Imagine you had a car. Granted, it wasn’t a new car. It had it’s problems, and it had been in the family a long time. Even so it was your car. It had taken you places as a kid. You remember having a blast on trips to the shore and sleeping in the back after trips to the city kept you out late. You had gotten it from your parents as a graduation present and worked your butt off to get it into working order. You got a new sound-system first, followed by new paint and new seats. It wasn’t originally yours, but you made it yours.
One day you lent it to a friend who had something important to do. You put your trust and your keys in that friends hand hoping everything would be alright. He returned to you in a cab with a tow-truck following behind. The front-end of your car was completely shot, but he promised he’d pay for the damages.
That car was the Philadelphia Flyers and that friend was the organization. That accident was of course the 2006-07 season. It was the worst season in franchise history; a permanent black-mark on the storied history of one the greatest organizations the NHL has ever seen. There was solace in the fact that they intended to make it up to us; to pay for the damages so to speak. At the time we thought they never could never make it up to us. They handed us our check, James van Riemsdyk, but said we’d have to wait until they had the money in their account before we could cash it. We weren’t exactly pleased, but it was the best we could get. In an attempt to make it up to us even further they popped the hood themselves and grabbed a wrench. They got it into working order and running once again. The engine (Richards) and the wheels (Gagne and Carter) were patched up and put back together, better than ever. The new steering wheel (Briere) was put in place to keep the car going in the right direction. The front-end was reattached (Hartnell) and new gauges were put in (Timonen and Coburn) to make sure nothing went wrong. The headlights (Giroux), that were ordered long ago, finally came in and were installed so you could see the road clearly at night. Finally it looked like the last little bits were in place when the breaks (Pronger) were re-attached to keep you safe, and the shock-absorbers (Emery) were installed in an attempt to make the road a little less bumpy.
It still wasn’t perfect. There weren’t necessarily any real problems, but it still wasn’t the same car, so you waited for that check to clear so it could be incredible once again.
The fans of Philadelphia have waited two years for James van Riemsdyk. After getting drafted second overall behind Patrick Kane in 2007, there were high hopes for the kid. He was embraced in Philadelphia though originally a Rangers’ fan, but doubts started to creep up as we watched Kane take the NHL by storm while JVR spent his days enjoying the college life at the University of New Hampshire. The media played off of Paul Holmgren’s comments, making it appear as though the organization was unhappy with Riemer’s decision.
Still, the kid returned to college for another year. The fans were even less pleased now. Giroux was enough to divert our attention for a while, but it wasn’t our big paycheck for the black year.
JVR carried the UNH on his back alone to the playoffs, but we complained that he didn’t put up as many points as the other NCAA stars. He became one of the highest scoring Americans ever in the World Junior Championships putting his name among legends, but we complained that he didn’t bring home a medal. As doubt continued to seep through the cracks the media played off it more and more. “Van Riemsdyk must be a bust if he can’t dominate the junior hockey world like Claude Giroux.”
Finally, Riemer signed a contract with the Flyers. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but no one knew what to expect. He promised he’d come into camp with the only one goal on his mind: to make the opening day roster. We blew that off as a false promise because we knew in our heads it would take time for him to progress into NHL form.
We started to get excited though when he scored a goal for the Phantoms before the end of their season. Then of course he followed a solid prospect camp with a great rookie camp. He took over the rookie scrimmage against the Capitals by scoring four of the seven goals (two were absolutely beautiful) and making a dazzling assist on another. We started to take another look and wonder if he actually had what it took to make the team.
He then went into training camp on a line with Giroux and Briere. He found instant chemistry with the two smaller forwards, and the crowds at camp cheered. In his first preseason game he started on a line with Carter and Hartnell. Of course he found chemistry with them and scored the first goal of the Flyers’ preseason. He followed it up with two more solid outings in the and was tried with Richards as well as Gagne at various points during camp.
Last night, during his first Flyers game at the Wachovia Center he gave the home crowd something to cheer for as he netted two more goals on a line with Giroux and Pyorala. The Flyers beat down the Red Wings, and now fans are screaming for more. They want more James van Riemsdyk. It’s now up to the organization to keep their promise to play JVR if he performs well in camp.
Is this what it feels like to be those spoiled brats, the Pittsburgh Penguins? One day their parents won the lottery and gave them a choice of four cars (Fleury, Malkin, Crosby, and Staal). Instead of taking just one they took all four, and now have a shiny BMW, Porsche, Benz, and Hummer sitting in their driveway. Suddenly their “friends” all came by wanting to ride in those cars. They’re no longer the laughing stock of the NHL and out of nowhere seem to sell out games.
We don’t need those new cars. We have that same model from 1967. Our parents wore it out in the 70′s, 80′s, and even into the 90′s. It’s seen a lot of good times, but now it’s ours. We built it; nobody just gave it to us. Just consider JVR as a reward for suffering through the media drones praising the Penguins as the “NHL’s model organization.” We know what we have is better now then the crap over in Pittsburgh that will soon wear out and fade away like it always does. The only thing left to do is prove it. Van Riemsdyk is joining the team to help us do just that.
If everyone got excited over the possibility of having Maclin and Jackson on the Eagles’ field at the same time but haven’t gotten a chance to look over at the Flyers lately, then they’re not real Philly fans. I can promise you that the Flyers have assembled one of the most incredible rosters in their history. That doesn’t always guarantee a Stanley Cup unfortunately, but this car only takes you places that you’re willing to drive. If you don’t pull out of the driveway then who knows what you could be missing.