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Another Viewpoint: The perpetual myth of Flyer bullying

Nov 5, 2013, 4:59 PM EDT


This is a guest post from longtime reader, commenter and friend of The700Level Brent Blanchard, aka 2sentz.

This morning I was struck by how just two weeks ago, many fans and blog commenters were lamenting this team’s “lack of toughness,” then suddenly even more fans expressed outrage at Friday night’s antics. How could those views coexist? Regardless of where you stand, opinions on this underachieving team are like tracer-fire right now… winging in every direction and rarely hitting the moving target.

So really, how accurate is the Flyer’s current “bully” narrative, and how much has it tangibly hurt the team during this and the past few seasons? I was curious enough to spend almost half-a-lunch-break today researching the internet’s convenient “Flyers section,” and data indicates while their current reputation may be warranted, allegations of a tangible negative impact are not.

First, there’s penalty minutes by team. Perhaps predictably, the Flyers finished either first or second in team PIM in four of the past five years, which indicates aggressiveness, maybe even some recklessness. However, during those seasons they made the playoffs all but once, including a first-round, two second-round and a Finals appearance.

So the aggressiveness hasn’t seemed to hinder them too much… or at least not as much as holding only two solid defensemen has.

Then there’s the more literal measure of bullying and sloppy recklessness that can really hurt your team, suspensions. Over the same past five years (including start of this season), there have been 136 player suspensions for a total of 488 games (my favorite offense: “giving throat slashing motion”). Of that, the Flyers have received nine for a total of 29 games, and half of those went to their indispensable playmaker Jody Shelley.

So while the Flyers have arguably earned their fair share of suspensions, they’re not well beyond the league average, and certainly not operating roughshod with a collective cheap-shot “bullying” mentality that warrants criticism beyond any other team. There’s simply no evidence of this.

Of course there are occasional days where an untimely slash or trip leads to a critical power play. But at the end of the day, the numbers indicate—like Ray Emery, Scott Hartnell and other players have been stating—the team’s lack of ability to score and play solid D (read: talent and execution) have led to frustrations that result in fights and penalties, and not the other way around.

Nobody’s out there “gooning it up” or hurting this team with any regularity, and viewed in this context, perhaps the isolated freak-out that occurred last Friday can—as fans are hoping—actually help inspire this team without defining it. The Flyers have numerous significant issues, however aggressiveness and hard play does not appear to be one of them.

  1. BenE. - Nov 5, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    GREAT post 2sentz. Always enjoy reading you comments, as well. I think the issue is there are way too many reactionary people on this site and other message boards, as well as the Flyers’ facebook page, who pass judgment without looking at the bigger picture.

    Recently, I have seen people scapegoat Rinaldo, Sestito, Shelley, and Rosehill as problems when the team isn’t successful. It’s such an easy out to point fingers at those guys, because they only get 4-8 minutes a night. But that’s just it: they don’t see the ice that much. The Flyers weren’t faring any better last season when Wellwood, Zolnierczyk, and Fedotenko were getting those 4-8 minutes, so how can Rinaldo et. al. be the issue?

    No, fans need to start calling out the scorers who aren’t scoring, and the defensemen who aren’t playing good defense. The “goons” are the least of the Flyers’ worries right now. Rinaldo and Rosehill aren’t goons anyway. If you want a goon, look at Steve MacIntyre. At least our boys can skate, backcheck, and forecheck, which YES, are viable hockey skills. No one is “stuck in the 70s.” Not everyone is a 20-goal scorer.

    • T800m101 - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      I would take MacIntyre over many of the gutless Euros in today’s NHL.

    • Jay D - Nov 6, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Ill be the first to admit that I called Rinaldo a goon…that was before, when he was in the box 3 times a game….NOW however, I LOVE what he brings to the table. He gets the calls the other way and is definitely a solid energy player. (plus he stays out of the box now for the most part!)

      This whole flyers bullying thing, I feel is based on what type of HOCKEY fan you are. Some people go to the games wanting to see fights and huge hits, i call them the MMA hockey fans. Then there are more hockey minded fans that just want to see solid hockey play.

      So, based on what type of fan you are you tend to see things differently, and when your team blows the way we are right now things get out of hand.

      • T800m101 - Nov 6, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        Solid hockey ecompasses everything, not just a bunch of wusses dancing around the ice. You need to have skill and speed in conjunction with having a huge physical presence. Unfortunately, far too many fans of today want soft hockey, and folks, that is pseudo-hockey, whether you want to admit it or not. Those pseudo-hockey fans (most of them) have never played ice hockey in their entire lives, so their opionions are worthless.

      • Lol - Nov 6, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        It all goes back to getting the perfect mix of skinny/medium/fat players on Nintendo’s Ice Hockey.

      • Jay D - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:15 PM

        Gretzky, Lemiux, Forsberg

      • Jay D - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        to continue…

        gretzky lemiux, forsberg…they all had a “huge physical presence” didnt they?

      • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        No, JayD, but other players on the team did. You’re talking about the best players to ever play the game. I’m not sure what your point is. If there was a team of 25 Mario Lemieuxs, that’d be one thing. But there haven’t even been 25 Mario Lemieuxs in history.

        T800 said a mix of speed, skill, and physicality, and he’s absolutely right. Just like you need contact hitters, base stealers, a power hitter, and a bat off the bench in baseball.

      • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:24 PM

        It’s like saying, “oh the Red Sox didn’t need Dave Roberts.” How many bases did Albert Pujols steal?

      • Jay D - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        my bad..i read it as a individual player you need “skill, speed, and a huge physical presence”

        ha disregard my posts then

      • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        All good. Good post up above, btw. And it speaks to how reactionary some fans are and how quickly they’re willing to give up on a player after a few bad games or one season of growing pains.

      • mike - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:58 PM

        “Just like you need contact hitters, base stealers, a power hitter, and a bat off the bench in baseball”

        And let’s not forget the back up left-fielder who commits a few errors allowing the other team to take a 7-0 lead and then he punches the opposing team’s pitcher in the head a few times.

      • T800m101 - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:43 PM

        Surprise surprise, mike once again shows his intellectual dishonesty. You’re really are an ignorant buffoon.

    • sfsu - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      “I think the issue is there are way too many reactionary people on this site”, says BenE

      • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:40 PM


        I react to the reactors

  2. mikepullan - Nov 5, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    Forgive me. I’m about to brush with some broad strokes:

    There has to be a difference between playing in a city with a fan base like Philadelphia and in a city like Dallas where the hockey team can be an afterthought. Is it possible that the added pressure from fans and (probably more so) the media means our players are more prone to these sort of meltdowns? (It felt like a meltdown to me, anyway.)

    I’ve been watching this team for 20 years, and I don’t FEEL like we’re more violent than other teams. At the same time though, when I think back to all the specifically violent moments in hockey a lot of it is centered around Philadelphia. (The Ottawa Brawl, Hextall/Goalie Fighting, The Broadstreet Bullies, This) Maybe this is a result of me watching mostly Flyers games, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is different here, and I just don’t know anything else.

    If that is the case though, we can all agree that it’s Howard Eskin’s fault.

    • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      Good post, the Flyers are definitely not more dirty than other teams. They’re probably average when it comes to dirty plays. The Flyers are usually among the league leaders in fights, but they’re always (sans Emery) fights between two willing combatants looking to set the tone for their teams or responding to a big hit.

      As far as the passion of the fans goes, the Flyers are far and away one of the best-supported franchises in the NHL. Unfortunately, that means a lot of dickheads come out of the woodwork spouting off at the mouth, trying to out-Eagle Eagles fans after every loss or brawl. No one likes the fact that the Flyers are losing. But I appreciate when I see someone — anyone — refuse to take a blowout loss lying down, especially at home.

      As for violent moments in hockey, there are far too many to name and too many criteria. You can just as easily say most of it has nothing to do with Philly, like I happen to believe. Milbury going into the stands, Hunter attacking Turgeon, Bertuzzi suckerpunching Moore, McSorley two handing Brashear, Simon two-handing Hollweg…these are all brutal, “extra curricular” attacks outside the confines of the game itself. The brawls you mentioned simply happen in hockey, as a result of the game itself. The 2004 brawl vs Ottawa got more out of hand the longer it went on, but most of the fights were between willing combatants. There wasn’t anything inherently dirty about it. No one was suckerpunched or attacked outside the confines of the game. And everyone loved it.

  3. FlyersFan - Nov 6, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    What bullying? People need to stop with that nonsense. Emery skated the length of the ice to get to Holtby. Holtby had PLENTY of time to prepare himself for what he and everyone else in the building was coming. Emery cannot be blamed for Holtby’s cowardice and that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so.

    • willh888 - Nov 6, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      Some people made it seem like Emery flew from the rafters like the blue blazer

    • Jay D - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      Sooooo if mike tyson came running at me it would be fine as long as i had time to defend myself?!!?

      Holtby obviously didnt want anypart of emery, who would?! Most people know he’s big into boxing and all.
      So anyone saying he HAD to fight emery just because emery was coming at him…thats ridiculous.

  4. willh888 - Nov 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    This topic added to the Emery Rule post just makes me think (again) the NHL doesn’t give two squirts about safety (sup NFL) only their image. Auto ten games for a goalie skating the length of the ice, but zero games for a classy guy like Alfredson’s two handed cross check to a “goons” face. It’s not like this crap is caught on some mystery film that disappears after 1 hour. So many dangerous plays in hockey (slew foot, sloppy boarding, matt cook karate kick to the achillies) that could end someones season/career that garner what, 1 game.. two games? Didn’t Harry Z get the biggest suspension of the year by that point for a charging penalty you see twice a week? What did Candy Corn Kessel get for his baseball bat swings? couple pre season games? It’s never about safety, always about image. That’s why the Flyers are looked as as goons, then instantly lazy and not-so-intense, then like goons again when Emery wants to shake a dude. Don’t worry though, Shanahan chimed in on a sloppy goalie fight but makes excuses for countless other things

    • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Lmao, Candy Corn Kessel?

      I hate that guy. He needs a stick in the teeth following by a mugging for all the dirty stick work.

      By the way, I still contend that amongst all the Kaletas and Ruutus in the NHL, Geno Malkin is still the dirtiest player in the league. But he gets a pass because he has won the Hart Trophy.

      • willh888 - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        Yeah Downsface McElbows knows how to sneak ‘em in better than anyone. Kessel just looks like a gremlin troll that would hoard wooden buckets of candy corn.

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