BUFFALO – Chris Vandevelde figured his fate had destined him to go to Europe.
That was until he received a late summer phone call from a friend’s father.
“I didn’t have much going in the summer and I was talking [with my agent] about going overseas,” Vandevelde said. “Then I got a call from Ron Hextall and I signed an AHL-only deal.”
Vandevelde knew the assistant general manager of the Flyers because he was teammates and friends with Hextall’s son Brett in college at the University of North Dakota.
Hextall got to see a lot of Vandevelde, and when the Flyers were looking for depth forwards who could come up to the big club in a pinch and be versatile enough to play in multiple roles, he immediately thought of his son’s former teammate.
And even though Vandevelde could have gone to play somewhere in Europe, taking an AHL-only deal had him closer to the NHL and a shot at getting back to the big show, so he decided to stay stateside and see what happened.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
NEW YORK – It’s become a chronic occurrence for the Flyers. Sometimes from their own volition, others from reputation. Regardless, it’s something that eats away at coach Craig Berube.
The Flyers take too many penalties.
They took six in the first two periods against the Rangers that led to five power play chances for the Blue shirts, who just so happen to have the sixth-best power play in the league, and while it wasn’t the primary reason for a 4-1 loss at Madison Square Garden, it was certainly on everyone’s mind after the game.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
NEW YORK – It’s been a season of fits and starts for Steve Downie.
Coming off of a lost season where he missed the entire lockout-shortened campaign for the Colorado Avalanche due to a torn ACL, Downie got off to a fast start with the upstart Avs under the guidance of coach Patrick Roy.
But Downie, who is in the final year of his contract before hitting free agency, was considered an expendable piece for Colorado who was in need of a veteran locker room presence and penalty killer. So they shipped Downie back to Philadelphia – where his career started – in exchange for Max Talbot.
Upon arriving to Philadelphia, Downie was quickly taken out of the lineup as he was inserted into it, suffering a concussion in the second period of his first game with the Flyers during a fight with Washington’s Aaron Volpatti.
The points were accumulating. Read and Couturier were scoring and Downie was setting them up. The trade looked like a boon for the Flyers.
But then Downie got hurt again...
(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – Yes, Wayne Simmonds scored again on the power play. It was his sixth power play goal in the last 10 games.
And yes, the power play, at times, looked good in creating opportunities. And yes, Tampa goalie Anders Lindback, while fortunate on a few occasions, did make 35 saves to earn the win over the Flyers.
That said, the Flyers had a golden opportunity to change the momentum of the game with a two-man advantage for 1:46 in the first period – and couldn’t score.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
I woke up this morning and read Greg Wyshynski’s Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo where his staff basically had a mid-season vote for all the major NHL awards.
For the most part, I thought Greg and Co. did a fine job. Except, I was a bit perplexed that out of six writers, only one was savvy enough to even consider Craig Berube as a candidate for the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year so far. That was contributing writer Jen Neale and she had Berube listed fifth.
Then, earlier this afternoon, I had a brief Twitter exchange with Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer(and a couple fans too) once again discussing the Flyers philosophy (neither of us dared use the word “culture.”)
Nevertheless, it was Sielski who was center stage in the media when Berube was hired, suggesting that the Flyers should have gone in a different direction then the same old Flyers way.
All the while, I had been working on this blog post – which made for a juicy bit of irony.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – It’s almost like Craig Berube is a sage.
He said he wants Zac Rinaldo to shoot more and get to the net and generate more scoring chances.
It seems like a crazy notion. After all, that’s not what Rinaldo’s role is on the Flyers. But, O.K., we’ll go with it.
A few days later Rinaldo ends up leading the Flyers in shots and scores his first goal of the season, snapping a 53-game skid en route to a 3-1 win over Montreal.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
Rinaldo is often the guy the Flyers turn to as the X-factor in times when the bench is shorthanded. It’s no question that he is a physical presence, and just the notion of him skating hard into the zone has forced some defensemen to dish the puck to early in anticipation of a check that will never come, resulting in a turnover.
It’s his forte. Separate the puck from the defenseman, whether by force – or even the threat of it.
But, the Flyers wanted his game to grow in other areas too so Rinaldo didn’t become just a one-trick pony.(Click "Full story" for more...)
DENVER – There are two things that have coincided with the way the Flyers have been playing this month – they have been scoring more goals and allowing more goals.
And yet, while it can be said that the once taut Craig Berube defense-first system has been loosened a bit, the Flyers still found a way to better their position in the standings.
While November was technically a better month as the Flyers accrued 20 of a possible 30 points, they did have seven games at home out of 15 while December, when they compiled 18 of a possible 28 points, they were only on home ice four times in 14 outings.
And yet, while the two months have produced similar outcomes in the win/loss columns, they couldn’t be more differing.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
VANCOUVER – The Flyers will likely have six players named to their respective countries Olympic teams in the next week or so as the participating nations will begin announcing their final squads.
However, one Flyer didn’t really want to wait to share the news.
Michael Raffl, who has burst onto the scene as a gem of a free agent signing by the team last offseason, was thrilled to share that he has already been told he will be representing Team Austria in the Olympics in six weeks in Sochi, Russia.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
VOORHEES, N.J. – Some people thought the Christmas break was too short. Some felt it was just right. Regardless, the Flyers returned to skate zone for a quick, yet up-tempo practice before embarking on yet another lengthy road trip that kicks off tomorrow in Edmonton.
At nine days, it’ll be the second-longest road trip of the season piggy-backing off a 13 day trip earlier this month.
(Technically it’s a six-game, 11-day trip if you include the game in Newark against the Devils at the end of it, but the Flyers will return home two days earlier and practice at Skate Zone before heading up the New Jersey Turnpike).
And it’s probably the most crucial nine days of the season.
The Flyers come out of the Christmas break in a playoff position in the mediocre Metropolitan Division, but it’s a fluid spot, and they know it.(Click "Full Story" for more...)