*The following is a special post by Derek “Spaghetti Legs” Mele, a friend of the site who is a huge San Jose Sharks fan, chewing tobacco aficionado and once made a life-size replica of Philadelphia-based rapper Freeway. In this post, “Spaghetti Legs” previews tonight’s game between the Flyers and the Sharks, er, excuse us, the Jarks*

Allow me to start by acknowledging that I am no Ray Didinger. I do not have the ability to pull facts from the information tree and use them as fruitful evidence as to why I am a genius. I am a man based on hunches. I have hunches for brunches and lunches and I throw away my dessert of false prejudice.

If a team rocks, I roll with them. If a team sucks I swallow my pride and admit it with modesty.

They call me Scoop, because if you want the inside scoop on what’s really good, then you ask me, “Hey, Scoop, what’s really good?” I serve up hot plates of really goodness and leave the fallacies to the lamebrain numnut lunatics that eat pieces of feces like you for breakfast.

But why does Scoop think the Jarks will dominate the Flyers you may ask?


For the same reason a swallow wouldn’t last a second in the tank with a jark. Because the Jarks have the relentless ferocity of the Great White Carcharodon Carcharias depicted by Steven Spielberg in the 70’s. Because the Flyers simply lack the Chief Brody capable of blowing JAWS up with a redunk shot from 100 yards away in a sinking boat. Because the Flyers are made up of a bunch of Ben Gardners.

He who has the supplies, but he whose boat is too small to match the undaunted wit of the Great White killer.

The Jarks are looking to shred the Flyers as they did to the little Kitner boy and Pippet on that fateful day on Amity Island. Mayor Vaughn shall be the ref who sees nothing wrong with the issue while coach Flyer Guy will be the Matt Hooper unwilling to become a hot lunch. But Hooper must withstand all 60 minutes of this vicious threshing with no help from Quint, authorities or his lame-ass dart gun that he dropped while in the cage below the surface and in the home court of JAWS himself.

Look for the Sharks to kill early and often. The Flyers are a bunch of seals, waiting to be devoured by the razor sharp rows of teeth that constitute the Sharks’ offense. Mrs. Kitner will wear black and Mrs. Gardner will dread the loss of her husband and his eyeball as the black eyes of Thornton and Pavelski roll over white.

Remember Quint’s speech about the USS Indianapolis? 1100 men went into the water 316 men came out, sharks got the rest of them.

1100- 316 = 894. sharks win 894 -0 no question.

This isnt a healthy scratch….. This is a healthy shark attack.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Remember to follow The Healthy Scratches on twitter: @healthscratches

By: Greg Paone

A few weeks ago, during the taping of the Meet the Flyers program for the local Comcast SportsNet affiliate, Ed Snider, Flyers’ chairman and, for better or worse, the grand poobah of Philadelphia hockey, said that Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, who signed a contract extension through the 2014-15 season prior to last year, was not on the hot seat and was not in danger of losing his job.

“As far as Peter is concerned, last year was an anomaly,” Snider said. “He’s been a very good coach for us. He’s been a good coach in this league.”

Oh, how deceitful the ole kiss of death can be.

Laviolette can take this poster off his office wall, and clean out everything else in said office for that matter, because the kitty fell off the branch Monday morning as the Flyers fired him after three full seasons behind the bench and a discouraging 0-3 start to this season, marking the second-quickest in-season axe in NHL history.

Former NHL enforcer and longtime Flyers’ assistant coach Craig Berube has been named the club’s new head man and we’ll have more on him next time around but, for now, the focus is on why Laviolette, the third-winningest coach in Flyers history with 146 victories, was let go just 180 regulation minutes into a new campaign.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way first: the whole need for a culture change thing is farcical. Fighting and goonery is abundant around the league. It’s everywhere, not just in Philadelphia. It’s a part of the game in every NHL rink whether you like it or not.

Everyone will point at the Pittsburgh Penguins as the model franchise for other teams in the league to look at.  But, have you seen a Flyers/Penguins game in recent years? There’s usually more fights in one of those games than on a Blue Horizon card and more childish goonery in one of those games than in an episode of Monday Night Raw. Much of that has been brought on by the Penguins themselves, too.

Take a peak up north at the Boston Bruins. They are a physical team that employs a goon or two and has finished in the top five in the league in most fights each of the last three seasons . They’ve also been to the Stanley Cup Final two of the past three seasons and even brought the holy grail of hockey back to Beantown in 2011. The Toronto Maple Leafs led the league in fighting majors last season with 45 of them in 48 games but took the eventual conference champion Bruins to the ultimate brink of overtime in Game 7 of the conference quarterfinal.

Fighting and thuggery has always been a part of the game and will be for the foreseeable future. Sorry to break it to you.

In this humble author’s opinion, the reason why Laviolette, a Stanley-Cup winning coach with Carolina in 2006, was canned lies in continued shortcomings from front-office decision makers due to the inability to sit still and let something develop.

Simply put, Laviolette was the fall guy here.

If there’s a culture around the Flyers that needs to change, it’s the “win-now” culture because, over the past few decades, the organization has proved that its idea of the theory doesn’t work so well.

Don’t get it twisted, Peter Laviolette is a great hockey coach. He rescued the much-hyped 2009-2010 Flyers from the abyss and took a team that featured Ryan Parent (!!!) and Lukas Krajicek (!!!) as the third defense pairing to the Stanley Cup Final and two games and Michael Leighton’s I-95hole (See what I did there? They don’t pay me in free Qdoba every Tuesday afternoon for nothing.) away from winning the damn thing.  He also took the team to the second round of the playoffs twice and even conquered the Darth Vader-like Penguins in that ridiculous 2012 playoff series. He’ll always be fondly remembered here for those achievements.

But he was another victim of the Flyers’ fatally-flawed “win-now “ culture, which hasn’t won much of anything in 38 years.

This organization is so hell-bent on winning that it will do anything, likely including selling its collective soul to Satan himself, to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup to South Philadelphia. As a fan, you have to respect that. But, with this organization, that mindset often blurs reality and neglects what lies right under its nose.

The failure to let players, teams and overall chemistry develop over long periods of time is the Flyers ultimate anchor.

Let’s look at the most recent example which is – wait for it, wait for it, – a goaltender! Gee golly, who would have guessed that one?

After the 2011 playoffs, general manager Paul Holmgren and the Flyers outbid themselves for the services on enigmatic goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and signed the Russian netminder to a 9-year, $51 million contract.


The only other thing was they already a young, dynamic 23-year-old Russian netminder named Sergei Bobrovsky, who went 28-13 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average in 54 games played during his rookie year with Philadelphia in 2010-2011. Impressive, considering that came behind a patchwork defensive corps and an oft-injured Chris Pronger. (I’ll get into the defense in a little bit.)

Instead of letting Bobrovsky develop like they should have, the Flyers had him tandem with Bryzgalov for a season before trading him to Columbus at the 2012 entry draft for three draft picks.

In Bobrovsky’s first season in Columbus, all he did was oh, you know, win the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the league. And Bryzgalov, well … Oof.

In related news, Viva Bryz Vegas!

Hey, remember that time days before the 2011 entry draft when the Flyers traded franchise stalwart forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter within 24 hours of one another a month after reaching the second round of the playoffs and losing to the eventual champion Bruins and just a year after reaching the Stanley Cup Final?

Of course you do!

I’m not saying the Flyers didn’t get an impressive haul back in those trades.

Jakub Voracek, the right to select Sean Couturier with the seventh-overall pick and a third round pick in exchange for Carter was a deal that worked out for both sides after Carter was sent to Los Angeles.

Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn in return for Richards is again another equal deal and one that could tip in the Flyers’ favor if Schenn is given the chance to develop into the force he’s been pegged to be since he lit up the Western Hockey League as a junior.

Sure, there could have been some dissention on Dry Island with Richards and Carter, but those trades are another example of the Flyers’ brass’ inability to sit still and let something play out over time. Leading the team into the Stanley Cup Final one year and, poof, gone the next.

But those are just recent examples.

Trivia question: what do Peter Forsberg, Justin Williams and Patrick Sharp have in common? Not only are they each two-time Stanley Cup champions, each were exiled from Flyerdom in misguided organizational attempts to better itself immediately.

In its recent misguided attempts to immediately better itself, Philadelphia’s decision makers have done an incredibly poor job of improving the team’s defense.

Outside of Kimmo Timonen, I would sum up the current Flyers’ defense as underperforming patchwork. Too many bad decisions. Too many bad coverages. Too many turnovers. Too many opposing players left wide open in front of the net. Too many guys that don’t play actual defense.

It doesn’t matter who is behind the bench, unless this defense turns it around, this team is just spinning its wheels in mud until April. Not even Scotty Bowman could do much of anything with this defense the way it’s playing.

Add in the fact that Laviolette employs an up-tempo, aggressive forecheck system that requires the defenseman to make smart pinches in from the blue line, and it was a recipe for constant inconsistency among Philadelphia’s defensemen.

The thirst for winning is obviously insatiable and once a drop of it hits your taste buds, you just want more and more of it and you’ll do anything to get it. That’s basically what’s been happening in Philadelphia for the past 38 years to continued undesirable results.

The bottom line is that the Flyers’ view of their annual “win-now” culture is flawed and has been for years. It just so happens Laviolette was the one to take the fall for it this time around.

Remember to follow The Healthy Scratches on twitter: @healthscratches

Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Kim Klement – USA Today Sports

Remember to follow The Healthy Scratches on twitter: @healthscratches

By: Greg Paone

Flyers’ resident wizard/real-life fantasy hockey player/general manager Paul Holmgren has nipped a potential question mark in the bud before the season has even started.

No, it’s not the fun, never-ending question about the defense and who will be the sixth defenseman or will a defenseman – *cough* Andrej Meszaros *cough* – be moved before the season beings in a week’s time.

It’s actually a potential question mark about the long-term future of one the Flyers’ core forwards.

The team announced last Friday evening that it has agreed to terms with forward Matt Read on a 4-year, $14.5 million dollar contract extension that will pay the undrafted winger out of Bemidji State University $3.6 million per season beginning in 2014-15.

Read, who is in the last year of his entry-level deal, would have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of this upcoming season.

It looks like another shrewd move by that sly fox Holmgren…for now.

Read is one of Philadelphia’s most versatile forwards. He can play on either wing on any of the team’s lines and not miss a beat. He’s also a key contributor on the power play, where he’s seen some time at the ever-important point position over the past few seasons, and on the penalty kill.

The 27-year-old’s speed is also a weapon as he can blow by defenders, catch up to other skilled forwards and win races for loose pucks, which you know head coach Peter Laviolette especially loves with his up-tempo forechecking system.

But, as with almost any signing these days, there’s a hint of second guessing involved.

Read has only one full NHL season, his 2011-2012 rookie season, under his belt.

It was a very productive only full NHL season. He led all rookies with 24 goals in the 79 games he played. He also posted 23 assists for a total of 47 points and finished the campaign at +13.

During the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, Read notched 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 42 games. He missed six games with incredibly painful-sounding muscle tears in his rib cage after absorbing a hit from Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz in a February game.

Read was supposed to miss six weeks but missed just six games and likely returned before he was fully healthy in an effort to help the Flyers unsuccessfully try to make the playoffs. Not that a player in this organization has ever rushed back from a serious injury before but that’s another story for another day. (See: Lindros, Eric.)

What I’m getting at here is that we only have one real season to evaluate Read. Crumple last season up in a ball and throw it away in your basketball-hoop trashcan designed for 10-year-olds that you all have just like I do. (Editor’s note: Notice the empty box of acne cream on the floor in the background. What a loser.) Last season was a mess for everyone in the organization except for maybe Jake Voracek, who had a breakout year playing alongside captain and newly-minted $66.2 million man Claude Giroux.

If we’re evaluating Read off the 2011-2012 season like we should, then he absolutely deserves the contract extension the Flyers gave him last Friday. The only doubt that exists if Read, who is currently penciled in as a third-line winger on a line centered by Sean Couturier, will be able to sustain that consistent production over the course of a full season again.

Smart, intangible money says he will be.

That’s why 2013-14 is a big season for Read. He’ll be out to prove he’s worth the actual, tangible money he was just awarded. If for whatever reason he can’t, well, keep in mind that he may be the Flyers’ best trade chip and that he’s been mentioned in the rumor mill before.

With Read’s deal complete, fellow forward Brayden Schenn is the only Flyer not under contract for next season.

Schenn, 22, would become a restricted free agent after this season if he and the team don’t negotiate an extension before this season ends.

Remember to follow The Healthy Scratches on twitter: @healthscratches

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

Tired of running around in this gross, humid summer heat?

Well, man up because it’s not going anywhere for at least the next few weeks.

Despite that fact, you have a reason to cheer up because the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and Olympic hockey tournament, to be played in Sochi, Russia this coming February, are right around the corner.

USA Hockey has released the names of those invited to its Olympic orientation camp, slated for Aug. 26 and 27 at the Washington Capitals’ practice facility in Arlington, Va., and we here at The Healthy Scratches are here to break it all down for you position by position.

Today, we’ll take a look at the goaltenders that have been invited and make our predictions on who plays between the pipes for the Americans in Sochi.

We’ll look at the forwards and defensemen later this week, next week or whenever Greg is lucid enough to string actual thoughts together and yell profane things at Harry after hand surgery this week. Or maybe we won’t get around to the forwards and the defensemen. Who knows? WE OWN THE SITE, NOT YOU! BOW TO YOUR SENSEI(s)!

Anyway, go throw on your jorts, crack open a case of Budweiser and shoot off homemade fireworks in your backyard, America, because it’s time to analyze the potential U.S. Olympic goaltenders!

Camp Invitees:

Craig Anderson           Park Ridge, Ill.            Ottawa Senators

John Gibson                Pittsburgh                   Anaheim Ducks (Currently with AHL Norfolk)

Jimmy Howard           Syracuse, N.Y             Detroit Red Wings

Ryan Miller                East Lansing, Mich.    Buffalo Sabres

Jonathan Quick           Milford, Conn.            Los Angeles Kings

Cory Schneider           Marblehead, Mass.     New Jersey Devils

Holy moly, the goaltending position is an embarrassment of riches for United States. Five of the six invited to the camp could start for almost any other country, especially Canada, which has no idea where it wants to go with its goaltending. (Please let it be Roberto Luongo just so the whole country and its media starts the preverbal storm of second-guessing a guy who couldn’t start for his own team this past season.)

No disrespect at all here to John Gibson, the sixth man, but he’s just a tad bit on the young and inexperienced side compared to the other goaltending invitees.

Gibson’s the real deal though. He backstopped the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships and was named a tournament all-star and the tournament MVP along the way. Take that, Canada!

Consider this invite Gibson’s award for that stellar work and his chance to learn from and be around some of the best the goaltenders in the world. Look out for him in 2018 in South Korea, that is if the NHL allows its players to head over to the Far East for those games.

Now then, let’s get to the real juicy part.

Of the five remaining goaltenders, we’re going to eliminate Schneider next.

It’s nothing against Schneider, but he just doesn’t have the experience of the other four remaining goaltenders. His situation in Vancouver where he had to split time with Luongo over the past few seasons hasn’t really helped his Olympic candidacy.

Over the past three seasons of splitting time with Strombone, Schneider has won 53 of the 88 games he’s played in while posting a .931 save percentage, a 2.10 goals-against average and nine shutouts. His numbers aren’t the issue.

The shame of it is that if his trade to New Jersey had happened earlier in his career, his chances of being an American Olympian would have been much better because he would have had more of a role even with an aging Martin Brodeur in the picture. Schneider’s time is coming, though.

We’re down to four and the next one voted off the U.S. Olympic island is… Howard.

Sure, Howard has been an NHL starter for four seasons now and a successful at that. He’s taken his Red Wings to the second round of the playoffs in those four seasons and was named in all-star in 2012.

But Howard’s story is almost the same as Schneider’s because it comes down to experience.

Yes, Howard has been a full-time starter for four years now with very good Red Wings teams. He’s more than capable of being an Olympian and even a starter. But compared to the other guys left, he’s inexperienced, especially at this level.

Howard is an excellent goalie but he is a victim of his position here because the U.S. is so stacked at goaltender. Canadians are wiping tears away because he isn’t from north of the border. He would be their starter in a heartbeat.

That brings us to the United States’ third-string goaltender. Drumrolls, please… Anderson.

Has anyone benefited from a change of scenery more in the past few seasons than Anderson?

He’s been spectacular since the 2011 trade that sent him from Colorado to Ottawa. Not only he has he been spectacular, he’s been the backbone of the young, energetic Senators, who have reached the playoffs the last two seasons despite numerous key injuries and predictions of sheer and utter doom.

He was especially stellar last season before suffering an ankle injury in Februrary and missing about 6 weeks of action. He was 8-4-2 before the injury with a 1.57 goals-against average and a .950 (!) save percentage. He was a lock for the Vezina Trophy before the injury.

Anderson returned and led Ottawa to a first-round upset of Montreal and played well in the next round against Pittsburgh.

All of this with a young, inexperienced defense in front of him.

The moral here is that Anderson has proved that he can carry the load. He deserves a shot on the team and he should get it, just not in front of the last two goalies we’ve yet to touch upon.

Which brings us to our back-up goalie, 2010’s Captain America, Ryan Miller.

Throw away his “average” performances over the past few seasons. He’s been concussed, had no protection from his teammates and played on some pretty stinky Sabre teams.

By the way, Miller hasn’t been all that “average” the past two seasons. He has 46 wins, a 2.81 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and six shutouts in that time frame. There are plenty of teams out there that would kill for those numbers on a consistent basis – *cough* Philadelphia *cough*. He’s really the only reason Buffalo has been somewhat competitive in that span.

That fact aside, Miller deserves another shot at Olympic glory after the way he stood on his head in Vancouver in 2010 on his way to a silver medal.

He was a star-spangled wizard during that tournament, going 5-1 with a 1.35 (!) goals-against average, a .946 save percentage and a shutout. His only loss was in the gold-medal game but we don’t have to talk about that. The dude stood on his head and was the driving force behind the surprising American push that year.

Plus, Miller is only 33 years old, still in the prime of his career and will actually get to play with a good defense in front of him for the first time since, well, 2010. He’s a lock in our view.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, our prediction for the United States’ starting goalie in Sochi in 2014.

Ok, this is going to be the most anticlimactic thing ever. It’s obviously Quick because he’s the only one of the goaltenders we haven’t mentioned yet. We’re sorry. We suck.

While we may suck, Quick most certainly does not. In fact, he’s pound-for-pound the best goaltender in the world right now.

The 27-year-old Connecticut native and 2012 Conn Smythe Award winner is the ruler of the goaltending roost.

He’s led Los Angeles to the playoffs in each of his four seasons as a starter, compiling 127 wins, a 2.30 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and 21 shutouts in the span.

His 2011-2012 Stanley Cup-winning campaign was off the charts. During that regular season, he posted a 1.95 (!) goals-against in 69 games played. That’s fairly impressive, if we do say so ourselves. But his playoff numbers from that season are just stupefying. During the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 2012 all-star went 16-4 with a 1.41 (!) goals-against average, .946 save percentage, and three shutouts.

Toss away the numbers, have you seen this guy play? He’s unbelievable. He’s like a human Stretch Armstrong. Shame on you if you don’t understand that reference.

At 6-feet, 1-inch tall and 214 pounds, Quick doesn’t take up the whole net like Pekka Rinne or Ben Bishop but he’s incredible flexible and, forgive the pun, incredibly quick.

Just when the opponent thinks he has him beat, he rises from the dead to absolutely stun the opponent and make him feel shame.

Quick is the best in the world at what he does. Isn’t proving that fact the whole point of this Olympics thing?

Tom Mihalek/AP

Tom Mihalek/AP

By: Greg Paone

Philadelphia sports fans are a fickle group indeed.

The national media has its own opinions, but Philly fans can be won over through a blue-collar worth ethic and overwhelming grit. A little reckless abandon by the athletes themselves for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of opponents never hurt either. Ok, maybe it has but you get the point.

Anyway, once an athlete wins over a Philadelphia fan, that athlete forever has a place in the city’s heart and is considered one of its own.

That’s why Flyer fans were thrilled last week when the club announced that former goaltender, scout and director of pro hockey personnel Ron Hextall has returned to the organization as an assistant general manager and director of hockey operations.

A native son has returned but that shouldn’t be the only reason that has Flyer fans smiling.

This was an excellent hire for the Flyers and their management, particularly their player development department

Hextall, who was most recently an assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings from 2006-2013, has a reputation as an excellent evaluator of talent, especially younger talent.

That’s important considering how weak the Flyers have performed in recent drafts.

Sure, they’ve done well in the forward department with names like Claude Giroux, James vanRiemsdyk and Sean Couturier, but not so well in the defense department.

Get ready for this one – the Flyers haven’t drafted and developed a defenseman that has produced consistent minutes for the team in the last 13 drafts (Scroll to the bottom of the page for that little nugget).

That was not a typo. Not since Dennis Seidenberg was selected was the 172nd pick of the 2001 entry draft has a Flyers-drafted defenseman made a solid impact while wearing orange and black.

Eh, not so good.

But, oh, just you wait. It gets worse.

The Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, has been awful the past few seasons due lack of overall development and commitment to a legitimate minor league system.

Since the team moved to Upstate New York in 2009, the highest the team has finished in the Eastern Conference standings is 10th. The abysmal showings were capped by a last place finish in the East this past season. The team also posted 13th and 14th place finishes in that time span.

Way too many prospects and draft picks have been either been traded or haven’t panned out in recent years.

Now this is where Hextall, winner of both the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies for the 1986-87 season, comes into play.

He’s fully capable of overseeing successful player development in the minor leagues. Just look at what he did with the Kings.

In Los Angeles, Hextall, who spent parts of 11 seasons between the pipes in Philadelphia, was part of a management group that drafted likes of  forwards Trevor Lewis, Wayne Simmonds, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan and defensemen Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez and just to name a few.

Outside of Simmonds, who was traded to the Flyers as part of the Mike Richards deal in 2011, all of those players made some kind of impact during Los Angeles’ run to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2012.

But helping to draft defensemen is where Hextall really paid dividends for the Kings.

Doughty is one of the best defenseman in the game today. He’s the all-around combo of offense, defense and grit. He’s an Olympic Gold-Medalist and a superstar. Voynov just had the breakout season and playoff of his career. Martinez is a good, solid defenseman on the rise.

The scary thing is that all of these guys will get better in the next few seasons.

The even scarier thing for current Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren is, now that Hextall is in the fold, there’s a capable replacement waiting in the wings and Holmgren’s tenure is officially on the clock.

Getty Images

Getty Images

By: Greg Paone                  REMEMBER TO FOLLOW THE HEALTHY SCRATCHES ON TWITTER: @healthscratches    

If you would, for a moment, put yourself in Ilya Kovalchuk’s shoes.

You’re the star winger of the New Jersey Devils. You’re one of the most skilled hockey players in the world. You can make the best defensemen in the league look silly with your dazzling array of moves and your silky hands. You can wire the puck to the top shelf with the greatest of ease. You have 15 years and $77 million left on a massive contract.

You’re also retiring from the NHL and leaving that $77 million to go home to your native Russia to play for SKA of the Kontinental Hockey League to the reported tune of up to $20 million a year.

Doesn’t sound all that unreasonable, right?

Now, put yourself in the shoes of Kovalchuk’s Devil teammates, Lou Lamoriello – the Devils’ general manager- and the Devils’ fanbase, collectively.

The team’s best offensive player basically left the team hanging high and dry without an iota of warning for a briefcase full of money and a deal shook upon at a secret mountain compound somewhere deep in the heart of the secluded Russian wilderness.

Ok, that last part isn’t exactly confirmed. We’ve been watching too many James Bond movies lately but the point is that the feelings coming from North Jersey aren’t all that rosy, are they?

Devils’ players, management and fans have every right to direct their contempt at the 30-year-old Kovalchuk right now. He left them without a distinct offensive threat this upcoming season. That’s just about 38 goals and 74 points per season out of the lineup.


The near future doesn’t look too bright for the Devils. The last few offseasons have hurt them big time, especially at the offensive end of the ice.

Star left-winger Zach Parise left for Minnesota and a 13-year, $98-million deal last offseason. Gritty, net-front goal-scorer David Clarkson bolted to Toronto a few weeks ago for a 7-year, $36.75 million contract. Kovalchuk’s departure is almost like insult to injury. He’s the basket Lamoriello put all his eggs into by letting the others walk. Lamoriello even lost a first-round draft pick for trying to circumvent the salary cap to get the monstrous deal done.

No disrespect to Patrik Elias or Danius Zubrus, but at this stage of their respective careers, they just aren’t the offensive players they once were. Newly-signed forwards Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder will help but they are more of the role-player type. And though a very good young player, center Adam Henrique isn’t quite to the level where he can carry a team offensively yet.

The timing of Kovalchuk’s announcement – 10 days after free agency began – didn’t help either. The Devils could have tried to go after some of the bigger names on the market to replace Kovalchuk’s production. By the time Kovalchuk dropped the bombshell, all of the high-end players on the market had been scooped up.

Long story short, goal scoring will be at a premium the next couple of seasons, especially this upcoming season, for the Devils, with the way the roster shapes out now.

That’s a major issue considering they play in a division that features the firepower of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, John Tavares, Rick Nash, Alexander Ovechkin and Eric Staal.

You can stop holding your breath now, Jerseyites, because you’re out of the Lincoln Tunnel and there’s a silver lining to all of this.

Kovalchuk’s gargantuan contract was an albatross in today’s salary cap-driven league. It allowed to the team little financial flexibility. The team had to be centered around Kovalchuk because there was no other choice.

That’s not the case anymore, though not in time for this upcoming season due to the fact those top-free agents are already off the board.

Lamoriello now has the financial flexibility to build a team with more of a “Devils-style” going into the future. Kovalchuk, despite his tremendous skill, never really fit into the Devils defense-first, grind-it-out mold.

Add in the fact that the salary cap will likely rise in the coming years, and the Devils could be contenders again in no time. And, not just contenders, but contenders that play the way Lamoriello and head coach Peter DeBoer like to play.

This was not a compliance buyout. The Devils will not owe Kovalchuk all of his salary over the course of x amount of years like the Flyers have to do with goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

This was a straight retirement from the NHL. Therefore, under league rules, the Devils will only have to pay $250,000 per year against the salary cap for the remainder of Kovalchuk’s contract.

Also, keep in mind that this is likely goalie Martin Brodeur’s last season – Cory Schneider was acquired from Vancouver on draft day to be the next goalie in New Jersey – so the future-hall-of-famer and his $5 million salary will be coming of the books as well.

Those are huge boons for the team and its owner, both of which have bankruptcy issues clouding over top.

So while losing one of the best players in the league will certainly sting now, it could make the team that much more dangerous a few seasons down the road.



The Healthy Scratches’ somewhat daily look around the league for quotes we found interesting

July 17, 2013




 “Gaborik is an elite skater. He remains a potent finisher; he has scored 40 goals in three of the past four 82-game seasons. On the other side of the ledger, he has missed 181 games in 12 seasons because of injuries; he sometimes has been criticized for playing on the periphery and he has already left at least one team in the lurch.”

 — Michael Arace, Blue Jackets Xtra: Jackets not rushing into new contract for Gaborik

With his skill, Marian Gaborik, a free agent after this upcoming season, has to be the go-to-guy in Columbus.  Is he going to miss games due to injury and does he shy away from playing front of the net at times? Yes. But he still brings an elite scoring presence and will combine with newly-signed winger Nathan Horton for a dynamic one-two punch.

In terms of availability at right wing, Dustin Brown, Phil Kessel and Jason Pominville are just some of the names scheduled for free agency following the 2013-14 season.  Whether they test the market or not is a different story.

Just in case, for now we’ll stick with Artem Anisimov jerseys. That is as long as Anisimov keeps doing that awesome rifle-shooting-with-the-stick goal celebration.

Kovy (Again)…

 “On Monday, he signed a four-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

“SKA did not disclose the terms of the deal in announcing Kovalchuk’s signing. Alexander Medvedev, the former president of SKA, told the Russian daily Sport-Express that Kovalchuk’s earnings would be ‘absolutely comparable’ to what he would have made in four years with the Devils.”

— Jeff Z. Klein, New York Times: Kovalchuk Signs With SKA St. Petersburg of K.H.L.

We fully assume this Kovalchuk deal involves a briefcase, $20 million cash, and a desert drop-off point. As an aside, are there deserts in Russia? We’ll get our KHL bureau on it!

Tara Walton/Toronto Satr

Tara Walton/Toronto Satr

Because It’s the Cup…

 “I was leaving Paris for Finland when an agent at Charles de Gaulle told me that the Cup wasn’t going to be able to get on the plane. I had documentation, but I couldn’t get my point across. I was saved by two hockey fans from Minnesota who happened to be walking by. They recognized me from presentations and they saw the Cup’s carrying case. There is no one quite like a Minnesota hockey fan. They created a bit of a scene and wanted their pictures taken with the Cup, which I guess was enough to convince the agent that the Cup and I should be allowed to go to Finland.”

–Phil Pritchard, Special to The New York Times: When the Stanley Cup Missed its Connection

Much smarter than these people.  We also read more than one newspaper.

Tom Mihalek/AP

Tom Mihalek/AP

Ron Hextall Returns to Philadelphia

“He’s probably the most highly thought-of guy who is not a general manager,” GM Paul Holmgren said. “To add him to our staff is huge.”

–Sam Carchidi, Philadelphia Inquirer: Hextall returning to Flyers

“Some believe the re-hiring of Hextall is the Flyers’ biggest coup of the offseason to date, even more so than Vincent Lecavalier or Ray Emery.

“Hextall, 49, was an integral part in helping push the Kings toward their first Stanley Cup championship in 2012. In addition to aiding in contract negotiations, Hextall oversaw the Kings’ entire minor league operation, presiding over a Manchester AHL franchise that twice reached the Eastern Conference final (2010, 2007) under his watch. Many of those minor league players ultimately helped the Kings reach hockey’s pinnacle.”

 –Frank Seravalli, Daily News: Ron Hextall back as Flyers asst. GM

We like the hire. The Flyers’ minor league system desperately needs some retooling before their AHL affiliate, the Phantoms, moves to Allentown, PA next season. Hextall has shown he’s more than capable of leading that charge.

But, for right now, we just want to see some of this and a little of this in the press box this upcoming season. Pretty please, Hexy.