Lecavalier's Resurgence Proves Promising
It has not been a fun year for new Flyer Vincent Lecavalier. Once a long-standing captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, his contract became a boat anchor under a new CBA and a constricted salary cap. Thus, his time as a full-time Floridian came to an end.
Suitors abounded for this man's services after news of his release. Lecavalier, a first overall pick back in 1998, and once described as the "Michael Jordan of hockey," had a spot all but assured on many rosters across the NHL at a bit of a subdued monetary rate.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren disregarded this, became the highest bidder, and signed him a five-year pact worth $22.5 million. 14 goals, 12 assists and 49 games later, fan impatience hit a crescendo when he went long stretches with nary a point to show for it. In a time where nobody was scoring, Lecavalier scored five of his goals during that span.
Then, more frustration.
He missed three games with a lower body injury in October. Then one more with facial injuries from the brawl against Washington. Add nine more games missed due to the non-displaced fracture in his back. Back injuries never end up as good news, as he added just one goal and four assists in 13 games after his return.
Despite the lacking production, Holmgren stressed it was "hard to replace someone like [Lecavalier]" after announcing his injury. The team went 4-3-2 in the nine games he missed.
In his return to the lineup, the 33-year-old's role came into question. With Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Adam Hall logjamming the center position, where did he fit? He has remained on the second line as a winger with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, to some dubious possession stats.
Lecavalier's recent play has spoken, with resounding tone, "sorry, I can't hear you over my recent production."
Ups and downs happen. Those ups and downs paint a beautiful tapestry of biorhythm in motion. Lately, Lecavalier is on a high with three points in his last three games. His last point, the overtime winner against Washington on Sunday, proved to be his 900th point, and his 397th goal.
Would it be presumptuous to believe the Olympic layoff did him some good? Perhaps. It could not have been much fun to play with moderate to severe back pain caused by this fracture.
Is this a small sample size? Yes. However, make no mistake, it's a step in the right direction. He matched a three-game point streak from November 19-25.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is just how coveted Lecavalier was once he hit UFA status. In a Pierre LeBrun story on June 28, Lecavalier's agent was quoted as saying teams interested in him added up to "a dozen or more." He would have gotten this money, and a second line role, anywhere else he would have signed.
Has it been an ideal season for Lecavalier, in the grand scheme of things? Heavens no. Does the guy he replaced have just five fewer points this season? Yes. You give and take with good and bad play over the course of 82 games.
Lecavalier will be counted on for secondary scoring down a stretch that the Flyers are calling "#clutchtime." This may be where he makes his money, very much like the man he replaced.