it was No. 7 that tied the mark that stuck out in more ways than one.
First, when you start seven different goalies by Dec. 18, you can be damn sure things have gone horribly awry.
But No. 7 turned out to be lucky No. 7 in the end. Of all the goalies on that list, it’s 21-year-old rookie Hart who stole the show in the city best known for its goalie graveyard.
The good news, then, is that Hart managed to fend off the grim goalie reaper, starting 29 more times after that Dec. 18 debut and posting a very respectable .917 save percentage on a team that surrendered a pile of shots and the third most goals against. Mix in horrible power play and a porous penalty kill and a Hart was seeing all sorts of rubber.
If he would have begun the season sooner, he would have been firmly planted in the Calder Trophy discussion, much like Jordan Binnington in St. Louis. More importantly, if the Flyers would have had him playing like he did in the second half of the season, they may have been in the playoff conversation.
Neither ended up being true but finding a potential stud starting goaltender in another otherwise lost season would be viewed as a silver lining that’s not just an illusion.
The offseason will be debated when it comes to its success. Yes, they got a second-line center in Kevin Hayes who will allow for Claude Giroux to play out on the wing, a place he recorded 102 points two seasons ago alongside Sean Couturier. But they paid through the ears and the nose and whatever other orifices you want to name in your head.
Seven years and $50 million is a lot of term and a lot of cash to hand a player who has hit the 50-point plateau just once in his five-year NHL career. One can suppose that if he adds to the spine of the team, takes some pressure of Nolan Patrick and allows Giroux the freedom to do his thing offensively, then the money is well spent.
But this is a player who couldn’t make it as Winnipeg’s second-line center when the job was handed to him at the trade deadline last season. It’s a risky contract, no doubt.
And there’s a new bench boss in Alain Vigneault after the team fired Dave Hakstol back in December and rode Scott Gordon in the interim, and a new general manager in Chuck Fletcher after the Flyers decided to ax Ron Hextall.
It’s been a wild past 12 months in Philly and who knows how it is all going to turn out.
The Flyers top brass seemed unwilling to allow Hextall’s methodical approach to building a winner. Fletcher comes with a lot more flair, for sure. The jury is still out on whether flair is needed when taking things slow would have been much more desirable, however.
Win, lose or shootout(?), at least there’s Gritty.
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders agreed to terms with Derick Brassard on a one-year contract Wednesday.
Brassard, who will turn 32 on Sept. 22, had 14 goals and nine assists in 70 games last season while with Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado. He also had an assist in nine playoff games with the Avalanche.
Financial terms of the deal were not announced.
The 23 points last season was his lowest total since he had a goal and an assist in 17 games as a rookie with Columbus in 2007-08.
For his career, Brassard has totaled 176 goals and 275 assists in 786 games while also playing for the New York Rangers and Ottawa. He also has 23 goals and 37 assists in 99 career postseason games.
For the Islanders, his fifth team in three seasons, Brassard will likely center the third line, filling the role held by Valtteri Filppula last season. Filppula signed with Detroit earlier this summer.
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The top 10 candidates to be traded this season. (The Hockey News)
• Backstrom, Holtby extension talks in Capitals’ plans before camp. (NHL.com)
• After out-sized expectations perhaps under-sized Kailer Yamamoto can finally make his pro hockey mark. (Edmonton Journal)
• Former ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey player charged in attack. (Associated Press)
• The best (and worst) NHL teams of the past decade. (ESPN)
• Steady Tavares won’t be a distraction. (Canada.com)
• Russ Conway, acclaimed journalist who brought down Alan Eagleson, passes away at 70. (The Hockey News)
• Five predictions for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2019-20 season. (Pensburgh)
• Bruins talking extension with Cassidy. (TSN.ca)
In a lot of ways, it’s fitting that the Minnesota Wild announced Bill Guerin as their next GM during Ottawa Senators Day at PHT.
After all, Guerin is stepping into a GM gig that might be just as tough as what Pierre Dorion is dealing with in Ottawa, even if the challenges are different.
Despite missing the playoffs in 2018-19 and failing to win a series from 2015-16 through 2017-18, Craig Leipold continues to drink the Kool-Aid, rather than pulling off the Band-Aid. He wants the Wild to contend, so if any rebuilding happens, it needs to take place while the Wild also try to compete.
Mock former GM Paul Fenton all you want, but that isn’t exactly an easy juggling act.
The question, then, is will Guerin be able to juggle better than Fenton? (After all, he does have the hands of a former NHL sniper.)
Here’s some friendly advice for Guerin because, frankly, he’ll probably need all the help he can get.
1. Find out who wants out
As a former player, Guerin likely has a leg up on most GMs when it comes to being able to relate to other players. That might come in handy when it comes to a sensitive subject: waiving no-trade and no-movement clauses.
Theoretically, it would be awkward to have such a conversation with a veteran player who’s meant a lot to the franchise, whether that be Zach Parise and his seemingly eternal contract, or Mikko Koivu on a one-year deal. Yet, as we’ve seen from Parise doing some summer soul-searching with The Athletic’s Michael Russo (sub required), some of these players have already pondered moving on. It’s easier to have such chats when you’re accomodating a veteran player trying to win that elusive Stanley Cup than it is to ask if you can uproot their family via a trade, after all.
2. Identify your core, and don’t settle
Such clause talk brings up some tough decisions for Guerin when it comes to who is a core Wild player and who is expendable.
As stuck as the Wild seem right now, it’s remarkable how much of a clean slate Guerin can enjoy in the not-so-distant future … at least if he makes smart calls. Via Cap Friendly, the Wild have about $9.5M in cap space, although RFAs Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek still need deals. Even if the cap remained at $81.5M, the Wild’s 2020-21 cap space would rise to $22M, and then all the way up to about $44M heading into 2021-22.
With that in mind, Guerin needs to be cold and calculating. Should the Wild sign Jared Spurgeon, a soon-to-be 30-year-old defenseman who figures to be expensive following this upcoming contract year, or would it be smarter to trade a quality defenseman for what could be a big haul, and build for the future? The Wild have already seen how bad a long-term contract can look, and while Spurgeon could age gracefully, he could just as easily become another albatross.
Spurgeon isn’t the only tough call, but he’s among the toughest.
3. Invest in analytics
Firing Fenton after a bit more than a year wasn’t the greatest look for the Wild, but the silver lining was that it kept Fenton from flubbing a Jason Zucker trade in the same way he made the worst blunder of his time, the atrocious Nino Niederreiter trade.
According to Russo’s scathing, incredible rundown of Fenton’s reign in Minnesota, the Niederreiter trade was essentially made during a Florida retreat where the Wild’s top analytics staffers weren’t even invited.
The dream would be for Minnesota to be cutting edge, yet at a minimum, Guerin can avoiding shooting himself in the Fenton … er, foot.
4. Bring in your people
On the other hand, Russo’s reporting also enforced why it can be so important to surround yourself with people you trust.
As much criticism as Fenton drew in that piece regarding being paranoid about leaks … it also is worth mentioning that stunning details ended up leaking out of Minnesota about Fenton’s foibles. Is that ironic, or Alanis Morissette ironic? Considering all that surfaced, can you blame Guerin if he poaches some of the people he knew from Pittsburgh?
Guerin must aim for the right balance between hiring people you can trust, and fresh faces who innovate. I’d wager there’s a sweet spot between Lincoln’s “team of rivals” and Jon Gruden sending his scouting staff home during draft time out of paranoia.
5. Manage Leipold
Perhaps reality will slowly dawn upon Leipold that the Wild need to at least reboot things a bit. In the meantime, though, Guerin needs to hit the right buttons: keeping this team reasonably competitive, without totally mortgaging the future for marginal present-day gains.
Chances are, there will be missed shots here and there for Guerin, but if he gets big picture decisions right where Fenton right wrong, the Wild might just become the top-shelf team Leipold demands.