Flyers fans rate team's active deadline on range from 'meh' to 'ugh'

Flyers fans rate team's active deadline on range from 'meh' to 'ugh'

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had a relatively active trade deadline day Wednesday, re-signing two players and trading a third.

We went to Twitter to get a sense of the fan response to the departure of Mark Streit, addition of Valtteri Filppula and re-signing of Michal Neuvirth and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The results are in, and the grades … well, they’re not great.

Of the 100 or so responses we received on Twitter when we asked fans to grade the Flyers’ trade deadline, most fit into two categories. We can call them “meh” and “ugh.”

Let’s start with “meh.”

Responses here were from fans who didn’t hate the Flyers’ moves but wished there had been others. The grades largely hovered around “B.” Here’s a good example:

As @avappleyard points out, Filppula could be a stopgap for the Flyers in the middle of their lineup as prospects develop. We know Hextall won’t be rushing any young players now or in the future simply because of need.

The issue, though, is that Filppula doesn’t come cheap (he’s got a $5 million cap hit) and he’s got a no-movement clause, which means the Flyers don’t have a choice but to protect him for this summer’s expansion draft. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that his production has dropped off a cliff since he signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2013.

And while they weren’t trades, the Flyers’ re-signing of Neuvirth and Bellemare factored into a number of fans’ grades, like @Angelo_Masso03, who feels Hextall could have gotten more accomplished in that department:

@BobbyGonnella had a similar take, and similar grade:

(This is where I make a joke about it not being Philadelphia if we’re not discussing some kind of goalie issue.)

Let’s move on to the “ugh” responses. Time for a moment of honesty: These were the vast majority of the tweets we received. There were a lot of “D”’s and “F”’s tossed around Wednesday evening.

A tweet from @PeteyAllen sums up a popular discussion that happened online once the news had broken on both re-signings, that the players Hextall had re-signed aren’t just underperforming, they’re the worst players at their positions:

OK, so this isn’t exactly true. Neuvirth has had a down year, and his save percentage is indeed 47th of the 47 goalies who’ve played at least 20 games this season. But … worst in the league? Overall? Probably a stretch.

The same can be said for Bellemare. Is he the worst forward in the NHL? No. He's a solid two-way player, who did a strong job stepping into Sean Couturier's role when he went down with injury earlier this year. But as BroadStreetHockey.com pointed out, Bellemare is among the 10 worst forwards in 5-on-5 scoring.

Money, too, is an issue. @Flyersguru points out that the already cash-strapped Flyers added $8.95 million for next season with Wednesday’s moves – which means filling the vacancies that clearly exist might have gotten more difficult:

Ahead of the deadline, Hextall said repeatedly he’d likely be a seller, and that adding a key piece wasn’t likely in the plans. If there’s one thing Hextall has done since becoming general manager, it’s stay true to his word. And his word is “patience.”

So with that in mind, we’ll leave you with our favorite response from the day:

Sarah Baicker: I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

Sarah Baicker: I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only two women there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common.

After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while — a guy I like a lot — said to me: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment. The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.

I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar label I’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls — papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players — were a far cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. 

As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors. My grandmother, who was visiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolled my eyes.

I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in my tomboyishness, believing that the things I liked — the things boys liked — were clearly better than the things stereotypically left to the girls.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed my perspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man. I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.

You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a big supporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though, it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before?

In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goes beyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life. But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it?

And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me I skated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darn good woman.

Flyers hoping to keep RFA Radko Gudas and his physical presence

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Flyers hoping to keep RFA Radko Gudas and his physical presence

In mid-February, Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas had few fans — both around the league and right here in Philadelphia.

There was the three-game suspension he received for a violent and unnecessary hit on Mika Zibanejad of the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 1. There were the questionable hits on Buffalo's David Catenacci, Montreal's Lucas Lessio and New Jersey's Bobby Farnham that did nothing to benefit the Flyers. He'd already earned two match penalties on the season and seemed well on his way to a third, which comes along with an automatic suspension.

The Department of Player Safety was watching him. In fact, it went out of its way to clip and review a number of his plays, and the Department of Player Safety does not forget.

And then, something changed.

Gudas reined his play in just a bit. The dirty hits stopped, and he even found a bit of a scoring touch. A coincidence? Perhaps. Or, more likely, something happened when he sat down with coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall after the Catenacci hit to discuss his behavior.

“I don’t want to say [the meeting was a] turning point, but it was a tough stretch at the time, and I know I had to clean up some things,” Gudas said at the Flyers' locker clean-out day. “I haven’t gotten any [suspensions] after that so I think we did some good things.”

From the outside, it sure seems like something clicked in Gudas' head right around the time of the meeting. He went from a player making headlines for all the wrong reasons (plenty of reporters and bloggers believed he deserved to be scratched from the lineup) to a guy with an almost cult-like following among fans.

And now, the Flyers want the pending restricted free agent back for next year — and preferably beyond.

“We like Radko,” Hextall said earlier this week. “We’d like to keep him long term. We’ll see. Restricted free agents, not a lot of urgency there for us. I mean, would we like to get them done? Yes. And we’ll get them done at some point. Long term, yeah … more long term than short term.”

Gudas evolved into one of the steadier players on the Flyers' blue line, especially once he'd been moved into a pairing with Brandon Manning. The pair spent more time playing five-on-five hockey during the six-game playoff series against the Washington Capitals than any other Flyers defensemen — and the Flyers fared rather well at even strength.

Most Flyers fans, though, will remember Gudas for his two-goal, four-point effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 5. It was the kind of uncharacteristic and incredible performance that endears fans to a guy.

Gudas finished the season with just five goals and nine assists, but it's the other areas of his game the Flyers like. Teams need big, tough defensemen who can hit. Teams need steady, stay-at-home players who can complement more offensive-minded blue liners.

And that's why, despite what very well could be a crowded defense next season, the Flyers told him they want him back during his exit interview. Interestingly, during that same discussion, Gudas said, his physical play and early-season dangerous hits weren't a topic of discussion.

Something very different was: leadership.

“Next year is going to be my fifth year, so they’re going to want to see some leadership from the players as well,” he said. “I have to be better and I’m trying to get better as a person to help the team.”

And yes, moving forward, the 25-year-old knows he has to keep his physical play in check, but also knows other areas of his game will have to get better. That's what this summer will be for.

“I want improve everything,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement in every aspect of the game: positioning, shot, skill, everything. I don’t think there’s time for rest. If the body is sore, that’s something different. But when the offseason starts, you want to make sure you get in better [shape] than last season.”