Friday, May 28, 2010
It's that glorious time of year again, when we spring headfirst into the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course, I'm not springing anywhere. I'm currently recovering from extensive knee surgery and have few lucid moments between doses of painkillers. And most of those lucid moments are taken up by playing UNO with my niece and nephew with whom I have been staying (and they totes cheat). Or begging Cindy Crosby the French Bulldog not to chew her nylabone on the swollen, bloody limb that is my knee joint. So before the percocets kick in and I lose any more of my kneecap, let's look at the Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers.
Why You Should Root For Them
The Flyers legendarily bruising "Broad Street Bully" history gives them a lot of street cred to coast on. Remember when Homer sold his soul to the devil on The Simpsons, and the devil had a trial that included Hell's jury? Lumped in with Lizzie Borden and John Wilkes Booth? You guessed it: the starting lineup of the 1976 Flyers. If you like bloody, beat-down hockey, the spectre of the olde-tyme Flyers is enough for you to hop on the band wagon. And while the current Flyers boast some baddies like Daniel Carcillo and pesty pests like Ian Laperriere and Arron Asham, they aren't nearly as violent as the classic Flyers. But management has done a nice job of putting together a blue collar, grinding, scrappy lil' team that bears some fingerprints of the Bullies of yore. After all, it takes an immeasurably tough team to come back from a 3-0 deficit versus the Boston Bruins. This is largely because the Flyers have some of the most complete players in the league. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne (more on him later), Scotty Hartnell pretty much embody the New NHL player. Each guy is multi-dimensional, responsible on both ends, and will chew through a wall to win. Which makes for a very likable, easy-to-root-for team (and as a New Yorker, you know how it rends me to say something positive about a Philadelphia-related team, besides the detectives on Cold Case). All of the players really seem to buy into the team concept, Miracle-style. So there really isn't a flashy, selfish douchebag (yes, yes, Pronger, but he's not exactly selfish, is he?). And they have two possible future superstars in Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk. Plus, there have been some feel-good stories in goal, with the redemption (before his injury) of oldie Brian Boucher and the rise of young'un Mike Leighton. Both have had moments of dominance and it's been great to watch. And finally, although Mike Richards is the embodiment of a Home Depot Husband, he is not my favorite Flyer. I have a raging hockey boner for Simon Gagne and I always have. For clarification purposes, please note that I do not want to bang him. I am simply enamored with the way this guy plays hockey. And I have whined and ranted in the past about how underrated he is as a player, and finally, everyone else is seeing what I've seen for years (and hopefully this Stanley Cup Final will be his Henrik Zetterberg moment). He plays two-way hockey really well for someone who is touted as a scorer. He's just caught a raw deal with the myriad injuries he's faced throughout his career. But when he's upright, he's a major player. But we may need to have a discussion about that Pat Riley hair...
Why You Shouldn't Root For Them
Well, they're from Philly. So, there's that, of course. Plus, Chris Pronger is on the team. Pronger is easily one of the least likable players in the NHL, given his continued dirty play, his hero worship by commentators, the Edmonton Oilers scandal, the babymaking-with-teenagers rumors, his bewildering insistence on getting the same haircut as former First Lady Laura Bush, the fact that his front teeth have never met, and his dirty, dirty play. Plus, he's good. Which makes his laundry list of repugnancies even tougher to tolerate. Also, Danny Briere is a diver. If people want to continue insisting that Cindy Crosby is a diver and a whiner than those same people also have to save a pair of Speedos and a hankie for lil' Danny Briere. Then there is the rumors that the team was suffering from too many beer busts and beaver hunting. And the rumor about Jeff Carter and Scotty Hartnell's wife. Yikes. Double yikes considering the Flyers have been torn asunder before by teammates allegedly boffing other teammates' wives. But in all honesty, aside from their hometown, there aren't all that many glaring reasons to root against the Flyers, because, all Prongers aside, they are a pretty likable team. The biggest hurdle they face is that the Blackhawks have a better storyline than they do. It's kind of tough to root against the Blackhawks and therefore, tough to root for the Flyers.