NHL DRAFT: The Weak Shall Inherit The Earth

BY MIKE WOLVERTON The Flyers sucked last year. Credit them for consistency, though, as they sucked early on, sucked in the middle and sucked straight on through to the end. Hey, it saved all of us the pain of watching them take a dirtnap in the playoffs. The fact is, the Flyers have been a flawed team ever since The Strike Season, andĀ ever since then they’ve been too big and slow to deal with the escalating metabolism of the “New Faster, More Agile NHL.” Mercifully, the makeover has already begun.

Ever since Messier brought the Stanley Cup to NYC, the Flyers have been trying to catch the same lightning-in-a-bottle, bringing in one “veteran star” after another (Roenick, Amonte, Forsberg, etc.). I was thrilled when they moved Forsberg last February to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, star prospect Ryan Parent and 2 draft picks. All that for a player who is now out of contract and may retire. Last week they sent one of those picks back to the Predators for the rights to two studs, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, whom they then signed to long-term deals. The Forsberg move alone has remade the franchise. Of those four, only Timonen is over 25.

The silver lining in all this suckitude is the Flyers picked 2nd in this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft (Philly actually had the league’s worst record, but the Blackhawks got lucky in the draft lottery). This draft was much weaker than previous seasons, with no Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin available, but there were 3 strong forwards and the top of the heap. And the Flyers went for the Jersey boy, taking James van Riemsdyk from Middletown, NJ. He’s described as a “prototypical power forward” who may need a couple years to fill out his 6’3″ frame before he’s ready for the NHL. He’s slated to play for the University of New Hampshire next year.

There wasn’t too much drama at the draft, aside from the slide of 17-year-old Russian star Alexei Cherapanov, who annoyingly ended up with the Rangers. There was a little comedy, mostly the sniggers and giggles that greeted the LA Kings GM when they made their 4th overall pick. And there was the mind-numbing boredom brought on every time Commissioner Gary Bettman opened his mouth.

To get myself, um, in the mood for the Draft, I watched the NHL Awards show, the closest thing we have to Viagra for hockey fans. I know this event is a big deal in Canada, but I couldn’t believe the first thirty minutes of the telecast came from the “Red Carpet,” as Goons and Gals arrived in their various finery. One of the “reporters” covering the event was Tyler Stewart, the drummer from Barenaked Ladies, whose big hit may match the duration of Stewart’s broadcasting career (OK, I’ll give it to you — “One Week”). Presenters included the guy from that show “Ed,” some guy I’ve never heard of from “Prison Break,” and a lady wrestler. I know it’s Canada, but this is all you’ve got? I will say I got a kick out of seeing Canadian TV/radio personality George Stroumboulopoulos and his amazing 17-letter last name. I’m wondering whether that’s the only reason he’s “famous” and whether he threw in all those extra ‘u’s just to get to 17.

Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby won the Hart Trophy (League MVP), the Art Ross (Top Scorer) and the Lester Pearson (Outstanding Player as selected by the Players Union), the last of which shows he’s already got the respect of his peers. For all the talk about LeBron James dominating his sport, LeBron is 22 and has never won league MVP. Crosby is only 19. Impressive.

Finally, I’d like to thank my TiVo, which contributed greatly to this article. Without it that draft would have been unwatchable.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Wolverton spent two seasons as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Atlantic City Surf and has also had stints as an official scorer, public address announcer and two years as a hockey broadcaster. This year he is play-by-play announcer and official scorer of his newborn son. In between, he will be writing about sports for Phawker.

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