Goodbye, 2014.

First in our hearts, thirteenth in the Eastern Conference.

Results these last two weeks: won some, lost some.

Current record: 14-16-7, 35 points

Record at this point last year: 17-16-4, 38 points

Upcoming schedule: Jan 2 at Hurricanes, Jan 3 at New Jersey, Jan 6 vs Senators, Jan 8 vs Capitals

I seriously considered getting loaded before I wrote this article in homage to how most things are seemingly done by the Flyers this season.  You can only say “they suck” so many ways before you have to just come out and say it because you’re out of covert ways to say it.

The Flyers won some and lost some like they often do, the fate of a mediocre team.  With 35 points in 37 games, they’re averaging less than a point a game and are well off the pace to making the playoffs, already eight points back from a Wild Card berth with over half the season to go.  They closed the season down in fitting fashion, blowing a lead on the PK late after a terrible penalty by Coburn and then losing in overtime to Colorado.  Goodbye, 2014, and good riddance.

The more I think about it, the more this year is just one giant illustration of how important Kimmo Timonen was.  He played over 20 mins a game last year while missing only five games and picked up 35 points to go along with a +5 rating.  What’s worse is we have someone who could be that guy on the team, but we’re consistently scratching Del Zotto to the point where people are writing articles about him being lost mentally.  It’s no guarantee he’ll be back next year, either; he’s a restricted free agent, granted, but so was Erik Gustafsson, who chose to play in Russia instead of signing an RFA deal with the Flyers.  If you recall, Gus had his minutes jerked around a lot by the Flyers last year and was frustrated by it; logic dictates it had to be a contributing factor to him leaving the league entirely.  You could make a case that Berube (by mishandling Gustafsson and Del Zotto) is actively damaging not only the current Flyers, but the future as well.

I thought there may be a way for Berube to keep his job as late as a month ago, but now I think he’s truly done for.  He’s a company man, a loyal man, and that carries a lot of weight, but he’s not a guy you want to be making a lot of delicate decisions, not a guy you want to have to COACH a team.  Berube might be a good coach of a team that’s already set up to win, a team he can just guide and doesn’t have to make any heavy personnel decisions or lineup calls for and can just trot out the same combinations that work each night.  In a way, that was last year’s Flyers, Laviolette’s team who he took over and guided to the playoffs.

What else can go wrong?  Mason got hurt, and although they got some inspired play from Rob Zepp and Ray Emery, that’s not a long-term solution.  They don’t know how to use Del Zotto and don’t understand how a defenseman who generates shots could be good, instead trotting the likes of Nick Grossmann out there night after night.  Rinaldo (whose entire job description is “draw more penalties than you take”) is taking 2.2 penalties per sixty minutes and drawing only 0.7 penalties per sixty.  Lecavalier is averaging less points a game (0.43 PPG) than he has since he was a rookie.

I’d say this is a classic down year, but it’s not.  Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux are having great years.  Mason has played well despite everything in front of him (including the part where the team tries to block shots but can’t so they deflect past him).  Simmer and Couturier have been good.  It’s just the defense is so BAD that it overshadows everything; they have the worst PK in the league at 74 percent, they can’t clear the puck, they can’t do much of anything.  They take more bad icings in potentially lethal situations than any team I’ve ever seen.  Almost to a man, they handle the puck like a live hand grenade, just happy to get it AWAY without caring where it goes.

Would they be better off tanking?  Absolutely.  Will it happen?  Not a chance.

The best and worst part about all of this is no matter how bad they are this year, we’ll be sitting at work in July thinking “man, I wish the Flyers were on tonight”.

Let’s Go Flyers.

Random Thoughts:

-Bellemare watch: deflecting pucks past Mason, I guess?

-At what point does Mason call a meeting and tell everyone to get out of the way and just let him see the puck?

-It’s good to see Vinny Lecavalier get going, even a little bit.  Show us there’s still something in the tank!

-Scary moment for Del Zotto the other night, getting his neck cut by a skate.  Shades of Clint Malarchuk there, though thankfully not as bad.

-Can we just announce Pens-Flyers at Beaver Stadium for the Winter Classic already?  Sometimes I think the NHL likes holding onto these prime matchups just to tease us and keep us interested even more than we already are.  The only problem I see with that matchup in that place is this: how do you top it?

-A Beaver Stadium Winter Classic would be pro-Pittsburgh, although not overwhelmingly so.  Having attended PSU and seen the split of Pens to Flyers fans, it would be an amazing time, a great mix of both fan bases

The last thought is a bit of a soliloquy (although my detractors would say that every article I write is me just talking to myself and no one else.  HEYO!): we as a society expect those who are great at sports or other endeavors to be great people, model citizens as well.  We expect their greatness to go across the board in everything they are and do.  Too often though, this is not the case.  Does their actions off the field cheapen their brilliance on the field?  Of course not.  It makes it harder to support the player in question, but it doesn’t make them less great at what they do.  There’s a whole line of theory about this which goes into how these gifted people are identified early and coddled and protected by those who would seek to ultimately profit from their gift, but the bottom line is, great athletes often aren’t model people.

AND THAT’S OKAY.

Athletes are people who make mistakes.  We as a society shouldn’t be turning to athletes to be models.  We shouldn’t feel disappointed when this one or that one gets into trouble.  We should simply enjoy them for what they are: entertainers who are very good at a very specific art, who allow us to forget about our problems for a couple of hours by cheering for a team in a contest that a hundred years from now won’t matter a damn.

This is not to say we should excuse poor behavior by athletes.  Everyone has a basic responsibility to be a decent human being.  This is more to say that when a favorite athlete of ours messes up, it shouldn’t shake the foundation of who we strive to be and look up to, which still seems to be happening a bit too much for my liking.

That’s all.

Enjoy the new year!

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