On Wednesday, our pals over at Bleeding Green Nation, SBNation’s Eagles site, asked the following question: which Eagles opinion were you most wrong about? Since we aren’t all doing enough self-loathing in this extremely anxious time in history, it’s good to think upon a time when we thought something was going to happen and it straight up did not.
Well, congrats to our friends on a good idea, because we’re stealing it. So! What was the Flyers opinion you were most wrong about? A signing, a trade, a draft pick, a coach, a moment — what was something that you thought to be true that just totally ended up not being the case?
There are a few options for me (it’s crazy, because most of my opinions are extremely good, but things happen), but I’ll say mine is that ... I thought the Vincent Lecavalier signing was going to be good.
The Lecavalier signing was a shock to all of us. A couple of weeks after the Flyers bought out long-time forward Danny Briere in a totally expected move, the conventional wisdom was that the team would probably roll with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier down the middle, in some order. Then, a few days after the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out one of the most memorable, highest-profile players in their team’s history, the Flyers went and added him on a five-year, $22.5 million deal. Lecavalier had a number of good offers, but apparently wanted to play with then-coach Peter Laviolette.
Not everyone loved the move. But I thought that the Flyers had added a good player that the Lightning had to let go of because his contract was too expensive and too long, but that he could absolutely still play, was still a legit scoring threat, and would add some firepower to a lineup that could certainly use it. He could be a good veteran to have around for the likes of Schenn and Couturier, who were both (considered at the time to be) centers in their early 20s. And sure, the term was worrisome for a 33-year old, but the cap hit was solid for a guy who you figured would be a second-line center, and if he ages gracefully and you get three or four good seasons, that’s a win on a five-year deal.
In hindsight ...
Should it have been a bigger red flag that the Lightning were willing to pay nearly $33 million to an all-time franchise icon so that he would not play for their team? Were there better ways to spend Briere’s buyout money than on a similarly-aged, slower version of Briere? Was it maybe a bad idea to put stock into Lecavalier’s good relationship with a coach the the Flyers were clearly ready to fire? Should I have maybe watched a few more Tampa games and seen that the guy had clearly lost a few steps, or put more stock into his growing injury history? Were there established warning signs in his play at 5-on-5 that I glossed over because he was still scoring? Would it have been a better idea to maybe give Brayden Schenn another crack at center with better two-way linemates?
Maybe so. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe so.
Anywho, you know the rest. Lecavalier somehow managed to pull 20 goals in his first year with the Flyers, largely due to some good performance on the power play, but it became clear quickly that he was an absolute anchor at even-strength. After a lot of shuffling, he found himself on the fourth line (with Zac Rinaldo!) by the end of that season. Craig Berube finally bit the bullet and scratched him during the following season, and he was in and out of the lineup from there before the team managed to offload him in January 2016 to an L.A. Kings squad that thought he could help their playoff push. (And not just offload him, but get actual things for him! Jordan Weal! And a draft pick!)
Did this end up being a huge deal? No, probably not as much as it could have been. Lecavalier’s contract did play a part in the Flyers not making any big moves in the 2014 and 2015 offseasons, but given what we have since learned about Ron Hextall, chances are he wasn’t exactly planning to use that space on much special anyways. As soon as the team recognized that he was pretty much a sunk cost, they largely stopped trying to shoehorn him into meaningful minutes. The trade with L.A. worked out for them, and since he retired following that 2016 postseason with two years left on his deal, the Flyers were freed from the portion of his cap hit that they retained in the trade. So this could have been much worse. Nonetheless ... it was bad.
So that’s mine. I considered instead mentioning that I thought Steve Mason was going to be bad as a Flyer, because I definitely did, but a) I’ve written that article before, and b) compared to what I’ve described above, I do not feel nearly as bad about thinking that a goaltender who was bad for 90% of his career before coming to Philadelphia was magically going to be successful. Though I’m very glad that he, for the most part, was.
But that’s what I’ve got. What about you? What’s your most wrong Flyers opinion? Tell us in the comments here. Or on Twitter. Or write us a letter and put it in the mailbox and see what happens.