Ed Moran: Same old for inconsistent, slow-starting Flyers

Matt Carle (right), defending Vaclav Prospal, played his first game with the Flyers on Saturday.
Matt Carle (right), defending Vaclav Prospal, played his first game with the Flyers on Saturday.
Posted: November 10, 2008

WHEN GENERAL manager Paul Holmgren pulled the trigger on the Steve Downie/Steve Eminger deal for Matt Carle, I was eager to see what the effect would be.

With another loss and an unimpressive record, the players should have viewed the trade as a clear sign that management was not happy. A desperate team, eager to turn its fortunes around, was expected to come charging out of the locker room for Saturday's home game against the Lightning.

And the Flyers looked strong, for one period. They outskated Tampa, put pucks in deep and on net, and took the lead with a power-play goal from Danny

Briere, who was back for the first game since having abdominal surgery.

And then came the second period, and the inconsistent team, which has been a puzzle for going on 2 years, showed up. They were outworked, made mistakes and not only gave up the lead but fell behind on two shots that wrapped around the boards and came back the other way.

The Flyers eventually lost, 2-1, after a better third period, and afterward they felt they had played a good game, got the good start they wanted and limited the shots on goalie Marty Biron.

But somewhere in the translation, the second period was missed. Tampa got blasted from coach Barry Melrose, who said he "challenged their manhood," and the Lightning came out and took the game over.

The Flyers had 34 shots on net and the "hot goaltender" term was flying around. I don't see it that way. I keep hearing the same mantra that I have heard over and over: "60 minutes of hockey."

It didn't happen. It hasn't happened with any regularity in two seasons. When the playoffs ended last spring it seemed that this team had found its identity. What happened?

No one knows. Not the players, not the coaches, not management. And with a three-game road trip coming up that includes the Islanders, Pittsburgh and Montreal, the prospects for a turnaround are not good.

"It's something with our team I still can't explain," Briere said Friday afternoon. "We've been dealing with it for over a year, the inconsistency, the slow starts. I don't know why. I don't know if it's the makeup of our team. Sometimes it just gets in your head.

"We play a couple of good games and then we play bad games. We've been trying to find the answer to this problem for over a year. I don't know if you remember last year, it was pretty much the same thing we were talking about at this same time. It's a year later and we still don't understand it. We still can't find the problem.

"One thing we know is the problem is all of us individually. I don't think it's a team problem. I don't think it's preparation from the coaching staff. It's each and every one of us playing the game and being ready to play when it starts."

That's an honest answer. But, again, it's something that has been said before, and I don't know how long it will last before something drastic happens.

In defense of Eminger

It would be easy to say that the Flyers made a mistake in trading for Steve Eminger for a first-round draft pick. He didn't work out here, and he and Steve Downie were traded to Tampa Bay for defenseman Matt Carle to fix the problem. But the real story, at least as I see it, was that Eminger was miscast.

Eminger was supposed to be a defending defenseman, a guy who could add a little toughness in front of the net and, when paired with a puck-moving, skating defenseman, would have been a decent sixth player in the lineup.

But when both Ryan Parent and Randy Jones were injured in training camp, the Flyers lost two players they were counting on to add some mobility to the defense.

That was the plan: Let Jason Smith go in free agency, accept the loss of Derian Hatcher to bad knees and change the scheme from toughness to quickness. Eminger could make a first pass and he could even get back for the puck.

But when he was thrust higher into the rotation and had to become more of a skating defenseman, he didn't have the skill set to do it. Eminger would have been paired with Jones or Parent, and it could have worked out for him. He just wasn't the best skater.

Pick for Cherepanov?

According to a report in the New York Post, the Rangers are arguing that they are owed a compensatory draft pick for the loss of Alexei Cherepanov, the 19-year-old Russian prospect who collapsed and died of a

massive heart attack in Russia on Oct. 13.

The Rangers are even asking for the 17th pick overall. Their argument is that, according to the language governing when an unsigned drafted player is allowed to re-enter the draft, the original drafting team is awarded a compensatory pick.

Strange as it sounds, the Rangers claim that even though Cherepanov is dead, he is eligible to re-enter the draft.

"We are not attempting to capitalize on a tragedy, but there would be no question regarding the Rangers' right to a compensatory pick if Cherepanov had been revived and survived the incident and were on life support," assistant general manager Cam Hope told the Post. "If an unsigned player sustained a massive injury on or off the ice, the drafting team would get a compensatory pick." *

Send e-mail to morane@phillynews.com

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