Friday, February 24, 2012

Carter, Richards and the Orange and Black oasis of LA

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Now that Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have been reunited after a long, torturous eight months apart, the NHL's most passionate Bromance is free to continue.

In a serious understatement, Carter said this upon the revelation of the deal: "I am obviously excited. I am familiar with the team and a lot of guys on the team."

And how.

It's hard not to notice what's going on out in Los Angeles. It's as if the Kings are an incubator, or dare I say it, a rehab space, for former Philadelphia Flyers.

Though Serenity Knolls it's not -- and despite the fact that stories of the Terror Twins tearing through Olde City are legion -- it's becoming very obvious that the future of the Crowned Ones is hitched to Eastern stars.

With the addition of Carter from Columbus on Thursday night, that brings the total number of former Philadelphia players on the roster to four (Simon Gagne and Justin Williams are the others). Add to that, former head coach and assistant Terry Murray and John Stevens presided over the club at the start of the season, and that LA's assistant GM is none other than Ron Hextall and its general manager is former scout Dean Lombardi, and no wonder it's being called Philadelphia West.

So what if this is no accident? What if it really is meant to be that so many ex-Flyers wind up on the Left Coast? And what if this is just a pit stop for the one-time babyfaced assassins who roamed the ice, the bars and frat parties "back home?"

The New York Yankees wouldn't have been as good as they were in the late 1950s and early 1960's if the franchise hadn't struck an "agreement" with the Kansas City Athletics. The skids were greased because then-Yanks owner Dan Topping persuaded friend Arnold Johnson to buy the A's from Connie Mack and relocate to Western Missouri in 1954.

Over the next six seasons, a suspicious number of players saw "playing time" in Kansas City before being called back to the big leagues: Bob Cerv, Clete Boyer, Billy Martin, Ralph Terry, Hank Bauer and the most famous of all in the pipeline, Roger Maris.

The Flyers are notorious for finding willing trade partners whose influence will not affect the club's playoff hopes in the East. Phoenix and Nashville had gained Most Favored status in recent years, up until a virtual Breakaway Republic gravitated away from Philadelphia and out to Southern California.

Now, with the sweet set-up in Los Angeles, the possibility of being burned through trade has been eliminated. There's a ready-made feeder system in place. And two new projects have popped up on the radar.

“He made a long-term commitment to Philadelphia," said Jackets GM Scott Howson. "It was hard for him to deal with the trade [from Philadelphia to Columbus]."

Given that obvious fact, it's hard not to think of the former 2003 draft picks as waiting to be molded back into the kind of players (and for that matter, men) who will be ready to return to the Flyers with more seasoning and maturity.

They're in the best possible environment now, far away from the passionate but fickle fans and the intrusive media here, under the wing of simpatico front office personnel. It's an audition as much as it is a convalescence. What happens from now on is up to them, and any distractions and blame can't be directed anywhere but on their own heads.

With any luck, in four or five years, sometime close to the end of their original decade-long contracts Paul Holmgren awarded them, Carter and Richards will ride back out of the sunset. It'll be a fiery orange ball of glory directed to the Quaker City. And, sufficiently chastened, they'll be able to capture the magic of the 2010 playoff run on a more consistent basis.

The waiting is always the hardest part.
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