Friday, October 19, 2007

Appetizing Flyers Flying Under Radar

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

Like a day-old cheesesteak, the approaching winter season of sports in Philadelphia really had an air of queasiness for a while.

As “As the Reid Turns” proceeds, to many fans’ dismay, the same pass-happy episode of “I have to do a better job” continues to play out each week. Frankly, the show needs a new script.

The Phillies party of September has now become the hangover of October, which could very well lead to severe indigestion come New Year’s if dollars are not spent on holes that need to be filled.

The Sixers…(urp)…there’s that indigestion again…

But a funny thing happened on the way to a gaseous Philly Fall: a feel-good story broke out.

The Flyers, coming off its worst season in its 40-year existence have, every-so-subtlely, given area sports fans a reason to remain an area sports fan this fall.

And they’re doing it in true Philly phashion.

Their biggest new star, Daniel Briere, also happens to be their smallest. It also took nine years (including more than five in virtual obscurity with Phoenix) before he tallied more than even 65 points in a season. Now 30 - but still looking 18 - the switch finally turned on for Briere last season with Buffalo and hasn’t turned off to date.

Then there’s 26 year-old defenseman Randy Jones, whom the Flyers scooped up as an undrafted free agent in 2003, is averaging a point a game through the first six – only 16 behind his career high for a season - and just a couple weeks from “Randy Who?” becoming a thing of the past.

Or those like Finnish import Lasse Kukkonen, who shows that accumulating points (he has zero) aren’t the only way to have an impact (he’s second on the team with a plus-7).

Meanwhile, Marty Biron, who spent more than half his 12-year career toiling in the shadows of future Hall of Famer Dominic Hasek, is fresh off two consecutive shutouts and doing his best brick wall impersonation. Finally with the goalie spotlight all to himself, Biron is proving that longstanding potential can always come to fruition – even if it takes a decade or so.

Add those ingredients to a nice assortment of youth (a Phantoms champs reunion of ’07 holdovers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and R.J. Umberger) to an array of veteran savvy (the versatile and gritty Sami Kapanen, along with proven leaders Derian Hatcher, Jason Smith and Kimmo Timonen), mix well and what do you have?

Who the hell knows. Too early to say. But so far, my appetite’s been quenched.

So for those in Philly who have run out of Tums, there may be refreshing, indigestion-free salvation yet this winter. And so far, they’re flying under the radar.

No comments: