Peter Laviolette's Dry Island and the Flyers World We Don't Know

Peter Laviolette's Dry Island and the Flyers World We Don't Know

Almost everything we know for sure about the Philadelphia Flyers takes place within the boards, on the ice. That much we can see with our own eyes, and even with that, we don't know the half of it. Off the ice, we know little more than what we're given in postgame locker room interviews, which while they're increasingly prevalent, they're also increasingly filled with athletes trying to say as little as possible.  

This great unknown leads to one thing above all else—speculation. Fans and media alike are subject to the temptation to explain on-ice failures by speculating that there are locker room or other off-ice issues, such as players partying too much. Both of these items have been present in print and online for most of the tenures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter as the faces of the franchise, although the party stories had subsided.  

That is until today, when Dan Gross of the Daily News broke a story that will very quickly find its way from his gossip page to sports pages around the city and probably throughout the US and Canada.

Shortly after his arrival in December 2009, coach Peter Laviolette instituted what players came to call the "Dry Island." Laviolette asked team members to commit to not drinking for a month, and each player was asked to write his number on a locker room board as a pledge. No. 17 (Carter) and No. 18 (Richards) were absent from the board on the first Dry Island, as well as the estimated five more times the policy was instituted.  

Obviously, this story, which Gross sources to other Flyers players who are unnamed in the report, will add fuel to the speculation that this is the reason Richards and Carter were very surprisingly sent packing despite having agreed to career deals with the team.  

Paul Holmgren, understandably pissed that current Flyers players let this leak to the press, adamantly told Gross that while Richards and Carter had indeed not committed to Dry Island, this in no way had anything to do with why they were traded. Carter's agent echoed the sentiment, or perhaps more accurately, he colorfully amplified it.  

Considering that Homer says other players had also not agreed to this, and the breach alone is not something that should get players traded, I tend to believe it's not the primary reason they were traded. But it opens the very strong possibility that these weren't strictly hockey moves. Sure, the return on the trades is enough to defend them as such, but the decision to move players of this caliber so soon after signing at least one of them to a lifetime deal, and not terribly long after the other signed his, certainly could also signal that there was a desire to change the culture of the team by subtraction while also gaining different players you want on the ice.  

We'll keep you posted as we hear more. This is a rather loud siren in an otherwise quiet late-July hockey landscape, and there could be some sub-stories on the way.

The existence of Dry Island is another strong reminder that there's a lot we don't know about the Flyers (and our other teams, for that matter) despite the media landscape we live in.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”