by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor
"If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am right now."
These immortal words were spoken by Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold to his Cousin Eddie midway through the holiday classic "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." It effectively sums up how I feel about the sudden gutting of the Flyers' core within the space of a few hours last Thursday.
Nonetheless, five days later and I still can't fathom it. It's like the Grim Reaper suddenly swept through the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center and exacted his revenge for an ancient unpaid debt.
More than being disturbed at the swift excision of Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles in order to sign Ilya Bryzgalov, I feel an unshakeable psychic unease when I observed the near-universal praise the moves received from Philly media members and scores of fans alike.
610 WIP color man Chris Therien took to the internet shortly after the blitz was complete and said something to the effect that the strange feeling you all have is the knowledge that the Flyers just got better for years to come.
Seconds later, came all of the buried and not-so-buried Carter haterade surrounding his attitude and health issues and inability to come through in the clutch, and the rancor towards Richards, a captain who should have never been a leader and will never measure up to some absurd standard propagated by fuzzy video clips and written about by certain media types.
My question to these people are: do you believe all that because it's true, or are you so desperate to support a winner at all costs that you'll believe anything the Flyers and the team-friendly media says and does?
Random poster on the Flyers' Facebook page: "Future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!"
It reminded me of the situation nearly 20 years ago, when arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi unknowingly set the Flyers on a twisting path of thorns when he ruled in our favor regarding the Eric Lindros trade.
Three years away from the postseason in the Summer of 1992, and everybody was willing to gamble that the hulking kid from the Oshawa Generals was worth the following: Ron Hextall, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Peter Forsberg, Chris Simon.
A certain segment of the populace remained convinced of that until Big E dared question the organ-eye-zation over the handling of his final concussion late in the 1999-2000 season. These people no doubt stood up and cheered the day that ESPN showed the "C" being sewn on Eric Desjardins' uniform.
Nobody then seriously questioned the breach of trust of an eight-year failure from the front office to the fan base, that a future which belonged to the Colorado Avalanche should have been Philadelphia's all along. Instead, Bob Clarke was a hero for ridding the team of Lindros and the influence his meddling parents.
And here we are over a decade later, with an overhaul touted as altering failed team chemistry, with the promise of restacking the deck for a cushion of several more seasons. Whether it works or not shouldn't be the issue...why it happens so abruptly, and without any explanation to the public after years spent talking about a certain course that fans follow without question, should be.
"Winning now" is over...winning in a couple years while the new roster takes time to gel is the new Orange and Black. Nobody is seriously questioning the breach of not one, but two, covenants in the form of contracts lasting 10-plus years. Nobody is seriously questioning the underlying causes behind Paul Holmgren "lying" to Carter about his being a long-term cornerstone.
Anyway, here's a thought of one such man of our times, Gregory Dodd of Atlanta, Georgia, commenting on Flyers Faithful: "It is up to players to fulfill their end of the bargain after getting a contract. It is clear that those two players didn't in the orgs eyes. This is not going to hamper them from signing UFA's, because they will know the true behind the scenes stories that caused these moves to be made. Carter is already showing what a little bitch most of us suspected he was."
And if Ed Snider or Peter Luukko or Shawn Tilger are listening/reading, they know they have you right where they want you.
It's a sure bet that one of the three are tenting their fingers and muttering a Mr. Burns-like"eeeexcellent" while sitting in a high-backed leather chair. So do those Philly scribes who did so much to build and then stir up the hornets nest in the locker room the last two years. They want this, too -- for readership and access.
A hero is never a hero until a villain acts as counterpoint. Never mind if one (or two) has to be created.
This is your reward for blind loyalty. For taking it up the wallet when the season-ticket invoices come, when you dole out cash in the triple digits for parking, food and merchandise. For wearing that Rod Brind'Amour jersey long after its usefulness. And doing it with a smile, because the Flyers get a pass for never ever giving in to the devil word "rebuilding."
It's a constant series of tweaks, both minor and major, always intent on providing the appearance of success. The script, like a bad soap opera, is constantly re-written to paint the club as a whole committed to doing whatever is necessary -- by any means necessary -- to maintain the image of improvement.
Go ahead. Ignore the fine print. That's what they want. That keeps you hooked on faint hopes. That keeps you defending the indefensible.
Discount that his getting choked up and holding back tears might signify that he wasn't the one in control of the situation and had to do his job under orders.
Instead, remember Snider's stern warnings about the goaltending situation and keep on believing that he's really trying each year to win a Cup. Insist that Richards was a bad captain, a cancer, a quiet storm intent on tearing up team chemistry and disrupting what the veterans tried to implement. Know that Carter was a flake and a party boy.
And head right out to get your brand-new Bryzgalov, Tom Sestito, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn jerseys. You know you don't have a choice if you support your team all the way. Or do you?