Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Orange and Black Pack, Broad Street Hockey
A team with a questionable defensive scheme signing a player once regarded as a franchise-centerpiece forward instead of beefing up the back end seemed a little confusing. A team investing heavily in this aging forward, who was known for versatility but not a pummeling physical game, seemed comical. The dollar signs were right, family liked the surroundings, but that didn't take into consideration how toxic the City of Brotherly Love can be.
Vincent Lecavalier, cut loose by the Tampa Bay Lightning with thanks to his gargantuan contract he signed in the summer of 2008, joined the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer of 2013... And it's been all downhill since there for number four(ty).
Vinny has 49 points with the Flyers, total, in 99 games played since joining the club. The Flyers have struggled in general since the start of 2013-14, and Enzo's pricey contract (five years, $22.5 million) and lack of high-end production made him a scapegoat. That contract and his lack of production and physical ills (he's had injury issues both seasons in Philly) have made him impossible to move. Rumors of the Flyers wanting to be rid of him started last summer but nothing came from it. He's been a healthy scratch at times this season to illustrate the ill-fit in action and resentment it's brought from management.
If there's something to blame Lecavalier for here, it was giving his blessing to a bad match and money over a more solid role with a lower profile organization. I can't say he would have done better in Boston or Montreal, two other cities that were said to be finalists to land the now-34-year-old center. Boston can be just as physical as Philly (but a lot more disciplined) while Montreal, as Lecavalier himself knows it, is a fishbowl situation where everything the French-speaking local hero would do privately and professionally would be under the microscope.
Where would the best match have been? I can't tell you that, I'd have to know every team that had lobbed offers toward Vinny or made calls to Kent Hughes (Lecavalier's agent) in 2013 to inquire about his services.
What I can tell you is that Lecavalier and the Flyers need to end a bad relationship in Philadelphia, but his contract signature is part of the reason he's stuck in it. You can't fault him for wanting stability in a contract (length and a No Move clause). You can fault him for expecting stability with an organization like the Flyers, where roster management has amounted to a steady turnover of players for the next flavor-of-the-month addition that doesn't fix the immediate or long-term ills of the club (and suffocates the team under the salary cap in the process).
In the end, Vinny needs out of Philly. It'll be a shame if his final contract is what hastened his retirement from the sport (as a report suggested will be the means of ridding Philly of Lecavalier - retirement).
The Tampa Bay Lightning has five more games to be played before the 2015 NHL All-Star layoff commences later this month. Tonight's the season series finale with the Flyers, while tomorrow is the season series premiere with the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in Boston. That's a tough back-to-back series to face, and you have to guess that Evgeni Nabokov will start tonight's affair in Philly (that'll be confirmed or disproven later this morning) and Ben Bishop gets the nod in Boston. The Bruins are their own story worth telling but that's more appropriate for tomorrow than today. Today? 13th place is currently resided by the Flyers in the Eastern Conference, they're ahead of only the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes in the Metro Division (and they've got two games in-hand on New Jersey, which gives them reason not to be concerned about being trumped in the standings by the woebegone Devils team).
Then again, goalie Steve Mason is injured. He won't be available tonight for the Flyers in net. It'll be Rob Zepp. Zepp has bounced around in his career, he made his NHL debut when he started for the Flyers against the Winnipeg Jets on December 21st. 3 goals allowed in 60 minutes, it was a win but it's hard to judge a netminder on one outing, or on play in the Deutch Hockey League over the last few seasons. He'll be backed up by Ray Emery (7-7-1, .889 save percentage and a 3.21 GAA).
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