An optimist would believe that Dean Lombardi acquires former Flyers because he values the identity that is instilled in them from their time in Philadelphia; the culture. It would be a bit disheartening to think that Lombardi keeps adding players from his former employer out of neurotically compulsive myopia, psychopathic reminiscence or mystic notions of energy abortion that would be more becoming on a gypsy than a GM.
To believe it a coincidence would just be stupid.
The Kings’ GM is quite upfront about his love of Flyer’s hockey. He has mentioned that word, culture, in reference to and with reverence of the club that once called him ‘scout’ several times. Many have dubbed the Los Angeles Kings as ‘Flyer’s West’, and with good reason. Denis Gauthier, Michal Handzus, Justin Williams, Terry Murray, John Steven, Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and now Jeff Carter. I think there were more I missed too. We make jokes, just two days ago it was ‘Jeff Carter. Former Flyer, check. Injured, check. It’s a perfect fit!’ The best jokes have a degree of truth to them. This one has more than a degree.
Why does Dean Lombardi love former Flyers? You may say “because he wants to emulate the Flyers!”, but truly, Lombardi has done anything but that in building this team.
The Flyer’s play a cruel game. Their strength is speed and hounding the net. They attack like a swarm and for years, struggled to succeed because they didn’t put enough emphasis on defense and goaltending. They were all about the forwards, baby. In a sense, they still are. Though they made the big move to get Chris Pronger, even many of their trades for defenseman have been for the offensive type. Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen and now Pavel Kubina. They must have players up front and on the backend who can mesh well into their high octane brand of hockey. Score a goal and ask questions later.
Meanwhile, Dean has strategically done the opposite to the Kings. He has mostly acquired defensive defensemen, Greene, Mitchell, Scuderi, Gauthier, Brad Stuart, Sean O’Donnell. Sure he traded for Jack Johnson and drafted some offensive types, but the goal was always balance. However the goal is damned when the effect is that by keeping the veterans as all defensive types, he has had his young offensive defenseman learning strictly from defensive defensemen. The theory is that it allows the young guns to run wild, but the truth is that it helps further define the team defensively.
That was no mistake. He brought in Terry Murray strictly to do just that, shore up the defense. He hired Darryl Sutter to continue that tradition.
At forward, he has always asked that his centers and wingers become more defensively responsible. You have never heard Lombardi say something like “we want Kopitar to dominate defensemen down low and be a top scorer in this league” because he never said anything like that. He wanted Kopitar to learn to defend against the other offensive dynamos, Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf, etc. Never to match them in offensive prowess, merely to contain it. He traded away Brian Boyle, Mike Cammalleri and Teddy Purcell because their strength was offense with not enough attention to defense. He let Matt Moulson go without a care for the same reason.
That is not the Flyer way.
The Flyers are a team that likes to mix dazzling offensive skill with raw brutality. We are a team that likes to mix sound defensive reads with character and grit… Compete. The Flyers’ motto isn’t ‘compete’, it’s ‘wear those assholes down’.
We kind of had that team the last two years. Frolov, Handzus, Smyth. These were guys built to wear you down, though mostly through lower halves built like tree trunks and not the dominating physicality that the Flyers employ. We may be tops in the league in hitting, but I’m not talking about hitting. I’m talking about battling. I’m talking about fighting for the inches of ice that get you closer to the front of the net. We don’t have that. That is not our identity and no matter how many former Flyers you tack on to this team, that doesn’t make it anymore our identity.
Are you confused about what kind of team the Kings are supposed to be? Me too.
First we were supposed to be a grind it out down low team. Then we were supposed to be a more skilled team. Meanwhile all we are is a defensive team and all the GM talks about is modeling the team after another team that in no way resembles anything that has been done to this team.
So you may say that trading for Jeff Carter brings us more towards that offensive team but truly it just means we added another former Flyer. The team’s identity doesn’t change. The culture and intention didn’t change. If anything it only got more confused. The Flyers are 1st in offense. We are 30th.
You can cut down a tree and bring it to the city, but it won’t turn the city into a forest.