I was working the early morning shift for a couple of days last week, so I left the Flyers / Canucks game on Thursday a little early.
I left during the first intermission, and hoping to catch up with Rob Larson, I went down to the dressing room area. While down there, I saw Adam Brash, head in his hands, sitting forlornly in the hallway. He looked depressed, frankly, and I’m not sure I can blame him. Here’s a guy with a lot of pressure on him this year. The Flyers are guaranteed a spot in the Allan Cup, but they have made it very clear, they want to win. And at this point, the team that just isn’t coming together like it needs to.
The Flyers have added a bunch of key guys this year. Their defensive corps has the depth that was lacking last year, and a few more scoring forwards will help put pucks in the net (particularly on the powerplay) when it counts. On paper, we now have a team that really should be able to compete for a national championship.
But, while they looked good against Augustana College a couple of weeks ago, the Flyers have been seriously struggling in NPHL regular season games.
Now, firstly, we have to point out, that some of these teams they’re facing are better than we sometimes make out. Grande Prairie and Spirit River were the two best teams at Alberta ‘AA’ provincials last year. A bunch of the Rangers have gone to Hythe, and now the Mustangs have some high-end talent to go along with their blue-collar work ethic. The Senior Canucks already have 8 wins on the season (8-5-1 heading into Thursday’s game against Fort St. John). They’re tied with Grande Prairie for first in the West, and have added a few more guys (including Kip Noble), making them worthy competition.
But, the Flyers will be the first to point out; the competition is still not at the national ‘AAA’ level, and losing to the Mustangs and Canucks shows that the Flyers need to find their game, and in a hurry.
It’s tough to figure out just what’s going wrong with this team. Sure, if Troy Hunt had been in net, there’s no way they would have lost those games to Hythe. But, can Sweden blame Tommy Salo for their quarterfinal loss to Belarus in the 2002 Olympics? The answer is no. Good teams find a way to win, regardless of goaltending, refereeing, or bad bounces. If you’re so much better, then don’t be tied 3-3 heading into the dying minutes of the game.
The Flyers demonstrated what I’m talking about the next night, when they killed off a few bad penalties late in the game, and beat the Mustangs 5-4. It was a bounceback night for the Flyers – and here’s what Adam Brash said after Friday’s win.
There’s still a lot of building to do, and a long way to go, and I’m sure this weekend’s games (Thursday in Dawson Creek, Saturday vs. Hythe) will be steps in the right direction.
But, what Adam Brash is lamenting, is that the Flyers don’t seem to sense the urgency. AB will be the first to point out (and has to me several times) that you can’t expect this team to simply turn it on in April. Commitment to winning that National Championship starts now. It’s tough when you’re playing against inferior teams. It’s tough when you’ve been kicked out of the playoffs. It’s tough when April seems so far away. The thing is, April is going to sneak up on these guys in a real hurry, and if they don’t start getting their act together, it will be too late.
I’m looking forward to seeing them play on Thursday. I’m hoping last week’s loss to Dawson really was rock bottom. I’m hoping these guys will come together, will find whatever’s missing. Too bad you can’t just hope a national championship.