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In Mid Flight: A continuing glance at the Flyers’ season

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This is the first edition of In Mid Flight. I will do my best to keep the readers of Philly2Philly updated on the current state of the Flyers through my own interpretations and random observations. Here’s what I’m seeing:

For starters, I will pick up where I left off. Previously, I had told you to keep a careful eye out for rookie James van Riemsdyk  and penalty killing specialist Blair Betts. I suppose this was the kiss of death, huh? Betts is allegedly out for a month with a shoulder separation but healing ahead of schedule. JVR was day-to-day with a concussion, but has rebounded nicely and has been an absolute force since his return. He scored his first NHL goal this past Saturday against Florida and lit the arena with the smile on his face afterward. The kid has great hands and speed to go with his size.

Goalie Ray Emery looks generally solid in net, pitching an opening night shutout and not giving up many soft goals thus far. But above all else, he looks very athletic and alarmingly composed for someone with a pre-existing notion to “mix it up”.

My fixation with Claude Giroux continues. He just does things on the ice that you rarely see. Thus far his numbers are deceptively average- one goal, two assists. . I wish John Stevens would make up his mind where Giroux fits and leave him on a line for more than one game! There is no question Claude’s star is close to brilliantly shining. Personally, I’d love to see a line of Giroux-Richards-Briere. With the recent dizzying mix-and-match, chances are my wish will come true one of these days.

The presence of Chris Pronger is electric. His late game rag doll toss of Penguin Chris Kunitz was not enough to beat the defending champs, but will hopefully be enough to send a message that this team is meaner and more determined than last year’s squad.

The addition of Pronger has most notably helped fellow defense mate Matt Carle, who is amongst the league leaders in assists with 8, is also tied for the league lead in points for a defenseman. Pronger has apparently helped to justify Carle’s hefty price tag.

The arrival of Ian Laperriere, along with the aforementioned Betts, has given the Flyers a much improved set of options on the penalty kill. As a result, it looks like we may see a much fresher Jeff Carter and Mike Richards down the stretch and hopefully well into the playoffs.

I know it’s been said already, but I honestly had immediate flashbacks to the now legendary Scott Stevens-Eric Lindros hit when Mike Richards shouldered David Booth onto a stretcher. It was the same part of the ice. It was the same limpness of body before impact of head on ice. I still think Stevens was a dirty player that made a technically clean hit on the E-train. I feel somewhat the same on this one. Given the rules changes in recent years, I am mildly stunned that Richards did not get a suspension. For the record, it is nice to hear that David Booth is recovering reasonably well too.

Pleasant Surprises

Arron Asham sat and watched for the first three games. Rather than sulk, he worked hard to make the most of his opportunity when the time came. Now Asham is tied for fourth on the team in goals with three.

Ole-Kristian Tollefson. First of all, he goes by the name “O.K.” which is more than okay by me. Second, he is Norwegian, which is endearing in and of itself for some reason. But let’s talk hockey: O.K. has two assists and a sure handed knockout under his belt already this year. A tough, capable Norwegian defenseman patrolling the blue line, you ask? Well, sure, okay.

James van Riemsdyk. Not a lock to make the team out of training camp, I think the JVR doubters can prepare to step aside. With a goal finally under his belt to go with his six assists, Flyers fans now realize that JVR is in fact a special talent. Size, skill, speed and a knack for passing that was beyond advertisement.

 

Honorable mention: Darroll Powe

Missing Persons

Braydon Coburn. What happened? So far, it looks like a continuation of last season’s regression, which is not good news for the Flyers. A few terrible giveaways and an “own goal” that clanked off a stunned Ray Emery’s skate and into the net against the Penguins has Cobie in the doghouse at the Wachovia. We know Braydon has talent for sure. I hope he turns it around but can somebody please explain to me why he is still on the power play?

Simon Gagne. I know he has somewhat produced, but I am here to say that Gags is not doing enough. One goal for this former 40 goal scorer is simply sub par. Especially since he has looked flat out lost at times. He reminds me of the Bobby Abreu of the Flyers. Step up, Simon, this team needs you.

Riley Cote. Last year’s enforcer has only appeared in two games thus far, with no fights. ‘Nough said.

Outside the Zone…

I will also reserve the right to provide commentary on any off topic item that motivates me to spout off about it.

My off topic rant of the day: Major League Baseball and TBS

Now that TBS has wrapped up its stellar coverage of the division series and NLCS, I would like to issue a little love letter to them:

 

Dear MLB/TBS,

I would like to sincerely thank you for obliterating Columbus Day in the Delaware Valley. As a result of your continued ineptitude and stubborn inferiority complex, you have made sure that many fans across the Delaware Valley could not function for work on Monday after the middle of the night conclusion of the Phillies-Rockies game three.

Fortunately for me, I had already scheduled an off day for Columbus Day. But the late morning rise and subsequent 6:07 ET start of Mondays game four basically carved out a large portion of my free time.

Granted, it was not your fault that Mother Nature laid a weekend whooping on the Denver area which postponed game three until Sunday night. But a seventh inning stretch at approximately 1:15 a.m. ET? That’s just ridiculous. Imagine if it went extras...

Also, forcing viewers to switch from TBS to TNT and back again also is not pleasing to the Tivo/DVR generation that you wish to follow your game for years to come.

However, I will give one tidbit of credit where credit is due: you have healed many psyches by not airing those freakin’ Frank Caliendo commercials this year. So, thank you very much. BUT, I taketh away a portion of said credit due to the fact that your pitch tracker (an apparent albatross of a luxury) is off center on my TV. It’s as if my entire TV is out of the strike zone! Your graphics are fueling further balls and strikes uncertainty and I’m not happy about it.

Lastly, the 2:37 PM start times need to stop immediately!! It is costing you viewers!! Case in point: Two Thursdays ago, I watched four of the eighteen innings played that day: three of the Phillies-Rockies, one of the Dodgers-Cardinals. Had the Phillies played during an after dinner time slot, I would have instead watched a minimum of nine innings.

The lesson to be learned is that a strict reluctance to compete against your own product is decreasing viewership from people with vested interest in large markets. I’m sure that not many people in Iowa watched all eighteen innings of those games.

Memo to Bud Selig and Time Warner for 2010: It’s not that you capture everyone’s attention; it’s that you can capture and keep the attention of those who already care.

Joe Buck never looked and sounded so good.

That’s my rant. Until next time….stay cool….

 

pic: http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Philadelphia+Flyers+v+New+Jersey+Devils+yRRb1nCsGefl.jpg