Last season saw Vincent Lecavalier record a career low eight goals. The first time in a 16 year tenure with the NHL he had failed to get above ten goals, recording just 20 points in 57 games. There were a lot of reasons for such a steep and sudden decline, but many will have departed with Craig Berube. There’s a new man in town now and with it, a new chance for Lecavalier to have one more big year.
The former number one draft pick has struggled in his time playing in orange and black but a lot of that is down to his relationship with Craig Berube. Lecavalier thrived as a Center in Tampa, producing 874 points in 1,000 games. But when he came to the city of brotherly love, he was forced into a left wing position in what was a beyond questionable decision. Tension rose between the two and it was obvious, but it didn’t help. Often relegated to the fourth line, he found himself picking up minimal minutes and struggling to adapt to a new system that Berube was trying..and indeed failing to implement. A potential hall of famer should not be playing out of position on a fourth line, regardless of what system you’re trying to employ.
The problem with Lecavalier for this season is the money. He costs the team $4.5 million per season, a contract the Flyers would be keen to escape. But if he’s doing that much damage salary wise, why play him in an unnatural position? You wouldn’t pay for a four course meal and just eat the starter would you?
That’s not to say that Lecavalier was worthy of a first or second line position. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of his conditioning more than anything. At 35 he’s certainly not getting younger, but under Hakstol..the team may just breathe one more flash of colour before the superstar fades to grey.
Less game time is obviously going to mean less points, so if Vinny is going to succeed he simply has to get more gametime. Underneath Hakstol that may become a much more viable option, but where he can really succeed is on the Power Play. 121 goals have been scored on the power play by Lecavalier, it’s where he excels. If you put him on a top Power Play line then he has endless experience to help get the best out of those around him. The Flyers have some of the biggest names in the NHL when it comes to scoring on a man advantage, adding the depth of Lecavalier is only going to increase their already impressive roster of names. Whilst he may not succeed on every advantage and might not be as effective as some of the younger guys around him, he’s a constant threat around the goal mouth..his career record on Power Plays emphasise that.
But the main reason he needs more Ice Time is simple. A ball has already started rolling. With the contract being so hefty Hextall would be silly to not hand him more minutes but it’s more than that. An ageing player is going to decline. An ageing player who doesn’t get a lot of minutes for two seasons and then gets a sudden increase is going to fatigue as well as decline. He would have to be eased in slowly and make his way through the lines. But if the Flyers continue to sleep on him, play him at left wing or even worse don’t start the 35 year old..then they’ve lost him.
This is a new opportunity for both Vinny and for Hakstol. If Lecavalier can get more minutes in his NATURAL position, he may just have one more big year in the tank.