The Paul Holmgrem Philadelphia Flyers who traded a decent pick for pending UFA Andrew MacDonald and signed him to a UFA-busting deal are not the Ron Hextall Flyers who have demoted MacDonald to the AHL while collecting promising prospects on the blueline.
The franchise is different now, under different direction, and for the first time experiencing a rather Garth Snow-like (2008-13 era) forced patience. Hextall and Snow, two ex-Isles and former Flyers crease mates, rebuildin' Metro teams feisty-goalie style.
One can debate whether the Flyers, always a high-cap spending team, should really be taking that foot-off-the-gas approach like Snow did when the Isles were in Nassau and unable to convince even Ryan Smyth to tear on the bottom line. But with contracts like MacDonald's -- and possibly even more injurious, Vincent Lecavalier's -- on the books, they just about don't have a choice.
Fortunate for them, then, that strong goaltending so far by Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth has them still kind of in the playoff picture -- four points shy of the last wild card -- here in December. (As Isles fans know all too well, a little bit of sustained standings hope even during a "but my head knows we're toast" rebuilding season can go along way on cold winter nights.)
Unfortunate for them, however, that a Radko Gudas suspension (shock!) and even an injury to Luke Schenn hurts, and MacDonald is back up with the squad for an appetizing pairing with Michael Del Zotto. That's not too pile on MacDonald, a good guy who took countless bruises for the Isles. It's just, well, among the world's hockey players he's closer to Brian Strait than Mark Streit.
The Isles are doing well enough lately (5-0-2) that the pre-Thanksgiving 3-1 win in Brooklyn now looks like the start of a streak rather than an end to a weekend of frustration exacted by the Canadiens.
They'll field the same lineup they've been using -- healthy Thomas Hickey yay! -- and start Jaroslav Halak in goal opposite Mason. This is their only game in a six-day span: The Isles next play Saturday back home against the Blue Jackets.
That pre-Thanksgiving meeting was also the start of a nice streak for the Flyers: They felt hard done by in the loss, and followed it up with four consecutive wins and a "surge" back above NHL .500 before a 4-1 spanking by Columbus over the weekend.
Anyway, that meeting, which the Isles started to dominate by the end, got a little testy. There were fights and fake fights -- Claude Giroux takes on Nick Leddy for Leddy's first NHL fight! -- and probably things carry over a bit here.
It's Philadelphia. Should be fun.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here, may your timing not be flawed, your respect not run dry.