Making a Case For All Four
Like any other coach in the NHL, Peter Laviolette has been juggling the starting lineup season long as is of course expected. At various times in the season different players have been healthy scratches. Having options and depth is obviously a great thing. Because of that depth, we are seeing four guys battling for a spot in the lineup. But at the the same time, nothing is ever set in stone as we saw in the playoffs last year with Carcillo and van Riemsdyk. Different playoff series may call for a different type of player.
The four guys that have found themselves in and out of the lineup this season are Daniel Carcillo, Jody Shelley, Nikolay Zherdev, and Andreas Nodl. We may see all four of them in playoff action when all is said and done. You can make a case for all four of these guys deserving a roster spot depending on what type of series or what type of game within a series the Flyers are looking at.
Danny Carcillo is the type of player that most people either love or hate. Both sides of that are understandable. Carcillo started out as a player whose ultimate goal was to break the all time NHL penalty record. He was easily stereotyped as a goon. But things have since changed. Carcillo will still drop the gloves and he still plays with an edge, but he's not running around looking for a fight all the time. In the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Carcillo was on a line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. He even scored one of the most memorable goals of an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final. Carcillo is most effective when he is drawing penalties and getting in the heads of opposing players. He also supplies a spark for the team. Last night a fight by Carcillo was enough to turn around the way the Flyers were playing. For whatever reason, his energy tends to inspire his teammates. Carcillo very rarely takes undisciplined penalties anymore. Whether you like him or not, Carcillo means a lot to the Flyers. Often times the team lacks motivation and desire at some points in a hockey game, and Carcillo is the type of player to inspire motivation in his teammates with his energy shifting fights, hits, and even goals.
The signing of Jody Shelley was a very controversial signing. It is still hard to understand why Paul Holmgren wanted Shelley so badly. Many people said it was his two goals in the last two games of the regular season last year against the Flyers that did it. Shelley has just 4 points this season (2G, 2A), so he's obviously not getting paid to score. While Shelley is a guy known for making a career out of fighting, there is much more to his game than that. You are not going to notice him on the ice as much as you do with Carcillo. He doesn't fly around the ice like a ball of energy, but he quietly does what he's supposed to do. That might sound very cliche, but it's true. Shelley is 35 years old. He has more experience than any of these four guys. Experience is not overlooked in the playoffs. You really have to be around for a while to truly understand what kind of commitment is needed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's not about playing for yourself, and with Shelley you know that he knows that. Carcillo can lose his cool at times, Nodl is actually too unselfish for his own good at times, and Zherdev often gets called out for being lazy or not playing two way hockey. Shelley's age and experience could easily give him the upper-hand.
Many stories have been written about Nikolay Zherdev this season and rightfully so. We had a whole Zherdev saga with plenty of drama involved. It almost looked like his days in Phialdelphia were done just weeks ago. The impression he left was an interesting one to say the least. But Zherdev cleared waivers and was soon needed with the Flyers again. The feeling was that the message had finally gotten through to him. It's been a message stressed season long so it's hard to believe that it would take this long for it to get through to him. It was easy to not believe that it had at all. But nevertheless Zherdev still has a shot at getting himself in the starting lineup. His upside is his goal scoring. He is an extremely talented player. Countless people have been questioning season long why he is scratched so often when the Flyers clearly need all the offense they can get. You have to worry about a lazy player player come playoff time, but sometimes the risk is worth the reward. No one else out of these four players can score like Zherdev. So despite his defensive woes, Zherdev could really bring a lot to the table in April and on.
Nodl is a player with so much potential, but sometimes you really have to wonder if he will ever live up to that potential. It's been said many times that Nodl just can't score. He can have the best opportunities ever, but he simply can't put the puck in the back of the net. He's either snake-bitten or has no finish. But at the same time, Nodl is good for another somewhat cliche reason. His biggest upsides are not going to get him noticed at all. Last year the injury bug hit the Flyers hard with injuries to Carter, Gagne, and Laperriere. For that reason, Nodl was needed and he did not disappoint. He was just great filling in on special teams play. But unfortunately for Nodl, the depth of team may hurt him the most. With so many great players to play on the power play and penalty kill, there is really no room for Nodl to get his shot at proving why he was valuable last spring. Nodl is more of an insurance player at this point, which is the situation that a case would be made for him to play. It is a long run from now through June and if the Flyers were to unfortunately deal with an injury to a forward, Nodl would deserve to be in the lineup. He may not necessarily be a guy the Flyers need right now, but when filling in for injured teammates, he does exactly what he is supposed to do.
Shelley, Carcillo, Zherdev, and Nodl are all different players. It's hard to say that there is a definite two guys that deserve to be playing and two guys that deserve to be scratched.