The Philadelphia Flyers might play their home games at the Wells Fargo Center, but with the ever-steady parade to the penalty box in recent years, the team might want to consider changing their home address.
As of Sunday, the Flyers were first in the league in minor penalties and third overall in penalty minutes per game. Given the Flyers’ reputation since the mid-seventies, it might not come as a news flash that the team gets viewed by referees in a different light than most.
That said, in the 1990’s and over the past 10 years, the Flyers were not the penalty machine they have been of late.
In 2009-10, the Flyers were also first in the league in minor penalties and second overall in penalty minutes per game. In 2008-09 they led the league in both categories. In 2007-08 they were second in minors and third in PIM’s per game.
While the parade to the penalty box didn’t hamper the team’s success on the ice during those years for the most part, the subject has been brought to light even more so for a couple of reasons.
For one, the Flyers’ power play was one of the best in the league as well as their penalty killing units. This year, that is not the case. The Flyers’ PP unit is 25th at 9.1 percent, while the PK unit is 12th. Last season they were 3rd and 11th respectively.
“Penalties were on people, it kills the flow of the game, and it kills momentum you build for yourself five-on-five,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards after a 5-1 loss to a shorthanded Pittsburgh Penguins lineup. “Bottom line? You gotta stay out of the box.”
“We’re taking penalties, we’re going to the box, whether they’re questionable, marginal or deserved, there’s an infraction that is there … we’re going to the box too many times and it ended up costing us,” said Head Coach Peter Laviolette, who fumed after the game. “You go back and look at them and they’re avoidable. It taxes the penalty killers. It taxes the defensemen who have to kill the penalties. It taxes a lot of the bench … we’re not scoring five-on-five and that doesn’t help. Now we’re on defense again using the penalty killers a lot, the defensemen a lot. It’s not good enough.”
Correcting a long-time problem that has not been addressed in recent years is something team management needs to take responsibility for as much as the players do. But the good news is that the Flyers have only played five games so far this season. Panic should not be a part of the plan. Addressing this issue, however, should be. The reduction of playing time and sitting the most common culprits would be a good start.
The question is, who?
The first should be an easy choice. Scott Hartnell already has 23 PIM’s while Braydon Coburn is a distant second with 10. Hartnell was third on the team last season and along with Coburn had an off season. It might be time for the strict Laviolette to send a message to not just Coburn but to all of the players on the team that enough is enough. Cost the team on the ice and it will mean time off of it.
Again, the season is early. Most of the Delaware Valley is watching the Phillies who are still in the playoffs and the Eagles are in the midst of their season so public pressure hasn’t come down hard on the team… yet.
As they say, there is no time like the present, and Laviolette needs to put some fear into his players. Better to do it sooner than later, because until the power play gets back on track, this situation will only continue to get worse.