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12-08-2013, 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Cake or Death View Post
My personal opinion: the team is way too f-in indifferent. I've played on average teams that won more than they should've because there were guys on the team who HATED losing. I've also played on very talented teams that lost more than they should've because of the opposite.

Is this a Cup caliber roster? No. But they really should have a better record than they do. But there is no consistent fight, no foul taste in their mouth when they lose, no fire to put teams away when they have the chance, and this team, through its indifference, has been its own worst enemy.
I've been watching a fair amount of Flyers games this season, and I can't help but seen some real similarities between the two teams. I think the struggles have been eerily similar. Giroux is our Lundqvist, Simmonds our Brassard, Hartnell our Callahan, Voracek our Hagelin. I mean regardless of the specificity of each comparison, I believe the issue and the solution are the same. For me, when I watch and listen to our team right night, I don't see indifference, I see trepidation, unease, and anxiety, which I believe looks very similar.

To explain my comparisons a bit more, I think it all starts with two seasons ago. For the Rangers, it's their a season in which as a team and as individuals we have established an identity for ourselves, and win or loss, each player sticks to it. It took years of building towards on a specific path. But you had a group of players coming into their own together at the right time. Prust, Del Zotto, Callahan, Anisimov, Hagelin, Girardi, McDonagh, Stralman, all of them had found their game, even Lundqvist was better then ever. I believe this was a process that owed a lot to the fact that they were growing together, but it's kind of a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg--the success of the team helped these players grow, but the players growth was the reason the team won. In any case, I believe that the clear overachievment of that season had to do with how many players were really beginning to step into themselves, not the other way around.

Taking the example of Claude Grioux, who's Flyers team, I believe had a very similar 2011-12, I don't see his struggles this or last season as indifference. Since the very beginning of his career, Giroux has not only been consistenly good, but he has consistenly imporved every season. I don't think being captain overwhelmed him, I believe that he expected that of himself. I think the struggles that his team went through the year of his captincy, and then to being this season too, made Giroux falter. Simply put, he was gripping the stick too tight, but more than that, he was trying to change his game. Be somehting he's not. Veer from the formula he'd had so much success with. Reacting, waiting for lanes to present themselves, not forcing plays and hoping his talent would make them happen. This, combined with bad luck, and I think you get a Giroux who doesn't score for as many games as he did.

I see our players as struggling with the same things right now. I personally can't picture a Callahan that's indifferent. He's defined his entire career as the antithesis of that. He went from being an unknown, undersized, 4th round pick, worked his way up through the minors, willed himself from fourth line minutes to top-six minutes to an Olympic roster spot and the captaincy of an Original Six franchise, and he certainly didn't do it on talent alone. When I watch Callahan this season, I see a player who, when he got the captaincy, his team had it's most successful season in two decades. He learned from Drury how to lead--that is, to lead through quiet example, hard-work, and dedication to his own game. That's the Callahan I grew to love. He wasn't a player who was an offensive catalyst, he didn't make nifty passes, or lead the rush up ice, or hold onto the puck to make the complicted play. He was effective because of his defense. Becasue if you were on the same side of the ice as him and had the puck, you were getting hit, if you wound up to shoot, he was diving right out in front of you, and bouncing immediately back up. Callahan is most effective when he is disrupting the other teams momentum, not when he's trying not to lose any for us. I think I've seen Callahan go for more pokechecks this season than maybe his entire first five seasons. He always used to finish his checks. What I see from him isn't a player who suddenly stopped caring about how he can contribute, but rather a player who suddenly started to doubt his identity when the team suddenly stopped succeeding.

Over the past two seasons there has been a lot of changes. The roster of 2011 is extremely different than 2013. We have new coaches. New expectations. I think all of that is bound to lead to some struggles. I believe certain players have responded to these struggles in the worst way. Not by not caring and giving up, but by putting too much of the team's success or failure on their shoulders. They question themselves too much so that whether they team success becomes the measure of their personal effectiveness. So they try to change their game. They move away from what works. Like I explained with Callahan it could mean playing more conservatively. With Lundqvist I think it has to do with trying to win games for the team rather than with them. For Del Zotto, it's doubting his ability to qb a pp or lead the rush, or hit (remember his rookie season when he would lay guys out with some freqency?). Go down the list and I see the same thing.

The last example I'll bring up is Richards. He has been the best example of mental fortitude and confidence that I have seen on the team this season. Rather than looking at last season and doubting himself as a player, and doubting his ability to contribute, he looked at his extensive carreer to that point, and decided that they more than that one rough run defined him as a player. He didn't use the teams success as the defining factor of his own, he looked at his own game, better prepared himself and got back to who he is--the player we have seem thus far. A model of deciciveness, savvy, and effort. And it has paid off for the team as well (see our pp%).

To conclude then, I'd like to go back to my Flyers comparison. I think there was a definite moment when their season turned around and I don't think it was when Berube was hired. I think it has had a ton to do with the addition of Steve Downie. He's not come in a led the team in goal scoringm but he is a player who has not changed his game from team to team. He plays with a swagger. He knows his game and he plays it, every night. When a player like that comes into a team full of players who have lost themselves, he rubs off. His confidence in his own game has given his linemates some confidence in themselves, and it's spreading throughout the lineup to everyone not named Voracek. This Flyers team of late does not look to me that different in terms of style to Lavvy's, but players are performing as you would expect them to. They look like themselves, nothing more, nothing less, and it has completely turned the season around for them. They're not fantastic, but tbh, I wouldn't expect them to be with their defense corps.

Anyway, I feel like this kind of addition has happened countless times since I became a real fan of profession hockey a little over a decade ago. Nyqvist in Detroit helped Detroit snap a 7 game losing streak in his first game after being recalled this season. He's awoken Franzen, and the team has put on a 6-4-0 record since his recall without Datsyuk and Zberg at points. Kunitz in 09 for Pitt I see as a similar move. Avery here a few years back. Or Marcus Foligno when he was first called up in Buffalo.

I really think that if we can string a winning streak together, our season will turn around, for each player especially. If that has to come with a little more luck than we've been getting (i.e Janssens goal tonight), or if it has to come with the addition of fresh blood of somebody at the top of their game whether as a first or fourth liner, NHL or AHL. If these player would stop trying not to lose so much and just start playing their games, we will have a much much improved team. If everyone contirubtes in the ways they do best they will strengthen their identies as players. This in turn will lead to the development of the team's identity, which leads to consistency game in and game out, win or loss, which of course, will lead to wins.

It's longwinded, and perhaps more unreasonable than I think, and I'm sorry it's so long. Hope it makes sense.

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