It’s a classic chicken/egg conundrum. Did Vinny Lecavalier fail to score goals this year because he was relegated to the 4th line, or did he get bumped to the 4th line because he wasn’t scoring goals? The answer to that question depends on who you ask.
In an interview last month with CSN’s Tim Panaccio, Coach Craig Berube didn’t pull any punches when asked about Lecavalier. “He just hasn’t produced and he gets power-play time, too,” Berube said. “He hasn’t produced.”
On the other hand, the 35-year old Lecavalier, who still has three years left on his current five-year, $22.5-million contract also spelled things out quite clearly at a news conference on Monday. He said that he doesn’t want to go through another season like this past one where about 90 percent of his limited ice time was on the fourth line.
“I still believe in myself.” said Lecavalier. “I still think I can bring a lot to the team. I think to produce you need a little bit of time on the ice.”
This frustrating situation has come about for several reasons, chief among them that Lecavalier signed with the Flyers primarily because he wanted to play for the offensive-minded head coach Peter Laviolette. When defense-minded Berube took over the team just four games into the season, Lecavalier just didn’t fit anymore, especially at center, where he felt most comfortable. As a result, his scoring numbers slipped badly, and so did his playing time.
By my count, Lecavalier was a healthy scratch 17 times this year, a sure sign of being in the coach’s “doghouse”. He ended up scoring just eight goals and had only 20 points for the season. In addition he finished the year with a plus/minus of -7.
It is clear that something has to change but what that change will look like, no one, maybe not even GM Ron Hextall, knows right now. The Flyers have tried to move Lecavalier, but no one wants to pay such huge money for such limited production. On the other hand, many have suggested that Berube needs to go, especially given the fact that the Flyers didn’t make the playoffs this year. Hextall says he is taking the next few weeks to evaluate every aspect of the team, including the coach.
I believe Vinny Lecavalier is a stone cold lock to make the Hockey Hall of Fame some day. In 1,163 games, he has 411 goals and 931 points. In addition, he won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04. I don’t believe he will ever become the strong back-checking player that Berube wants him to be. So if Hextall brings Berube back, it is essential that he hatch some kind of plan to either get Lecavalier more quality ice time, or he find another team to take him and let him fly the coop.