Lecavalier has moved from center to mentor

Lecavalier has moved from center to mentor
February 25, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Vinny Lecavalier has moved from center to right wing and, most recently, to left wing with the Flyers this season. (USA Today Images)

Flyers coach Craig Berube believes extended breaks in the NHL schedule -- like the Olympic break -- benefit older players.

Vinny Lecavalier turns 34 in April and is going through a mini-crisis this season in trying to adjust to a new spot – left wing.

In his case, the break offered him reflection time to see where he’s at in his first year with the Flyers and where he’s going on a line with young center Brayden Schenn and right wing Wayne Simmonds.

During the Flyers West Coast trip, Lecavalier was admittedly flustered at moving first from center to right wing,  then over to left wing. He wasn’t happy, either.

Assistant general manager Ron Hextall said rather bluntly that Lecavalier needed to take a deep breath, accept the change and make it work.

Going into the break, Lecavalier had a goal and two assists in his previous five games.

He said he thought about all of this a wee bit but didn’t dwell long on it while spending time with his family back in Tampa during the Olympics.

“It’s a new position and naturally I would feel more comfortable in the middle or right side, but I have to figure out,” he said. “Well, not figure out, I’m there now and have to make the best of it.

“The line was going well before break. I just got to learn to be better on the left side. That’s what it is.”

Berube seems comfortable in the knowledge that Lecavalier has shown the ability to provide offense from the left side and it doesn’t have to be just scoring goals -- setting up his linemates and playing two-way hockey will do just fine.

“It’s not all about just scoring,” Berube said. “Maybe people are looking at that too much. It’s about work ethic and competing for me. That line? [If] they work hard and compete, they’ll be fine. They got three big guys who need to play a hard, forechecking game.”

When the schedule resumes, Schenn will stay at center and Lecavalier at left wing.

“Brayden hasn’t done anything wrong to get himself pulled out of center,” Berube said. “He’s played well there.”

The line had three goals and five assists for eight points over the previous five games heading into the stoppage. That’s where they’ll pick up on Thursday night when the Flyers host San Jose at the Wells Fargo Center.

Lecavalier has done some mentoring in the past in Tampa with Steven Stamkos, most recently. Schenn says Lecavalier has given him pointers in his role as the line’s center. Schenn has been centering this particular unit just six games.

“He talks to me all the time,” Schenn said. “Anytime he has something to say, I listen. He’s been around a while. He can teach me and mentor me. I’ll take that for sure.”

Mentoring a new center, instead of filling the spot himself, is something Lecavalier wasn’t expecting to do with the Flyers. 

“Brayden is a natural center,” Lecavalier said. “We tell each other things as a line … Little plays if I feel, some experience I’ve gathered in 14-15 years. There’s a few things I can tell Schenner that will help him. Center is a position with a lot of responsibilities, and sometimes you do little things that are not necessarily just for yourself to get open, but helping everything else on the ice open. As a center, you’re supporting a lot on the ice. You have to be there. Not necessarily to get the puck but open the space for other players.

“Things like that, which I have learned over the years playing with Marty St. Louis who is a pretty smart player, and guys like Vinny Prospal. You learn from experience.”

Mentoring is something the Flyers are counting on from Lecavalier down the stretch to help support  Schenn’s continued development in the middle.