Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” He was epitomizing the point in which a team wins together and loses together, and there are no individuals fully responsible for the failure of the whole, as is there are none entirely to blame for its success. Though this wisdom applies for most sports teams, it has been ignored by Flyers’ fans and analysts who point a collective finger toward Defensemen Derian Hatcher as the focal point of the Flyers’ apocalyptic start. After 11 games, Hatcher has recorded no points and has a plus /minus rating of -15, one of the worst in the entire NHL. He has looked lost and out of position on many occasions, chaotically chasing quicker, younger players around the net without the strength to push them off the puck or the agility to steal it. Younger, faster players frequently pass Hatcher by, much like the new game has, leaving a once great defensemen defending himself against the media attacks on his play. Because of Hatcher’s horrid play there has been much talk in the media that he should follow the path of Petr Nedved and Nolan Baumgartner and be waived from the team at once. This addition by subtraction, however, would damage the Flyers’ salary cap in the long run and put the Flyers in a pickle since Hatchers’ endurance (23:48 of ice time on average per game) would be difficult to replace. Yet despite the initial hardship of Hatcher’s absence, his replacement may help to rejuvenate a team that is loaded with talent, but lacking the consistent energy and hard work needed to turn potential into results.
The Flyers’ lack of success this season does not rest exclusively on Hatcher’s shoulders; it is a mixture of offensive slumping and lack of intensity that has doomed their start. In their three wins this season, the underlying theme has been their work ethic. For example, the Flyers kept their skates moving in their latest win against the Chicago Blackhawks, beating the Blackhawk players to loose pucks against the boards, and working hard around the net. The defense looked shaky at times, but the Flyers managed to shut the Blackhawks out by working hard on offense, limiting the amount of time the defense was exposed to Chicago’s speed.
Though Derian Hatcher is not the only reason the Flyers are not playing well, he represents why they are losing. He is an artifact of the old slow, lazy NHL and, though Lombardi is correct in suggesting it is not all Hatcher’s fault the Flyers are struggling, he represents the inadequacies the Flyers team has in the new NHL. Because Hatcher has become more vulnerable due to lackluster play from the rest of his teammates, the once great defensemen may be unceremoniously pushed from the game for good because he simply does not fit in anymore.