While most fans of the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs appreciated Kris Versteeg’s high energy style and playmaking ability, they also saw him prone to poor decisions and untimely turnovers. And during the first period of the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Philly fans got a glimpse of Versteeg's bad side.
The newest addition to the Flyers was close to the blue line in the defensive zone and lazily passed the puck back toward the front of his own net, causing a turnover. Carolina did not score on the play, though it created a few high quality scoring chances before the Flyers cleared the zone, but it was the kind of mistake that seems to hit a nerve with head coach Peter Laviolette.
It was the type of turnover that put James van Riemsdyk and Nikolay Zherdev on Laviolette’s craplist which, at times during the season, has meant decreased ice time or being healthy scratches. Zherdev still hasn’t figured out how to get off of it.
Versteeg played only 12:16 in the game, which is less than any other game this season, so it’s worth pondering if the lack of ice time was a punishment for his poor play.
Now some may say the decreased playing time was due to his linemate, Mike Richards, being out of the lineup, forcing the head coach to lean more on his other top lines. Others may contend that Versteeg is still getting acclimated to the Flyers system and Laviolette just relied more on his veteran players to keep the score from getting worse, since they were behind in the game.
But I’m not a man who believes in coincidences, and it is probably not an accident that Versteeg played his lowest amount of the year in a game that he seemed to lack defensive focus.
That being said, the Flyers have other less than defensively responsible/turnover-prone forwards, Daniel Briere and Jeff Carter are prime examples, and they always seem to escape the wrath of Laviolette. And scoring goals doesn’t seem to be a factor, as Zherdev has 15 goals in limited action and still can’t get in the lineup over Dan Carcillo and Jody Shelley.
The fact is that no one but Laviolette himself knows the formula for being in his “doghouse,” so it’s far from certain that Versteeg is now officially in it. But it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on the rest of the season.
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