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.