Late last evening the Philadelphia Flyers and winger, Wayne Simmonds, agreed to a 6-year extension that would keep him in Philadelphia till 2018-2019.
The new deal, to some, ended a disappointing offseason for the Flyers’ front office and GM Paul Holmgren. Many, including myself, believe that Simmonds’ new deal has helped turn the disappointment of failed signings into a moral victory for the summer.
Holmgren has given out four extensions this summer. Three of those extensions are to young players such as Jakub Voracek, Marc-Andre Bourdon, and Simmonds. The other extension was to coach Peter Laviolette. All four of the extensions were given to players who had exceeded expectations in 2011-2012 and a coach who has been very underrated over the past couple of seasons. The problem I have with long term extensions is that the fan base can get fed up with players who do not perform to their liking.
Signing players such as Simmonds and Voracek, who have never performed this way in their careers, only adds more pressure for them to duplicate or even better their accomplishments.
Simmonds recorded 49 points last season while tallying 28 goals, eleven of them being on the man advantage. Scoring 28 goals is a great accomplishment for a hockey player, but sustaining these statistics are the problem. Last year was the first time that Simmonds has played an entire regular season since his rookie year in 2008-2009. What is overlooked by many is the fact that Simmonds recorded 40 points in 78 games on a disappointing Los Angeles Kings team in 2009-2010. His goal total was lower but his plus/minus was plus-23 higher than it was a year ago. Does this define a bad season for Simmonds? No it does not, but it only adds more pressure for the soon-to-be 24 year old to perform.
Voracek played very well in 2011-2012. His point total was identical to that of his days with the Columbus Blue Jackets. This season Voracek will most likely be lined up along side Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell on the front line. He will have to fill the skates of future Hall of Famer, Jaromir Jagr. Scoring 49 points with the second and third lines is great for Czech Republic native, who celebrated his twenty-third birthday yesterday, but trying to duplicate those numbers will be even harder with the added pressure of playing the role of Jagr on the young front line. Do I believe Voracek can score 65 points? You better believe it. But the pressure from Flyers’ fans could cause a young player to cave in.
Bourdon was a wonderful surprise on defense a year ago. Since Matt Carle signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning and with injuries to players’ such as Andrej Meszaros and Andreas Lilja, the Flyers will likely play Bourdon in one of the starting defensive pairings. He played well in limited time last season, but the pressure to perform to the level of Meszaros, Lilja and Carle is increasing with the regular season around the corner.
Laviolette took over as Flyers’ head coach in the middle of the 2009-2010 season. He led the Flyers in his first season to their first Stanley Cup since 1996-1997. Though they lost, Laviolette’s teams have not disappointed Flyers’ fans as much because they have reached the second round in the last two years. But by doing that, it leaves the fans hungry for more. That is why there is even more pressure for Laviolette this season. When news broke that he signed an extension in early August, many of the Flyers’ faithful were pleased. I for one believe that there is a whole lot of pressure on the coach to give the city the one thing that they have been drooling over for years and that is a Stanley Cup victory.
Because of the extensions that Holmgren and the Flyers’ organization handed out, the pressure to win has increased even more for coach Laviolette and players such as Simmonds and Voracek. Signing players to long extensions has not worked out for the Flyers recently. If this roster does not win in the next five years, look for a change in the direction of the team. If the NHL is locked out for half of the season, the Flyers could be best suited for a chance at a title run. Given the fact that they are young and have playoff experience, the fans in the city will be even hungrier for a Stanley Cup, thus increasing the pressure. But remember one thing, pressure brings out the best in everyone.
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