Blogs > In The Room with Anthony SanFilippo

Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- James van Riemsdyk was moving briskly out of the Nassau Coliseum. He was the last Flyer to leave the morning practice, and he was trying to catch up with Danny Briere, who was a few strides ahead of him.
That's because the duo - along with defenseman Oskars Bartulis - practiced a good-40 minutes longer, and much harder - then the rest of the their teammates to whom this morning skate was optional.
That's because for van Riemsdyk, Briere and Bartulis, this would be their only skate of the day as none of them would be in the lineup for tonight's tilt against the Islanders.
Briere is serving the final game of his three-game suspension. Bartulis has been the No. 7 defenseman all season, but for van Riemsdyk, this is a new position. This is unfamiliar territory. He has only been a healthy scratch once before in his young career and that was in the Stanley cup Finals. Otherwise, the only time he watched the game from the press box was because of an injury.
But now, 13 games into a fast start for the Flyers, who had the top record in the Eastern Conference heading into play Saturday night, van Riemsdyk finds himself as the extra forward and he's not thrilled about it.
"It sucks. It burns. It stings. It's not fun," he told the Daily Times. "You want to play. You want to contribute. You want to be out there. Basically it just sucks, there's no other way to put it."
It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise for van Riemsdyk, who has yet to score a
goal this season, but apparently it has.
"Obviously it sucks every time that happens but we're a good team and we've been winning so it's a coach's decision and I have to respect it," he said. "I have to just work hard and try to control the things I can control."
The question is, does he know what he has to control at this point?
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft, van Riemsdyk has yet to live up to his lofty expectations.
To be fair, comparing him to No. 1 overall pick Patrick Kane is unfair because Kane left junior hockey immediately to play in the NHL while van Riemsdyk played college hockey at the University of New Hampshire for two years before coming to training camp with the Flyers.
But, it's certainly fair to look at guys drafted behind him as forwards like Sam Gagner in Edmonton, Jakub Voracek in Columbus, Brandon Sutter in Carolina and David Perron in St. Louis have all been more offensively productive to this point in their careers than van Riemsdyk.
The argument can be made though that none of those aforementioned players play on the left wing and that's true, but van Riemsdyk isn't even the top point-producing left wing in a weak draft class at the position as Dallas' Jamie Benn has outscored van Riemsdyk and he was selected 129th overall in the fifth round.
"It's all about your production on the ice and how you play the game," coach Peter Laviolette told the Daily Times. "Everybody plays it differently. Danny Briere plays it a certain way. Darroll Powe plays it a certain way. It's all about what you bring and how you produce within the structure of the team.
"At the end of the night there's got to be something from your production. You've got a guy like (Eric) Wellwood who goes in the lineup and he's doing what you ask of him. (Andreas) Nodl goes in and he's doing what you ask. (Nik) Zherdev comes back and he's doing what you ask. Tough decisions have got to be made. We've got to continue to work and develop players, but at the end of the day, decisions have to be made."
And his decision was to put van Riemsdyk on the bench for at least one game.
"It comes down to spots," the coach said. "Guys that that are playing well are in the lineup, so there's a competitiveness there. Zherdev comes back in the lineup and I think he's looked really strong the last couple games.
"Yes, I'd like to see more from James and how he plays the game. I thought he started (the season) really strong. Camp went really well for him too. But he's still a young player and he's trying to get his place and make his mark on this team."
Laviolette continued, "There's a competition here between players... well.. not a competition, but you have to earn it," he said. "Guys have got to fit into a certain spot somewhere in those top nine forwards and you got to make a decision as a coach and sometimes it's a tough decision. We'll continue to work with James and we'll continue to work on his development."
But, for now he's fallen behind Zherdev, who was in the doghouse, Nodl, who was the extra forward at the start of the season, and Wellwood, who was called up from the Phantoms as an injury replacement and is still here.
Wellwood is the big surprise, but he has been really good in his role since arriving on the team.
"He brings a lot of quickness," Laviolette said. "He's smart. He's responsible and reliable. There's a lot of things he brings to the table. We still haven't even touched on some of them. He's a good penalty killer and we haven't gone down that road so far and he's very capable on offense and the production hasn't come but the opportunities have been there. He's looked very good in his games."
And in those same games, van Riemsdyk has not.
"I think I'm squeezing the stick a little bit," van Riemsdyk said. "When you're an offensive guy and you're not scoring goals... look, you always want to be competitive and help the team win and that's good, but you want to contribute more... maybe I'm pressing a little too much and not playing the game I want to play."
NOTES: Sergei Bobrovsky will start again tonight, his sixth straight start... The Flyers have won 19 of the last 21 against the Islanders... Only two Flyers' regulars are minus players this season, Dan Carcillo (minus-2) and Mike Richards (minus-4)... The Islanders are expecting to be a bit desperate in the game tonight having lost six straight and looking to exact revenge on the Flyers for the 6-1 drubbing at Wells Fargo Center last week. "I would hope our players would look at that (game) and realize we gave them a pretty easy night," Isles coach Scott Gordon said. "We've got to be ready to play and dictate our style of play and get on them so they're not capable of theirs." Tyson Gillies went a step farther: "It's not a contact sport for nothing," he said. "Both teams are going to hit and I'm looking forward to it."


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