Monday, May 9, 2011
Posted: 8:25 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
What began as a Flyers post-mortem with coach Peter Laviolette turned into a rather illuminating discussion on team captain Mike Richards who was not available to the media.
There have been widespread rumors, even reports in Canada lately, that Laviolette and Richards simply werent talking by seasons end.
Sources CSNPhilly.com talked to in the past month said the same thing.
Thats incorrect information, Laviolette told CSNPhilly.com on Monday night. I cant control what guys write or say.
If you ask me a question if we were talking at the end of the season, the answer is, yes. I have a relationship with Mike and I think it is something we can work on over time.
And that in itself is illuminating.
Because in the almost two seasons Laviolette has been here, the relationship between himself and Richards who can be moody and withdrawn is still not developed.
Laviolette admitted that relationship is still in its infancy and needs more work, though he said he had no issues with Richards.
If the captain isnt confiding in the coach on a regular basis, that can be a problem.
On the ice, throughout much of the year, there appeared to be an emotional detachment by Richards from the game itself. He often seemed unhappy among reporters. One player said candidly Richards was the most unhappy superstar in Philadelphia.
The Flyers plan to discuss some of these things with Richards in the weeks ahead.
Richards is not an easy guy to get to know or develop a rapport with.
All relationships are built, Laviolette said. You dont come in and put your hand on someones hip and say, You and I are best friends. Mike and I continue to work on our relationship. I respect him as a person and we continue to work on that.
Do you see eye to eye?
I would think so, Laviolette replied.
Laviolette defended Richards, who people often see a person where wearing the C seems to carry a heavy weight, at times.
Mike is a good, quiet leader, Laviolette said. When he is going and our team is going, he is usually the guy in the forefront leading the charge. Since Ive been here hes done a good job.
I cant speak to how he handles you guys, but I can tell you in here the players respect Mike. There were games down the stretch where we werent happy. I wasnt happy, Mike wasnt happy. The way we played the game, we were inconsistent. No one is questioning that.
When the Flyers were thumped in New York 7-0 in March, players openly said there werent enough Flyers on the same page. Richards even quipped they werent on the same chapter.
Laviolette said several times he had not heard such from his own players.
Im not sure exactly what they were talking about in here or systems, he said. I would think Its pretty clear cut our identity in here what we need to do to be successful. I dont think theres anybody who doesnt understand it or is confused by it.
Maybe they mean execute it if we werent on the same page? Generally speaking, I would think our players know exactly how to play
Perhaps it was the mental lapses or the incomprehensible fact that the team showed up for Game 1 against the Boston Bruins unprepared to play. Players and even general manager Paul Holmgren later acknowledged that.
With regard to mental lapses on the ice or anything that goes on in that matter, it starts and stops with me, Laviolette said. But I am unaware of those comments, about players not being on the same page.
Asked if the apparent disconnect with the Flyers in their approach to games had anything to do with Chris Pronger calling out Claude Giroux after a game, Laviolette said that happens everywhere.
Throughout the course of the year, players and coaches, there is always a frustration point and boiling point for each other, he said. That goes on in every room and every team across the league Those things happen all the time.
Asked whether Richards sometimes struggles as the captain in the room where Pronger carries enormous respect and fear Laviolette defended his center.
I dont think so, he said. Chris is a strong personality. Nobody questions that. Mike has the respect of his peers and guys in this room. You talk about a guy who offensively has put together some good seasons in a row here. Ultimately, he led this team to the Final and within two games of the Cup.
Laviolette said he was happy with the job Richards has done as a captain, who finished this season with 23 goals and 66 points.
A guy doesnt throw up a 70-point season without seeing it, he said. He is doing something right. I dont think you get to the Final by chance.
You need good leadership and it starts with Mike and Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen and Jeff Carter and Danny Briere, guys like that who have a hand in it, as well.
For the first time since being swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Laviolette admitted his goaltending wasnt as good as it had been during much of the regular season.
He also agreed that things would be easier on everyone if there was a bonafide starter he knew was his guy (No. 1) every night without or having to use a carousel.
Laviolette never used the term No. 1 but his remarks speak for themselves.
Youd have to have me pin numbers and you know how I hate the number game, he said.
In the playoffs, down the stretch and in the playoffs, it was a little bit inconsistent for us for where we needed it to be. But for the most part, our goaltending was solid all year. We were able to get through the Buffalo series. And then we played poorly in front of our goaltender in Game 1.
Is it easier to know when you have a No. 1 guy to go to every night?
To know that you got a guy that is No. 1 yeah, yeah, for sure, Laviolette said.
As for the goalie carousel in the playoffs with so many switches, he said it worked last year and wasnt ideal, either, and the Flyers made the Stanley Cup Final.
We went to the Final and came up a couple games shy, Laviolette said. Its a carousel, this guy is going in and out and its moving. Would it be nice to have a guy come in and be No. 1, yeah. Bob Sergei Bobrovsky might be that guy. Those questions will get answered this summer.
Expect the Flyers to be active this summer on the goalie front, though not necessarily via free agency. Theyve had chances before to get Tomas Vokoun or Ilya Bryzgalov and didnt. So it figures they wont go that route in free agency.
Because the Flyers are so close to the salary cap, theyll have to make a deal and trade for a goalie. One way or the other, salary will be moved.
From a trade standpoint, that could be Minnesotas Niklas Backstrom, a guy the Flyers have always liked. Or it could be Calgarys Miikka Kiprusoff, a proven No. 1, who would relish playing on a team that still has a chance its dwindling to win a Stanley Cup.
They could make a play for Dwayne Roloson, who is having a phenomenal playoff run in Tampa Bay.
Regardless, they need to buy some time for Bobrovsky and the other young goalies in their system.
Like Laviolette said, a lot of things will be resolved over the summer.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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