September 1, 2010

Flyers' Laviolette looking forward

by Stan Fischler

Peter Laviolette (photo: Getty)

Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette (Franklin, Mass.) is eager to hit the ice with his revamped squad this season. The coach believes that since his team missed the Cup by two wins it should inspire club-wide amnesia.

“You can forget about last spring,” says Laviolette. “This group that steps onto the ice and into the locker room has to figure out how to come together. It’s a huge part of winning.”

Already the “experts,” who can’t wait to deliver their premature expectations, are doing so. We’re barely out of August, yet The Hockey News is at it again. THN has the Flyers fourth in the Eastern Conference.

No doubt Laviolette will use that as basis for a raise.

Observations

* Former Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward’s retirement announcement inspires feelings of sadness and admiration.

Forthright, articulate and funny, the venerable defenseman never hesitated calling a spade a spade. As a Ranger – right or wrong – he called out Jaromir Jagr on the latter’s attitude. Since Jagr was Mister New York at the time, it was Ward who had to go – and he did.

The man was a true warrior and one episode last year says it all about his guts. Playing in what was really a meaningless game at MadisonSquareGarden, Ward took a harsh shot to the leg late in the second period. He was momentarily paralyzed and finally was barely able to limp off the ice.

At the time, onlookers were certain that Ward would pack it in for the night. What’s more, nobody would have blamed him. But gritty as he was, he returned for the third period and – as usual – played as if it was the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals.

Hopefully, we’ll continue seeing this good man as a television analyst.

* Paul Kariya’s decision to forsake the upcoming season because of lingering effects from post-concussion syndrome is scary news.

And quite sad, considering what a talented, classy act he's brought to the big-league stage. If anything, it reinforces the need for new head shot rules being introduced by the NHL -- and not a moment too soon.

* Ilya Kovalchuk’s revised, second-time-around signed contract had not been officially approved at our press time, but one would assume -- should one? -- that each side has learned from the other and a green light will be flashed by the league.

If not? Well, we'd rather not think about that unfortunate eventuality and we'll leave this endless saga at that.

Gossip

* If former Dartmouth standout Lee Stempniak scores at the rate he did after being traded to Phoenixlast season, then kudos to GM Don Maloney. Stempniak’s brand new, two-year, $1.75-million deal will be the bargain of the year.

* Mamma Mia, here we go again. Daniel and Henrik Sedin have shot a TV pizza commercial in – of all places – northern Sweden. The commercial is for Mammamia, an Italian eatery in their hometown of Ornskoldsvik, just south of the Arctic Circle.

* How about this for a general manager’s candor: “I’ve been able to move the needle on every team I’ve taken over by insisting on a higher level of performance, through pushing players’ limits,” said Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke (Providence, R.I.). “This is the first group I’ve been unable to move the needle with by shaming or challenging players, getting them to raise their games. I’ve always been able to do that. This has been the hardest part of the job this year.”

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.