Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
Admittedly, the Philadelphia Flyers’ first quarter of the 2009-10 season has not been without flaws. There was the miserable 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers back in October and, more recently, the horrific 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Yet, for the most part, the Flyers have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend, as do many NHL teams.
For starters, if the season was to end today, the Flyers would be in the playoffs. Ideally, the Flyers would like to be seeded better than sixth in the Eastern Conference, but there are nine other Eastern Conference teams that would switch places with the Flyers in a heartbeat.
Next up, goaltending.
Coming off a year in the KHL, there were a lot of questions about Ray Emery. To date, he has performed admirably and, suffice to say, the Flyers are thrilled that Emery has managed to keep his once detrimental off-ice antics out of the headlines. Emery has been everything the Flyers thought he could be and more. He is a number one goalie and a huge reason why the Flyers are where they are in the standings.
Mike Richards. Every team needs a leader and, unlike many captains in the NHL, Richards is the epitome of the word “leader”. Ask any Flyers fan and they will tell you, “Richards is the Flyers”, there is no argument here, Richards is the perfect fit for this hockey club.
Watch Richards lead his team with a hat trick earlier this season.
The Flyers payed a very steep price for defenseman Chris Pronger. Thus far, they have been rewarded handsomely as Pronger has transformed a Flyers defense that was once shaky and has now instilled some much needed toughness and moxy, re-establishing the Flyers defense as one of the NHL’s best.
James Van Riemsdyk, affectionately known as “JVR”, has been one of the seasons biggest surprises. JVR has quickly established himself as a front runner for the coveted Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year and his offensive contributions are a welcome addition to the Flyers lineup.
There was some concern about defenseman Matt Carle’s play last season. Well, any doubts the fans and coaches had are a thing of the past as Carle leads the Flyers with a plus-18 rating and, alongside Pronger, is one half of arguably the best defensive combo in the NHL.
Check out this feature on the emerging defenseman.
While some Flyers supporters out there may disagree with me, I still feel Scott Hartnell is the Glue that keeps the Flyers offense on track. He’s not the flashiest player on the ice, nor the most talented, but he does the Flyers dirty work and for that, the Flyers should be thankful.
Danny Briere has taken a considerable amount of heat since he joined the Flyers. After dealing with countless injuries and questions about his desire to play, Briere has looked solid this year and with ten goals on the season, he is tied for the team lead in goals scored.
Last but not least, the Flyers organization should be thankful for their fans, who are amongst the league's most loyal and rabid. Sure, they are sometimes quick to react and they often go too far with their criticisms of players that are not meeting expectations, but they mean well and, in the end, their passion is often mistaken for anger.
On a personal note, I must say it has be a thrill to cover the Flyers this season. The Orange and Black offer up some very unique story lines and on the ice they have been very entertaining to watch. Thanks for the memories Flyers, and of course, thanks for your support Flyers’ fans.
Until next time,