- Wayne Simmonds scored two goals, and they were both assisted by Jake Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere
- Chris Vandevelde scored a shorthanded goal to kickstart the Flyers' comeback (at the time, they were down 3-0 and had their best penalty killer in the box for a garbage hooking penalty). CVV also had the secondary assist on the game-winner
- Ryan White made a beautiful (/greasy) pass to Evgeny Medvedev to put the Flyers ahead with about three minutes to play, and they held onto that lead until the end
It was a great game to see in person, both for the comeback and the friendly reminder that Philadelphia sports fans have a pretty hostile relationship with referees. Voracek got called for a roughing penalty for a play on which he quite literally had no contact with anybody on the opposing team. Radko Gudas participated in a six-man scrum after St. Louis took a penalty and got sent to the box for doing so. Claude Giroux's hooking penalty was so bad that I shattered the ear drums of everyone around me with boos. The arena music guy played the piano riff that is supposed to lead the fans to chant "Let's Go Flyers!" - it turned into an unmistakable "Ref You Suck!"
And then, of course, Vandevelde smashed home the rebound from a Pierre-Edouard Bellemare shorthanded breakaway, and the boys were off to the races.
Everything's happy in Flyertown going into this Christmas vacation before the second West Coast Road Trip of the year. We also get the Travs on national television the day after Christmas.
But it's finally time to figure out what the hell is going to happen when Mark Streit comes back to the team on the 27th. There are a few options, and none of them are particularly appetizing.
Option 1: The One That's Easiest, But Nobody Wants To Even Think About
The Lord Voldemort of roster moves, if you will.
When Streit's penis fell off, you'll recall that the Flyers brought up a rookie offensive-minded defenseman to take his place. That rookie defenseman, of course, is Shayne Gostisbehere. He's lit the league on fire, energized the team, and become a fan favorite in less than 20 games.
(Fun note: If you take the train home from Flyers games, you've probably seen the guy with a mohawk and matching Flyers logo tattoos on either side of his scalp. That guy has a Flyers Winter Classic Gostisbehere jersey. What the hell else do I even need to say? Everyone loves the kid.)
The easiest move, in terms of roster transactions, is to re-activate Streit and send Ghost down to the Phantoms. The cap situation will be the same as it was before Streit's penis snapped in half, and we will call Ghost up no later than the February 29th trade deadline.
Honestly, I don't think Philadelphia can survive - as a city, not even just as a hockey team - without Gostisbehere in town for two months.
Option 2: Try To Move Scott Laughton and Brandon Manning To The Phantoms
If moving the Ghost Bear is really off your list, there are two other names that, when moved down together, would create enough cap room to make everything work.
I'm fine with moving Scott Laughton down, and I think he'd benefit by playing more minutes per game and having a more offensive role. That part makes sense, and his two-way contract means we can essentially assign him right to Lehigh Valley without risking him going through waivers. Great, I'm all for that (and Laughton is the only guy besides Ghost with that kind of two-way deal).
But the money doesn't work if it's just Laughton, so you have to move Brandon Manning down too. And Manning is 25 years old, which means he would have to clear waivers. Say what you will about Brandon Manning, but can't you see somebody taking a chance at the 25 year old defenseman at $625k per year? I mean there's no risk, no cost, and no downside to claiming him.
Why would Ron Hextall risk that? He wouldn't, which is why it won't happen.
Option 3: Trade Someone
If I'm not already on record, I'd like to officially go on record and say that I think we should keep Mark Streit until next year's deadline. He'll still fetch a first- or second-round pick as a rental for a playoff run, but we'll have his presence in the locker room and on the ice for the following guys: Ghost, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Mark Alt, Ivan Provorov, and maybe Travis Sanheim.
This is a CRITICAL time for these young Flyers defensemen. Do we want them mentored by a guy who's been a pro for twenty years (and a captain, in some capacity, for most of them) or Michael Del Zotto and Radko Gudas?
I know I'm definitely on record as saying I think we should keep Luke Schenn. He's a bruiser, a right-handed shot, a fan favorite (chicks, at least), and it's awesome that he plays on the same team as his younger brother. Plus he has a no trade clause so we might have issues shipping him out of town. I'd love to see him agree to a Nick Schultz kind of contract - even bumping him to 2-3 years at $2.5-3.5 million would be a solid value. I'm sure he'll fetch more on the open market as an unrestricted free agent, but we can't let that impact our judgment for obvious, have-happened-in-the-past, highest-paid-player-in-AHL-history reasons.
Speaking of Schultz, people rag on him but $2.25 isn't a bad cap hit. He kills penalties and the rest of the team seems to like him. I like him and Streit as a second pairing for this year through to next year's trade deadline. If we can't get anything good for Schultz, then he walks away after 2016-17 and we're done with him.
It almost kind of goes without saying, but Michael Del Zotto and Radko Gudas are also firmly off the trading block. They're our top pair, and I don't expect that to change when Streit returns. MDZ is a better version of Streit, and Gudas is just better at everything than Schultz.
That leaves us with one defenseman left to trade who will clear enough cap room to keep Shayne in town: Evgeny Medvedev. But don't worry, I love Meddy and I think his story is one of the best in the NHL this year. So I'm going to take care of him, and send him to a team that will (1) accept him and allow for a smooth transition (2) appreciate his talents and let him be himself (3) let him make a long playoff run and show him the best kind of hockey in the world. Bullets style:
- Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin is also Russian, but Fuck The Penguins.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Fedor Tyutin and Sergei Bobrovsky are Russian, but I said I wanted Meddy to be on a team that's going to make a run at the Stanley Cup. So the BJ's are out.
- Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk is an interesting Russian old guy (I bet him and Medvedev could have some good chats about the good old days of the USSR), but the Red Wings currently have the following cap hits on their roster on defense: $6 million, $4.75 million, $4.25 million, $4.25 million, $2.75 million, $2.4 million, $2.1 million. I mean Christ, if they aren't happy with that group of guys then they should fire everyone in their front office. I'm thinking they're probably set.
- Montreal Canadiens: The Habs are strangely similar to the Red Wings. They have great team and a pair of solid Russians (including an Alternate captain), but a lot of money already committed to the back end. Barring any injuries, we probably won't see a Medvedev-Andrei Markov-Alexei Emelin trio in the playoffs.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin are both Russian. Then there's the whole Kimmo Timonen situation from last year. I'd love for that situation to happen again (although with a lot less emotion in Philly this time around). Again, the big issue is the salary cap. The Hawks would need a mysterious Patrick Kane wrist injury to create some cap space before the playoffs to create a stacked team for a deep Cup run. Hmmm....
- Washington Capitals: The best Russian player ever in Alex Ovechkin. The fifth-best (maybe?) Russian in the league in Evgeny Kuznetsov. Other Russians Dmitriy Orlov (?) and Stanislav Galiev (??). First place in the Metro, dominating the East, solid on offense and in goal. They would be able to ice a solid top four defensemen, but Brooks Orpik has a mysterious lower body injury that has his $5.5 million cap hit on the IR for "a long time." The Caps have every pick except their third next draft and every pick the following draft. Would a slick-skating, heavy-shooting defensemen fetch a second round pick? I'd love to see Meddy end up in Washington. I feel dirty trading the kind of player Medvedev is to a team within the division, but it really is the best place for him.
Option 4: Hire Rocky From The First Fifteen Minutes Of "Rocky"
Before he was a boxer, Rocky Balboa broke kneecaps for the mob. There are a few kneecaps on the Flyers' payroll that need breaking. Vinny Lecavalier, for instance, could make all these issues go away if he agreed to terminate his contract (or if "broken kneecaps" qualifies for Long-Term IR). RJ Umberger could also go for a date with the Italian Stallion, but I imagine he'd just lie about his injury and play through his broken knees. The third member of The Kneecaps Trio is, of course, Five Million Dollar Annual Salary Minor League Hockey Player Andrew MacDonald.
Do we want to be breaking the legs of our own players? Not really, if only because it will deter people from signing here in the future.
But we also don't want to be forced into a trade and get less than we might be able to get in two months.
Buuuuut we alllllso don't want to punish the most exciting player in Philly sports and piss off the fans at the same time.
So I don't know, Ron. You have a terrible decision to make, and I don't see how you can make it without pissing a big group of people off. I definitely do not envy the position you're in, and I hope to god you follow your track record and make the right move.