Bob's Winter Classic Start: Latest Chapter in Flyers Goalie History, But for the Best

Bob's Winter Classic Start: Latest Chapter in Flyers Goalie History, But for the Best

Peter Laviolette showed us last season and playoffs that he likes to go with the hot hand, which is a turn of phrase that obscures a more important truth—Lavvy rewards effort and benches malaise. For whatever reason, Ilya Bryzgalov has lapsed into a second major slump of the first half of the season, and while he was solid in between them, he wasn't the show stopper the Flyers were seeking when they inked him to a 9-year, $51 million deal this summer.

The good news is, as much as Lavvy may be sending a message to an underperforming player, his decision to start Sergei Bobrovsky also rewards someone who is playing well. This isn't merely change for the sake of change, nor a wakeup call to Bryz. Based on recent play, Bob gives the Flyers the best chance to get two points today. He confirmed that in his win over the Penguins to close out 2011.

We'll find out today whether it was the right decision in the short term, but will the long-term implications be positive or negative? One thing's for sure, it drew a reaction from Bryzgalov. Not necessarily the one the coach was hoping for…

What will the short- and long-term implications be?

As you know by now, Bryz broke the secret to the media yesterday. He did it with some self-deprecating humor, which is a story in itself.

Part of the story of Bryzgalov's stay in Philly so far has been broken confidence, with his "Lost in the Woods" quote marking one of the defining moments of the season. While self-deprecation can be enjoyable and endearing, it's not really something you're looking for in a goalie. In the crease, confidence reigns supreme.

Confidence does not appear to be something Bryzgalov has right now. We've talked a bit about his on-ice body language lately, a topic I'm not too fond of overanalyzing but couldn't help but observe. Yesterday, it was his spoken language that grabbed attention. Bryz posted a picture of a thermos and joked with the media that that's how he was preparing for his time on the bench.

Deflection? Certainly. And Bryz has so far been deft at keeping fans on his side despite being the ultimate target for Philly hockey criticism—a highly paid disappointment. His off-ice persona is interesting, amusing, and seemingly sincere. But as the pages turn on the calendar and expectations ratchet up, no amount of HBO footage will save him if his on-ice play does not improve significantly.

Lavvy's decision to start Bob sends a consistent message to his team. Play well and you will be rewarded. It also sends a message to Bryz and others that a big contract doesn't mean they'll start. If both messages are received loud and clear, this could prove to be a turning point for Bryzgalov. This is the right time to have that happen, rather than in four months.

However, Bryz's initial reaction—breaking the story rather than allowing it to be released when Lavvy wanted it to be—would indicate that the message may not yet have been received. The coaches have some work to do in getting Bryz's head on straight, and the player has the most work to do of all. The later into the season we get, the less funny the jokes will be.

On the other hand, Bryz's reaction could have been far, far worse. Being
benched in the highest profile game of the season can't be easy, and
joking about it is a much better response than complaining or
criticizing.

Messages aside, the spectacle of the Winter Classic will reach its height today at 3PM. However, the spectacle for the players needs to have ended yesterday. Alumni Game, family skates, marriage proposals—they're all fantastic, and it's refreshing to see athletes enjoy the lead-in to the Winter Classic. But it's about the two points in the standings for them now. Bob is the safer bet to get them two points today.

The front office will be scrutinized for the decision to give Bryzgalov the bank, not just this year but for years to come. That was a given the day they inked him. But they deserve credit for not doing what a lot of people thought they would in trading away Bobrovsky. In short, they made a risky investment, but they insured against it as well.

Injuries aren't the only reason a contending team needs a backup who can play like a starter. Goalies are often among the biggest headcases in all of sports. When they're off, they're way off. When they're on, they're nearly unbeatable. Bryz will get his swagger back. Until then, we can be glad that the Flyers can lean on the goalie a lot of people wanted to be the starter before free agency even began.

All this being said, we'd obviously prefer there to be no big story in goal as the league's attention turns to the Flyers.

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

The NBA has determined a new date for the Sixers home game against the Kings, which was postponed on Nov. 30 because of unsafe playing conditions on the court.

The game has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. This will create back-to-backs for both teams.

The Sixers are playing in Chicago on Jan. 29. They will play consecutive games against the Bulls and Kings, then have a road back-to-back against the Mavericks and Spurs on Feb. 1 and 2.

The Kings will be on what is now an eight-game road trip. They will play a back-to-back against the Rockets the next night in Houston.

Former Flyers coach Bill Dineen dies at 84

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The Associated Press

Former Flyers coach Bill Dineen dies at 84

Bill Dineen, who had the distinction of being Eric Lindros’ first NHL coach, died early Saturday morning at his home in Lake George, New York. He was 84.
 
“Such a wonderful person, who got along with everybody,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “I never played for him, but worked with him in scouting. Just a great guy.” 
 
Dineen succeeded Holmgren as head coach during the 1991-92 season.
 
“When I got fired, a lot of our guys were squeezing their sticks,” Holmgren said. “They were tight. It shouldn’t be hard to play the game. When things got tough, they were a little under stress, Billy coming in, he loosened things up.”
 
Dineen coached parts of two seasons here from 1991-92 through the 1992-93 season, which was Lindros’ first year as a Flyer.
 
“Bill treated everyone with the utmost respect,” Holmgren said. “He was the perfect guy for Eric coming in here. That respect goes both ways. He was almost a grandfatherly figure for Eric at the time.”

Dineen served as a scout with the organization from 1990-91 until succeeding Holmgren as coach. He then returned to a scouting role in 1993-94 and remained with the Flyers as a scout through 1996-97.
 
Mark Howe, one of the greatest Flyers defensemen of all-time, played for Dineen as an 18-year-old rookie in the WHA with the Houston Aeros (1973-74), and also had him during his final year as a Flyer in 1991-92.
 
“He was one of the best people I ever met in the game of hockey,” Howe said. “He was a real players coach. Of all the guys I ever played for. Maybe a little Paul Holmgren, too. 
 
“If you lost the game, he was one of the very few people if you went for a bite to eat or a beer after the game you lost, you actually felt poorly for letting the coach down.”
 
Howe said Dineen’s teams weren’t all about skill.
 
“He picked people that were about ‘the team,'” Howe said. “He made me earn my spot that first year in Houston.”
 
Dineen posted a 60-60-20 record with the Flyers. His son, Kevin, played on both of those teams before assuming the captaincy from Rick Tocchet in 1993-94. 
 
A gentleman behind the bench, Bill Dineen was much the same person as a player. A former right wing who spent the majority of his six-year playing career with the Detroit Red Wings, he had just 122 penalty minutes in 322 games, scoring 51 goals and 95 points.
 
“I knew Billy for a long time," Flyers senior vice president Bob Clarke said. "He was a player and coach at the minor league level and the NHL level, but I think more importantly he was a really, really good hockey person and really good person.” 

Dineen won two WHA titles coaching the Aeros and two Stanley Cups as a player with the Red Wings. A member of the AHL Hall of Fame, Dineen also coached the Adirondack Red Wings from 1983 through 1988-89.
 
Three of his five sons — Gordon, Peter and Kevin — played in the NHL. Sons Shawn and Jerry had their roots in the AHL. 
 
“His boys are scattered all over the map,” Holmgren said. “Just a tremendous hockey family.”
 
Dineen is part of Flyer folklore trivia. He, along with Keith Allen and Vic Stasiuk, were all Red Wings teammates during 1953-53. They also shared something else in common: all three later  became Flyers head coaches.