Call It A Comeback

For Flyers fans, when it comes to Vincent Lecavalier a lot of questions are coming up. What’s the reason for Vinny’s resurgence in LA? Why couldn’t he produce in Philadelphia? And most importantly, when the end of the season comes, will he still want to retire?

After an up and down tenure in Philadelphia, Lecavalier was traded to the Los Angeles Kings along with Luke Schenn. In 10 games played since being traded, Lecavalier has four goals and two assists for six points. In those ten games Lecavalier has moved up the lineup from 4th line center, his starting position the day after the trade from Philadelphia.

After being bought out of a monster deal by the Tampa Bay Lightning, former GM Paul Holmgren brought Vinny in on 5 year 22.5 million dollar deal. While some considered the contract a reach, fans were hopeful that the former Rocket Richard winner could achieve some of his former glory.

After a productive 2013-14 campaign, Lecavalier struggled to start the 2014-15 season, and after a battle with injuries, found himself at odds with coach Craig Berube, and for the first time in his career, a healthy scratch. This season started the same, with new coach Dave Hackstol limiting him to a mere seven games before the trade.

After a 20 goal 13-14, how did the ship sink this far, and fast? Why does Los Angeles work out when Philly didn’t?

One major issue was slotting Lecavalier into the Flyers lineup. In Philadelphia, Lecavalier was forced to play as a winger despite expressing his preference to play at center ice. The Flyers had one too many centermen that they felt either could do the job better or needed to get proper NHL time. With Los Angeles, he is playing center, his natural position, and best fit. It allows him to engage in the and become a moving part of the game, rather than the stopping and starting wingers often do. Style of play was also an issue, the same reason that the Kings felt Jordan Weal would be better playing on the East coast, is why Lecavalier fits in so well in the West.

In Philadelphia, Lecavalier had a short stint on a 2nd line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, but he quickly fell down the lineup and eventually into the press box. Lecavalier was expected to play a defensive game that his age and lack of speed made impossible and he fell out of favor. In LA, Lecavalier doesn’t have to worry so much about making mistakes, his teammates are there to clean up after whatever mistakes he might make.

The Kings’ system has helped Lecavalier find his groove again. When there’s a mistake Los Angeles often has someone around the area to back up the player. In his short time with the team this has given him confidence. If he makes the wrong decision with the puck, he knows a teammate will help him out. – Josh Cooper, Yahoo Sports.

That’s not to say the Flyers don’t try to play defensively, but for Lecavalier’s time here, the Flyers lineup has been in flux. We don’t have a solid bottom six, we don’t have a system that’s been ingrained in the team for years and our young guys aren’t at a level where they can support Lecavalier in the way he needs.

Daryl Sutter made room in the lineup for Lecavalier and it is paying dividends. There’s been trust in Lecavalier’s game. Over his short stint he’s transitioned from just a 4th line center playing minimal minutes to 2nd line center, pushing Jeff Carter to the wing, and getting time on both the power play and penalty kill units.

Lecavalier is set to retire at the end of this season, or at least, he’s promised to, and he says he’s not thinking about that upcoming decision. There’s always the possibility that Lecavalier changes his mind and seriously screws the Kings. He could retire and immediately look for a comeback on another western team. As Lecavalier continues to do well in LA and the Flyers continue to play R.J. Umberger, Flyers fans grow frustrated.

Lecavalier will ride off into the sunset, and eventually the Hall of Fame, but his time with Philadelphia will be a sad footnote and another instance of not finding a way to use talent.

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