The Philadelphia Flyers have had quite an impressive turnaround this season. The club started the year off with a miserable slump, one that eventually cost former coach Peter Laviolette his job. Captain Claude Giroux, however, claimed he still expected the Flyers to make the playoffs. It seemed laughable at the time, but lo and behold, Philadelphia is currently sitting at sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. There’s still a chance they could fall out of the postseason picture in these final weeks, but the complete turnaround after the awful start to the season is quite impressive.
One player who hasn’t really been a huge factor in the upswing was offseason acquisition Vincent Lecavalier. The Flyers came out of nowhere in the bidding war for the former Tampa Bay Lightning captain, signing him to a five-year, $22.5 million contract this summer. However, he hasn’t exactly lived up to the money he’s getting.
Currently, Lecavalier has 15 goals and 30 points in 59 games played. For a reference point, he achieved 32 points last season and it took him 20 less games to do it. His plus/minus rating is a rough -16, good for lowest on the entire team. These stats alone certainly imply that Lecavalier isn’t exactly earning his keep. However, his time in Philadelphia just took another blow today.
It was announced by coach Craig Berube that Lecavalier will be bumped all the way down to the fourth line for tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. To the surprise of nobody, local media claimed he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the news. Making things worse, when asked if he expected more from Lecavalier this year, Berube simply said, “I think we all did.”
Yikes. So now the Flyers will have a player making $4.5 million this year on their fourth line. He’ll be skating next to Zac Rinaldo (making $750,000 this season) and Adam Hall (making $600,000). As you can see, there’s a slight discrepancy in respective yearly salaries on this line.
Philadelphia has made a name for themselves when it comes to throwing a lot of money at free agents and having it backfire – see: Bryzgalov, Ilya – but this is a little more upsetting. Though Lecavalier is 33-years-old and has been in the NHL for 14 seasons, he’s been a high-quality player for many years now. He’s also a proven locker-room leader, as indicated by his multiple years as Tampa Bay’s captain. Now, with his obvious disapproval of the demotion, you have to wonder if that aspect of his game might take a significant hit.
It’s easy to understand the Flyers position in this situation. They’re paying Lecavalier a good chunk of money, and aren’t getting much in return. A message needed to be sent, and it can be tough to do that with a player who’s been in the league for so long. Judging by his reaction, it certainly sounds like the Flyers got their point across to Lecavalier by moving him down.
There’s still some time to try and rebound from this rough season. Nothing catches the eyes of the higher-ups like an impressive postseason performance, which is something Lecavalier is definitely capable of. At this point, despite the fact that things took a downward turn for Lecavalier today, the only thing he can do is continue trying to contribute and hopefully dig himself out of the mud. Otherwise, Philadelphia may find themselves trying to get out of another ill-advised contract once again.