One of the more salacious stories of the NHL off-season took place in Philadelphia when Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren went on the record with Flyers beat writer Wayne Fish as saying:
Holmgren: “First of all, if you want to look for nightlife, action or whatever, you can find it whether you live in South Jersey, Delaware or Philadelphia. Am I concerned about it? Let me say this: The issue has been raised by (coach) John (Stevens) and myself with all the players.
I think this all falls under the umbrella of discipline. It’s on-ice discipline—not overstaying-your-shift discipline—it’s off-ice discipline, it’s night before a game taking better care of ourselves. That’s a natural maturation process that a lot of our younger players are still going through. We’ve addressed that. So am I concerned about it? We’ll see how it goes this year. All our players have been talked to about it. Is it an issue? The fact that we’ve talked about it, I guess it is an issue."
The story took on a life of its own and got a lot of play at both Puck Daddy and DeadSpin for several days before the Flyers back-checked on the story, which I covered with some brief analysis right on my own blog.
Were there any instances in which the Flyers erratic performance last season was the direct result of players spending late nights out in Old City the evening before a game?
Your guess is as good as mine. Only the players know for sure, and without their input, all we have is speculation.
However, according to a recent article at MaxHockey.com, booze-fueled late night celebrations in the middle of back-to-back weekend tilts takes enough of a toll on professional hockey players that the practice has its own glossary term called "playing guilty:"
From Justin Bourne:
"When teams play inexplicably bad, it’s not always as inexplicable to the players as it is the fans. Let me work you through a little equation that can help you in your hockey gambling endeavours:
Friday and Saturday home games, plus Friday night win, plus local event (concert, etc.), minus Saturday morning skate, equals Saturday night loss.
Sorry to all my homies still playing, I hope I didn't blow the whole secret like that TV magician that operates in shadow and sells his profession under the bus."
Of the twelve instances where the Flyers played back-to-back weekend tilts last season (games played Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday), six of those resulted in a win followed by a loss or OTL.
12/20/08: WAS W 7-1
12/21/08: @ NJD OTL 3-2
1/2/09: @ ANH W 5-4
1/3/09: @ LAK OTL 2-1
3/14/09: NYR W 4-2
3/15/09: @NYR L 4-1
3/28/09: @NYI W 4-3
3/29/09: BOS L 3-4
4/3/09: TOR W 8-5
4/4/09: OTT OTL 4-3
4/11/09: @NYI W 3-2
4/12/09: NYR L 4-3
Since Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Joffrey Lupul have been the names that surface most often when these allegations of Old City over-indulgence creep up, I thought it would be fun to pull up the combined production that each player posted for the first games and second games of the back-to-back contests listed above:
First Games (Wins): 1 goal, 5 assists +2
Second Games (Losses): 2 goals, 2 assists +1
First Games (Wins): 5 goals, 6 assists +8
Second Games (Losses): 2 goals, 1 assist -2
First Games (Wins): 4 goals, 6 assists +6
Second Games (Losses): 1 goals, 1 assist -4
If late night celebrations had anything to do with how the core of this team performed on the back end of these series, I would probably draw the following conclusions:
Mike Richards: Functioning drunk.
Jeff Carter: Parties hard, but shows up to work the next day, even if not at 100%.
Joffrey Lupul: Wakes up most mornings with Hitler mustache and "I Heart Cock" written on his face in permanent marker.
But truth of the matter is, it's entirely possible that when you play back-to-back games, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
Like I said before—until the players chime in (or Joffrey Lupul pens his auto biography titled "Lupes: Just Put Your Head Down and Drink,") the fans will never know.
Just to play it safe, don't let this guy room with "Cartsy" on road trips next season.
For Ronny's daily hockey thoughts, visit the Ronnybrook blog.