Downie praised for bringing a spark to the Flyers

Posted: November 27, 2013

SUNRISE, Fla. - When Steve Downie was traded from the first-place Avalanche to the last-place Flyers on Halloween, many joked his trip was more trick than threat.

Downie rejoined a team in turmoil - with a rookie head coach, a 3-8-0 record and little prospect for the playoffs. He was in nearly an opposite situation in Denver, where he played on the first line for a recordsetting rookie head coach in Patrick Roy.

Yet, when Downie joined the Flyers, he looked at their roster and saw a disconnect. The names and numbers didn't add up.

"You ask everybody in this room and it was disappointing the way we started," Downie said. "We knew we could be better. We made a push. Now we're right back in the thick of things."

It is no coincidence that the Flyers are on a 5-1-1 run since Downie rejoined the lineup after suffering a concussion in his first game with the team. Downie, 26, is skating on a line that Jake Voracek called "the hottest line in hockey" with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.

Downie has six assists in the last seven games. And after slow starts to their seasons, Read has five goals and one assist, while Couturier has one goal and four assists in the same span.

"When we added him to that line, I knew they'd get the offensive chances, because he's very good with the puck down low," coach Craig Berube said. "He makes plays, he's strong, he sees the ice very well. We're really happy right now."

Read called it "a little bit of instant chemistry" with Downie, but said Downie deserves credit not for his brawn, but his brains. When the Flyers acquired him, many mocked Paul Holmgren because of Downie's penchant for penalties and his 700-plus career minutes in fewer than 300 games.

Downie has been anything but undisciplined.

"He's a very smart player," Read said. "He knows how to get to open areas. He knows how to support the puck very well, which is helpful with me and Sean, because we're learning as a line and we're quickly learning where everyone is on the ice."

For Berube, the line also has been a key shutdown checking line, able to play big minutes each night against top opponents. Read said that his line still has plenty of room for improvement and that they're "really just getting to know each other," but Downie said the simplicity of their overall game made it easy to readjust from Colorado.

"It's been great," said Downie, who originally was with the team in 2007 and '08. "I think I've played with 90 percent of the guys in this room. The guys in here have done a great job with me, they've kept things as simple as possible.

"We're playing well together. Listen, we got hot. We could go cold [at any time]. I hope not, but the reality of it is that some nights you're going to get points and some nights you're not. You've just got to keep pushing."

Despite their early season downfalls, the Flyers have made that initial push toward the playoffs - something that seemed like a pipe dream even a month ago. Downie might end up having the last laugh in the trade.

"It's going to be fun these next couple of months," Downie said. "Now we're going to see what this team can really do."

For the first time ever, three Canadian-based teams are ranked in the top five most valued teams, according to Forbes.

Teams have long disputed the Forbes valuations, but Forbes says its data is groomed from sports bankers, public documents and consultants who conduct studies on such matters. Since almost all teams are privately held, their books are not open to the public.

The behemoth Toronto Maple Leafs retained the top spot, being valued at $1.15 billion, playing in Canada's biggest market.

The Flyers were ranked seventh, valued at $500 million, up a stunning 49 percent from last year. They also had the smallest operating income in the top 10 at just $6 million - but part of that is probably because they did not make the playoffs last season, where most of income is made, and they've made costly contract decisions including compliance buyouts.

The rest of the top 10 in value: No. 2 Rangers, $850 million; No. 3, Canadiens, $775 million; No. 4 Canucks, $700 million; No. 5 Blackhawks, $625 million; No. 6 Bruins, $600 million; No. 8 Penguins, $480 million; No. 9 Red Wings, $470 million; and Kings, $450 million.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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