Cold Hard Rants: The End of the Broad Street Bullies?

Posted by Drew Mindell in Cold Hard Rants on December 8, 2009 — 4 Comments

The Liberty Bell. Rocky (the boxer, not the former Illegal Curve contributor.) Cheese-steaks. Will Smith (circa the Fresh Prince era.) The Broad Street Bullies.

When one thinks of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, these are the immediate thoughts that come to mind. We can all close our eyes and see Sly Stallone running up those steps in Rocky I. We can all smell and taste the unmistakable aroma that comes from combining grade “E” meat with Cheese and Onions. We can all picture the Fresh Prince, the quintessential fish out of water in Bel-Air with the high fade, the tough exterior, and the heart of gold. Most applicable to hockey fans (and presumably if you are reading this, you qualify as one, or you Googled Philadelphia landmarks and are now very confused), we can all picture the Broad Street Bullies who terrorized and dominated the NHL in the 1970’s.

Their fierce on-ice antics were made all the more tolerable by their on ice dominance, culminating with their back to back championships in 1973-74 and 1974-75. Since the revolutionary play by the bullies, the Flyers have more or less stuck to the same raison d’être, valuing toughness and grit more than any other NHL franchise, evidenced by their frequency in the top portion of most penalized NHL teams. However, with the firing of John Stevens earlier this week, and the hiring of Peter Laviolette, if history is any indicator, it will be time to begin to write the obituary for the Broad Street Bullies era of the Philadelphia Flyers.

When the season began in Philadelphia, expectations were high. The team had a moderately successful season the year prior, giving the future Stanley Cup Champion Penguins all they could handle in the first round. They added perennial Norris Trophy Candidate Chris Pronger in an off season trade, and they resolved their often-in-flux goaltending situation by rescuing Ray Emery from the KHL. Both of these acquisitions solidified this team and both players play the game the supposed “bullies” way, as any opponent will tell you how rough and tumble Pronger is, and Ray Emery famously adorned his mask in Ottawa with a picture of Mike Tyson. The Broad Street Bullies were alive and well.

Fast forward a quarter of the way through this season and we have a Flyers team that is underperforming and in a tailspin out of the playoffs, resulting in John Stevens losing his job, and the hiring of Peter Laviolette. It is this hiring that is the basis for the hypothesis that we are about to see the end of the Broad Street Bullies era.

Looking back at the past performances of Laviolette coached teams, it’s obvious he puts an emphasis on responsible, penalty free play. In the four years Laviolette coached in Carolina, the Hurricanes finished with the 5th fewest penalty minutes (05-06), 7th fewest penalty minutes (06-07), 8th most penalty minutes (an aberration in 07-08), and the fewest in the NHL (08-09). The numbers look similar when examining his tenure in New York with the Islanders, as they were in the middle of the pack as it relates to penalty in minutes in 2001-02 and 2002-03.

The Flyers, on the other hand, finished with the 10th fewest PIM in 05-06 (their aberration), 5th most in 06-07, 3rd most in 07-08, and most in the NHL last year (08-09).

It’s too soon in the Laviolette era in Philadelphia to officially and undoubtedly declare that it is the end of the Broad Street Bullies era. I do think that a good litmus test will occur later this week when Flyers winger Daniel Carcillo returns from his four game suspension. In case you missed it, Carcillo was suspended after amassing an amazing twenty-nine minutes of penalties during last Saturday’s blow-out loss to the Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals. Carcillo’s performance was highlighted by him handing the Capitals a nine minute power-play which, needless to say, does not bode well for achieving a victory in the game. Laviolette’s post game quote that, “there has got to be some accountability to the discipline, because we’re not going to kill penalties all night,” puts the writing on the wall that an undisciplined bully like team will not be stood for under his watch.

When Carcillo is able to return from his suspension later this week, his status should tell us all we need to know about the health of the Broad Street Bullies. If he takes a regular shift, then Laviolette is not fully committed to changing the mentality of the Flyers, but if Carcillo is seated high above the ice in the press box, we will know that the obituary writers can begin to write about the era of the Broad Street Bullies, born 1970, died 2009.

For IllegalCurve.com, I am Drew Mindell.

Do you wish that the original Broad Street Bullies would treat me like they did the Russian Red Army in 1976? Let’s hear from you in the comments.

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  • Harper

    The back to back championships were 1973/74 and 1974/75, not 72/73 and 73/74.

    1972/73 was Habs.

  • http://www.illegalcurve.com Drew

    Harper, you are ever so right. Thanks for pointing out the error, and I have gone ahead and fixed it. In future, it would help if I could read, apparently.

  • http://www.illegalcurve.com Richard

    Good column Drew.

  • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com goon

    Drew good column, I think that a Laviolette team is going to be very boring to watch. Hockey is a rough game and I hope the Flyers keep up their style of play pre-Laviolette…