When Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren signed 34-year-old enforcer Jody Shelley to a three-year, $3.3 million contract, there was an outbreak by fans outraged about paying a fighter $1.1 million per season.
Shelley, who scored only two goals in 57 games with the San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers last year, was added to the orange and black’s roster to drop his gloves and bring a sheriff to the lineup lacking a true authoritarian.
For the last couple of years, the Flyers had been utilizing Riley Cote as the enforcer. While Cote played the role well, getting in 65 fights in four seasons with the Flyers, he was not a good hockey player.
Cote was a terrible skater with little to zero hockey skills, playing no more than four minutes a game in his stint with Philadelphia.
In 156 games in the NHL, Cote scored only one goal and had seven career points. To be frank, some goalies have more career points than Cote. For example, former Flyers goalie Martin Biron has four more points than Cote.
Playing in only 15 games last year, it was quite clear that the Flyers had no plans going forward with Cote as a player, and Cote decided to hang up the skates to join the Adirondack Phantoms in a coaching position.
However, despite Cote retiring, paying Shelley $1.1 million to serve as the team’s enforcer didn’t go over well in Flyerdom. In today’s age of hockey, a need for a fighter is not needed as much as it was five, six years ago.
With the game wanting to emphasize more offense, the NHL has made several rule changes over the years to protect players and change the image that hockey is fighting on skates.
By doing so, fighters have become a thing of the past. Not every team has an enforcer on their roster, but they still do serve a purpose.
Fighting is still a major aspect of the game, and despite the attempts by the critics, it will not be removed from the game. It’s how the players police the game, and if you take it out, more serious consequences could occur.
In spite of having Dan Carcillo on the roster, GM Holmgren came to the conclusion that the Flyers needed someone who could intimidate opponents.
Shelley was his target.
A nine-year vet, Shelley was acquired by the Rangers for a 2011 sixth-round draft pick in February of 2010. Prior to being traded to New York, Shelley had no points in 36 games with the Sharks, however he recorded six points (two goals, four assists) in 21 games with the Blue Shirts.
Before going to San Jose, Shelley spent six-plus years playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets where he compiled 1025 penalty minutes.
While he hasn’t won over the fan base yet, Shelley is proving to be a good signing by Holmgren. The price tag may be a rad rich for everyone’s liking, but he’s playing the role of “enforcer” as good as anyone in the league.
Shelley, who has seven fights in 38 games with the Flyers, knows when to drop the gloves and when not to. That’s huge for a team because sometimes, it’s best not to fight.
For instance, with a three-goal lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Not only does Shelley know how and when to fight, he also is a hard working player.
He doesn’t skate around looking for fights, but rather plays his position rather well and delivers hits when they’re available.
On a line with Blair Betts and Darroll Powe or Carcillo, Shelley averages around six minutes a game. Playing on the fourth line, Shelley has the trust of head coach Peter Laviolette, something that Cote never was able to gain.
His hard work pays off every once in awhile as it did against Atlanta a couple games ago. After blocking a shot in the defensive zone, Shelley skated up the sideboards all alone before sniping Thrashers’ goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
The Flyers are paying him to win fights, not score goals, but whenever he does light the lamp, it’s a welcomed addition.
Just like Shelley has been to the Flyers.
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