Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flyers Beat Sabres; Acquire Prospal, "Lose" Forsberg

Unbelievably, the Flyers beat the Sabres last night in a shootout by a score of 4 - 3. You read that right; "in a shootout". Even more unbelievably, they came from 3 goals behind to beat a team that owned them in recent history, in the Buffalo Sabres.

No, wait, it gets better. The winning goal during the shootout? Scored by Danny Briere!

Maybe this is the karmic series of events we've been looking for to get out of this losing streak. Maybe it's all a mirage. It was at least fun to watch the Flyers play competitively again.

Marty Biron still looked shaky throughout the shootout, but he did manage the poke check on Tim Connolly and was there to whisk the puck away when Derek Roy skated in too fast and mishandled the puck.

Jeff Carter played (in my opinion) his best game as a Flyer. He was strong on the puck and (for once), he finished a chance on a breakaway and in the shootout. R.J. Umberger, showing up to the scene of his most infamous moment, also got on the score sheet, with a goal scorer's goal, picking to the top corner against Ryan Miller on the power play.

If Umberger and Carter played like this regularly, I'm not sure we'd be talking about a 10 game losing streak. Regardless, the Flyers are off the schneid and next play Thursday against Ottawa.

Photo: Yahoo.com (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

Live Long and Prospal

After the game, the Flyers announced a trade, where they acquired 33 year old Vinny Prospal in exchange for AHL defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft choice.

Prospal, who came up with the Flyers, is having his best year offensively, but is due to be a free agent and, more or less, publicly called out his coach last week. He'll be a top 6 forward on this team right now and, if they make the playoffs, he'll help their power play. It will help that he knows John Stevens, as they actually played together when both were players on the Phantoms.

The oddity of this deal is that the Flyers gave up Alexandre Picard, an offensive defenseman, who was, at one time, touted to be their best defenseman in the organization. Clearly, his stock has fallen in the eyes of the organization to be given up for what will probably be a rental situation with Vinny Prospal. I heard Stevens himself extol Picard's virtues during a season ticket holder Q&A a couple of years ago, so including Picard in this deal surprised me a little.

Peter Forsberg Signs with the Avs

Yesterday, Peter Forsberg performed a 180 degree turn on his intentions and returned to the NHL yesterday, signing a 1 year deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

On the surface, I am happy he's not coming back to Flyers. I think the risk of him coming back and being hurt or unavailable for games at a stretch like he was with the Flyers is just too much to deal with on a team that already has a full plate (ton of injuries, plus getting Briere sprung).

On the other hand, Forsberg did yesterday what Forsberg has done since he signed with the Flyers; he did what was best for Peter Forsberg, leaving the Flyers wanting for more.

At the risk of being called childish by Bill Meltzer, the following are the facts about Peter Forsberg's time in Philly, and it's a time that Forsberg probably won't mention when he's inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame:

1.) Peter Forsberg, in pretty much open defiance of the Flyers management, elected to play in the Turin Olympics despite recurring groin problems leading up to the Olympics. Forsberg was grudgingly allowed the benefit of the doubt by Flyers management, but by putting his energy into a gold medal run for Sweden instead of getting right physically for the NHL playoff run, Forsberg put himself (and another international medal; he already had a gold from 1992) ahead of the Flyers organization.

2.) Anyone else remember when he refused to take a shot during a shoot-out early in his captaincy when told to do so by then-coach Ken Hitchcock? He got off very easy for that. Could you imagine Mark Messier begging off of a shot in a shoot-out?

3.) The Forsberg Drama '06-'07: The whole thing with Forsberg's foot and finding the right orthopedic insert makes me want to destroy my ABBA CD collection. The Flyers foot the bill to fix foot problems of Forsberg's that were congenitive in nature (i.e.--his feet were always that way). Following the surgery, there were trips to foot specialists in North Carolina (11/2006), Cleveland (see here for reference), and Phoenix (12/2006) to see orthotics specialist Ernesto Castro to essentially find a boot skate to fit his foot.

All the while, he missed games, while the Flyers drown in a sea of losses. Even Peter Forsberg at 80% could have helped, but he chose a different path. Tim Panaccio called Forsberg's situation, at the time, "a soap opera reminiscent of the Eric Lindros' concussion days", but the difference here is that Lindros never really had the respect of his teammates (read Jonesy's book if you don't believe me), whereas Forsberg commanded the respect of the Flyer lockerroom. In Forsberg's absence, the Flyers obviously struggled.

The implication with Forsberg, when he was here, was that he was uncomfortable with the status of being the lead dog and that because the Flyers were so bad, the motivation for him to play at less than 100% simply was not there. That might be an unfair characterization, but Forsberg's actions left many open to make that characterization. I'm sure I'm not the only person who heard various people in the electronic media (Al Morganti and Glen Macnow, I'm looking at you) call Forsberg a "diva" or "prima donna".

So, with the way the Forsberg era went down in Philly, is it any wonder that folks here, upon hearing that he wasn't going to sign here when healthy, were a little bitter, what with Forsberg being given the benefit of the doubt by the Flyers at every turn here?

Whatever. The page has been turned and I do think the Flyers are better for it. But if the Paul Holmgren, or a Flyers fan feels Forsberg jobbed the Flyers in some way, I do think they are justified in their feelings.

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