And then there were five. Philadelphia Flyers who have been suspended this season, that is.
Riley Cote is the latest, getting three games for a headshot on Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen Saturday night. Cote joins the following fellow Flyers on the NHL’s banned list this year (take a deep breath): Steve Downie (20 games for pre-season hit on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond); Jesse Boulerice (25 games for cross-checking Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler in the face); Randy Jones (two games for hitting Boston’s Patrice Bergeron from behind into the boards); and, Scott Hartnell (two games for checking Andrew Alberts’ head into the boards).
Broad Street Bullies? Broad Street bloodbath is more like it. The Flyers are taking a page out of Anaheim’s book – the Ducks easily led the league in fighting majors last season and used that rough-and-tumble style to intimidate their way to a Stanley Cup. (Yes, yes, players such as Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne also had something to do with Anaheim’s first-ever championship.)
Whatever the strategy, the results are better. The Flyers, coming off the worst season in franchise history, are winning again and vying for the lead in the Atlantic Division (and Eastern Conference, too).
Still…they ain’t winning pretty. Not with a roster that has dressed noted enforcers such as: Cote (four seasons of 200-plus penalty minutes in the minors and junior); Boulerice (319 PIMs in 167 NHL games and a laundry list of suspensions in various leagues); and, Ben Eager (six consecutive seasons of 200-plus PIMs, from the OHL through the AHL to the NHL last season).
Then, there’s Downie, who hasn’t played in the regular season with the Flyers, but is a first round draft pick (29th overall, 2005) and carries a well-earned reputation as an agitator who plays on the edge. When he makes his way onto the NHL roster – perhaps as early as Wednesday – he’ll join a batch of Flyers who are quality NHLers, but who can also drop the gloves. Players such as Hartnell, Jones, Jason Smith, Derian Hatcher, Mike Knuble and Mike Richards, the team’s leading scorer.
But it doesn’t stop there in Philadelphia. Not even close. There’s another team in town, and whenever the Flyers lose a tough guy to a suspension, they’ve got a pool of ruffians eager to make a statement.
That’s because the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, features several players who aren’t afraid of the rough stuff. In no particular order, here are the scariest Phantoms: Triston Grant (almost 1,300 PIMs in about 420 games in major junior and the AHL); Denis Gauthier (remember him?); Boyd Kane (rugged team captain); Darroll Powe (with a name like that…); Nate Guenin (tough for a college guy, with 390 PIMs in 151 games at Ohio State); Martin Grenier (6-foot-5, 245 pounds); and, Downie and Boulerice.
Oh yeah…like the parent Flyers, the Phantoms are doing just fine in the standings, too, leading the East Division with a 16-6-1 record.