In the Eastern Conference Morning Papers, there is some talk about the Flyers’ game tonight, as it is the first game versus the Florida Panthers since the David Booth incident. (Here is the video courtesy of HockeyWebCast on youtube.)
Okay, so you have almost assuredly seen the above hit and as linked in the Papers, there is still some ill-will over said hit. Having said that, my question today is: Will this game actually serve to motivate the Flyers?
It seems odd that that is the question I am presenting, but stay with me. The Panthers have actually been playing well lately. As under the radar as the team is–even in its own home market–the Panthers have posted a record of 13-9-6 since the Mike Richards/David Booth incident. That record is pretty darn good, especially considering the loss of Booth also marked the loss of arguably the team’s best player. Moreover, the team has succeeded without veteran and locker room leader Cory Stillman. So, the Panthers are quietly surprising the NHL–but that isn’t the topic for today.
What about the Flyers?
How many articles have been written recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Delaware Daily County Times about the team’s struggles? About the need for a shake up or, on the other hand, a need to stay the course? Simply, the Flyers are a team in disarray.
The reasons for the team’s struggles are a plenty. Ray Emery was playing hurt; some speculated about a locker room rift and others mentioned the lack of solid coaching. Regardless of the reasons for the team’s struggles–and let’s be straight, emotion has certainly been a factor–may tonight’s game be the perfect tonic for the aimless club?
A coaching change certainly did not unite Philadelphia, in fact, it may have sent them in a further downward spiral. So what is left for the Flyers to cling onto? Many speculate a trade is in the offing but tonight may be the tell-tale sign for just that.
If we are looking for a sign that things may get messy tonight, look no further then the fact that the Panthers has recalled Steve MacIntyre and Mike Duco for tonight’s game–although it should be noted that tonight’s roster has not yet been announced.
Look, the Flyers are 10-15-1 since this incident. That is bad. We know that the Panthers are almost certainly going to come after Flyers captain Mike Richards. Will the Flyers unite because of that? Will they stick up for their captain and use this night as a motivational tool moving forward?
The Flyers clearly lack cohesiveness. If you have watched a Flyers game that fact is easily noticeable. Will a trade fix that? Who knows? But tonight, to me, is the sign of whether the Flyers will be the same group going forward, or if changes need to be made to the roster.
If the Flyers unite tonight, this may be the start of what most analysts expected–a run for the Cup. If nothing changes tonight, don’t be surprised if something changes roster-wise once the Christmas roster freeze is over.