Wednesday, November 29, 2006
By Michael Rushton
"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But, it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. "
- Winston Churchill
You see, there is a silver lining in hockey. Eight teams make the playoffs, regardless if they deserve it.
Sure, with a mere 17 points the Flyers sit at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference. Yet, they find themselves just 10 points out of the eighth playoff spot with -- and here's the good news -- 58 games to play!
A few weeks back, when the gloomy cloud off irrelevance was beginning to set over the Flyers, I told a friend of mine that a five-game winning streak would lift that cloud. And I still feel that way.
Just think about it. Imagine a stretch of five straight victories that featured a pair of shutouts, seven points from Peter Forsberg and decent contributions from the likes of the other three lines. Suddenly, the skeptics say that Flyers can't be counted out with a stud player like Forsberg leading the way and that their netminding situation is looking better.
"Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things."
- Jesse Jackson
You see, the Flyers are in a tough spot. This team can't be blown up and rebuilt. They already have 14 players 26-years-old or under on the roster who have seen action this season. That, combined with older players possessing brutal contracts, makes it hard to just start over.
So the Flyers need to suck it up and chalk up the first quarter of the season as a slow start. Guys like Forsberg, Simon Gagne and Derian Hatcher need to shoulder the criticism and lead by example to take pressure off Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Joni Pitkanen.
The only marketable player is Forsberg anyway and he is attractive; a proven winner with talent in the last year of a contract. Buyers just beware of the ankle.
But it's still too early to give up. Just make the playoffs and anything can happen.
The Flyers are used to flying under the radar at this point of the season.
Normally, the allure and promise of another Eagles playoff run -- sans last year -- captivates the city through January. And even the antics and excitement of Allen Iverson and his always changing supporting cast was enough to create a smokescreen and keep the attention off the Orange and Black for a while.
But not this year. This year, the Flyers just need some more time.
"Lost time is never found again"
- Benjamin Franklin