Although the Philadelphia Flyers’ signing of Ruslan Fedotenko to a one-year contract will improve their Stanley Cup chances only from 100,000:1 to approximately 99,993:1, I'm pleased to have the diligent, flush-faced Rusty back in black and orange.
A hard-skating, hard-hitting left winger built in the prototypical Flyer mold, Fedotenko was my favorite Flyer during his first tenure on Broad Street and—altogether now—never should have been traded in the first place.
You don’t unload gritty, never-say-die players when your team is searching for an identity, as were the rudderless, post–Eric Lindros Flyers. Philadelphia had several other mid-level forwards with comparable numbers whom they might have peddled to the Tampa Bay Lightning rather than the workaholic Fedotenko.
Philadelphia has a long history of reacquiring/re-signing players on whom they gave up, including Rick Tocchet, Ron Hextall, Pete Peeters, Brian Boucher, Kjell Sameulsson, Chris Therien, Rick MacLeish and Karl Dykhuis.
(Mark Recchi also belongs in this category, but trading him originally for John LeClair, Eric Desjardins and Gilbert Dionne and later swapping Dainius Zubrus and two draft picks to get Recchi back ranks as one of the shrewdest deals in Flyers history; on the other hand, Bernie Parent is one of the few examples of perfect timing on the Flyers’ part, reacquiring the affable Montreal native just as he was primed to ascend to greatness—and pull the Bullies with him.)
Twice a Stanley Cup winner, Fedotenko played a key role in eliminating Philadelphia in the 2004 conference finals, netting 12 playoff goals en route to the championship.
Philadelphia also signed defenseman Bruno Gervais, a seven-year veteran who spent last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning after six years as a New York Islander.
Previously a fifth or sixth defenseman, depending on who’s out with the flu, Bruno Gervais, sadly, will add little more to the Flyers' fortunes than would quick-witted but painfully slow Ricky Gervais.
The return of one of my favorite Flyers aside, Philadelphia has struck out—or shanked a slap shot, as it were—in an off-season in which they desperately needed improvement. Both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter eschewed the City of Brotherly Love for the Twin Cities—and who can blame them?
Once a coveted destination for free agents hoping to play for a contender, Philadelphia has made it agonizingly obvious over recent decades that they never win the Stanley Cup. (Okay, the Flyers have won it in my lifetime, but I checked with the Oxford Dictionary folks, and elementary school to the present indeed constitutes never).
Lamentably, the emotionally suspect Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes for the foreseeable future means that the Flyers likely will continue this parade-less trend.
So, at the very least—probably at most—it’s welcome back, Ruslan Fedotenko, a once-and-future Flyer who knows the value of hard work—even if it ultimately presages yet another disappointing playoff exit in 2013.