Another hockey mid-season approaches for the Philadelphia Flyers and this time around it’s not amid, what seems to be, their annual winter slump. Maybe they got that out of their system during the first couple weeks of the season.
The Flyers started the season 0-3-3 before establishing their winning ways. This start was totally unacceptable after an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals last May. Coach John Stevens felt the heat immediately, and I think it’s safe to assume the same can be said for the players as well.
Since then, the team has been one of the best in the league and may very well roll into the All-Star break atop the Atlantic Division.
Now that we’re knocking on the door of the unofficial mid-season break, I figured it would be a good time to hand out some mid-season awards.
First up, let’s take care of the obvious:
Most Valuable Player:
N.17 Jeff Carter
It’s unanimous. Sure, Mike Richards has donned the “C” and ran with it like we all knew he would, and Simon Gagne has been a tremendous success in bouncing back from severe concussion problems last year, but Jeff Carter has made it known that he is the go-to guy this time around.
Success is a drug, and Carter became addicted last season. Richards went down with an injury that put him out of commission for a couple weeks and Carter picked up the slack and then some. Follow that with a Conference Finals appearance and a huge raise coming into the 08-09 campaign and this kid realized now was the time to ignite. He currently leads the team with 49 points and an NHL leading 30 goals.
N.44 Kimmo Timonen
If you would’ve asked me last year who I thought would win the Barry Ashbee award (Best Defenseman) for the Flyers in the 08-09 season my vote would’ve gone to Braydon Coburn. Fact is, so far this season he has been sufficient, but lacking inspiration.
He’s still one of the best young defensemen in the game today, but Timonen has quarterbacked the Flyers power play and the whole defensive corps incredibly well so far. His leadership is underrated, however very prevalent. He also leads the Flyers defensemen in points with 28 points.
N.25 Matt Carle
The 24-year-old from Achorage, Alaska was obtained from the Tampa Lightning for defenseman Steve Eminger and rugged second-year forward Steve Downie. Since the acquisition, Philadelphia fans have come to realize why he was named to the All-Rookie team as a member of the San Jose Sharks a couple of years ago.
He’s swift-footed and always looking to move the puck. He’ll jump in a play so smoothly at times you would think he was a forward. He’s posted 10 points in 26 games with the Flyers, but more importantly he is a plus-six. Heck, he was even a plus-one player on a horrid Tampa Bay team; that’s got to illustrate something.
N.48 Danny Briere
This is not necessary due to performance, but rather lack thereof. He has played in only nine games this season due to a strained groin. When making the kind of cash he is, the fans just want him on the ice, or do they?
Although Briere did have nine points in his nine games to start the season, he still managed to be a minus-three player. This is unacceptable after coming off a year in which he was minus-22 on a talented Philadelphia team.
So these are a few of the honors to be handed out to a team that has been extremely exciting and confident, that is, after the six-game winless streak to start it all. After last season, Philadelphia fans are used to being deep in the playoffs. Nothing but the Cup will suffice.