The Good, The Bad, And The Broad Street Bullies

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Few could argue that the Philadelphia Flyers are the most aggressive team in hockey, both on the ice and off of it.  They react with vigor when challenged on the ice, and are never afraid of making a move when challenged off of it.  When the goaltending was identified as an issue following last years post season collapse, they were aggressive in bringing in Ilya Bryzgalov based on his stellar statistical career.  After signing a multi year contract and sleepwalking early in the season, Bryzgalov found himself on the bench.  Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were gaining a lot of notoriety around Philadelphia for night time activities rather than on ice abilities.  Despite being signed to significant long term contracts, both were shipped out of town for the team to attempt a new approach.

Rival this with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the blueprint Brian Burke so often speaks of as necessity in building a winner.  So far this blueprint has netted little if anything at all, rather an odd collection of players that resembles a grab bag.  The ones that are fast aren’t overly physical, the ones that are physical aren’t overly fast.  It’s an odd conundrum really.

The marked difference between the two is the level of patience the respective organizations have when it comes to recognizing the need to make adjustments.  Philadelphia it would seem makes moves long before they appear necessary, where Toronto waits until after it is too late.  It is difficult to really say which approach is the correct one.  Players on the Flyers can’t be excited about the idea that they would be moved without hesitation, but the losing has to be getting to the Leafs bench.

Personally, the word rebuilding should never enter an organizations vocabulary.  The idea that drafting high consistantly is wonderful in theory, but there is a two prong approach that is often missing.  The building of a good organization has more to do with drafting and developing players, and if you consistantly find your team drafting high, than you’re likely not doing very good with the latter.  The second prong to this is the idea that losing is like a disease, and once its contracted it is difficult to get rid of.

Coming into the game tonight Toronto trailed Washington by 7 points for the final playoff spot in the eastern conference.  A loss would make it almost certain that they are done given they would have to make up 7 points with only 14 games remaining.  The Leaf next game is a meeting with Washington that should easily be called the most important game of the season.  While they are not mathematically out of the playoff race, the Leafs sure look to be in a near impossible situation.  Most teams that lost nearly every game for a month don’t compete in the post-season.  And for all the argument about tanking the rest of the season to improve draft position, it would be strong betting that where ever the pick is it will be traded before Burke even starts walking up to the podium.  On the the game.

The Good

– The Grabovski, Kulemin, MacArthur combination looks to be a keeper for Randy Carlyle.  The only thing the trio lacked tonight was finish, but in a defensive battle they produced more than enough opportunities.

-Luke Schenn is apparently taking advice from Randy Carlyle very seriously.  He was playing as physical as he has since being drafted and actually looked nasty in front of the net between whistles.

-Mike Komisarek was dominant at times on the ice tonight, and it appears that having a coach be encouraging of physical play is also going to benefit him.  He has looked like a different player since the coaching change.

-The overall defensive zone play looked much better.  The team is operating as a team and while the playoffs look like a longshot with the loss, the play is reason for optimism.

-Monster made as many highlight reel saves tonight as ever.  He always looks his best when his game is quiet, but he is athletic enough to make some good saves.  With the Leafs effectively out of the playoff race he likely earned himself another game.

The Bad

-The Leafs power-play looked awful early on, and then mediocre as the game went on.  They really didn’t have much zone time and when they did the chances were not breathtaking.  They have some vindication with the Flyers penalty killing being pretty good.

-It’s hard to criticise anything that happened in the game as it looked like Carlyle and Farrish installed a very controlled flow to the game.  Offense will come in time, keep working on the back end and keeping the puck out of the net and the wins will start to pile up.