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Meltzer's Musings: Voracek, Leier, Draft Talk, Lindbergh Birthday

May 23, 2013, 12:38 PM ET [270 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Voracek's Close Call

Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek is a lucky man. He walked away from a potentially serious car wreck in the Czech Republic yesterday with nary a scratch on his body nor did he cause injury to anyone in the other vehicle that he was unable to brake in time to avoid.

The accident came about because Voracek was driving too fast in his Ferrari. The player admitted fault in the accident and paid a fine after causing $150,000 worth of damage and ruining his own car. Thank goodness property damage was all that happened and that alcohol was in no way involved in the accident.

Anyone who remembers the heartache of Pelle Lindbergh's fatal one-car crash in 1985 (which was alcohol-related but also largely owed itself to Lindbergh's frequent tendency to push the pedal to the metal) or the freakish boating accident in the summer of 1999 that took the life of Flyers defenseman Dmitri Tertshny breathed a huge sigh of relief as soon it became clear that Voracek was OK after yesterday's mishap.

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Draft Talk: Flyers Second-Round Woes

The Flyers' track record with first-round picks has been an enviable one in the last 18 years. However, their results in the second round -- when they've actually held onto the picks rather than trading them to other teams for immediate NHL-level help around the trade deadline -- has been dismal.

Since 1995, the most accomplished future NHL player the Flyers identified in the second round was checking forward Andreas Nödl. Hopefully, 2012 second-rounder Anthony Stolarz and whomever the team takes this year (assuming they end up using the 41st overall pick and/or acquires other second-round selections) will someday raise the bar a bit higher than that.

Here's a look at the history of the Flyers' second-round picks since 1995:

Shane Kenny (D, 1995, 48th overall): A hulking offensive-minded defenseman with a physical edge to his game, Kenny slipped in the 1995 Draft from a projected first-round pick to second round status. The big question mark: A questionable commitment to conditioning. Flyers general manager Bob Clarke seethed as Kenny continued to add the wrong kind of weight to his 6-foot-3 frame. The Flyers elected not to sign the player to a contract. When asked why, Clarke had a bluntly truthful reply: "Kenny ate his way out of an NHL career. He just got too fat." Kenny ended up primarily playing in the lower North American minor leagues and second-tier European leagues.

Jean-Marc Pelletier (G, 1997, 30th overall): Although the Flyers used their first-round pick in 1995 to select Brian Boucher, they did not hesitate to select Pelletier in the second-round two years later (the Flyers did not have a first-round pick in that year's Draft). Pelletier made an early minor league splash with the Phantoms but his promise soon faded. The ultra self-confident rookie netminder found himself as the Flyers starting goaltender for one forgettable game against Ottawa in March of 1999. That was his lone appearance in a Flyers uniform. Traded to Carolina as part of the deal that brought Keith Primeau to Philly and sent Rod Brind'Amour to the Hurricanes, Pelletier later ended dressing in six additional NHL games as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Pat Kavanagh (RW, 1997, 50th overall): The latter of two second-rounders the Flyers owned in the 1997 Draft, Kavanagh had a combination of size and speed that intrigued the Flyers. Unfortunately, he lacked soft hands and creativity to go with the athleticism. In each of the next two seasons, the Flyers returned Kavanagh to his junior team, the OHL's Peterborough Petes. In June of 1999, the Flyers traded his rights to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 1999 sixth-round pick (which Philly used to select still-active Russian forward Konstantin Rudenko, who has never left the Russian-based RSL and KHL). Kavanagh was a bit player in the Canucks system, dressing in a few NHL games but primarily suiting up at the AHL level. He subsequently returned to the Flyers organization as a free agent, dressing in eight NHL games as a fourth-liner during the 2005-06 season. Since that time, he has toured around various European league.

Jason Beckett (D, 1998, 42nd overall): A big, bruising defenseman chosen with the second-round pick the Flyers acquired from Edmonton along with Dan McGillis in the surprise trade that sent Janne Niinimaa to the Oilers at the 1998 trade deadline, the Flyers had hopes that Beckett would develop into an intimidating shutdown defenseman. When he joined the Flyers' AHL farm team, it became apparent within a year that Beckett lacked NHL-caliber positional awareness, puck skills and mobility. He wound up bouncing between the AHL and ECHL before playing in several secondary pro leagues in Europe.

Ian Forbes (D, 1998, 51st overall): Even when the Flyers first drafted Forbes, they admitted that he was a project on whom they'd rolled the dice. Philly chose Forbes because he was physically huge (6-foot-6) specimen with an extremely raw but intriguing package of above-average mobility, a high-velocity shot and a mean streak. Unfortunately, those physical tools never developed to any appreciable degree, and his hockey sense was soon called into question. Forbes was overmatched in 18 AHL games over two seasons and would up primarily playing at the ECHL level.

1999-2005: The Flyers did not hang onto a single second-round pick, either their own or ones acquired from other teams, during this six-year period. In the next draft, they wound up with three choices in the second round.

Andreas Nödl (RW, 2006, 39th overall): The Austrian forward had good athleticism that combined size and speed and showed an admirable willingness to learn the defensive aspects of the game. Unfortunately, his above-average collegiate scoring touch never translated to offensive success in the pro game, at either the AHL or NHL levels. Nödl became a semi-regular for the Flyers during the 2010-11 season, scoring a career-best 11 goals and 22 points with a plus-14 rating while frequently skating on a line with Mike Richards. The following year, he played himself out of Peter Laviolette's lineup, and wound up being claimed on waivers by Carolina. He dressed in eight games for the Hurricanes this past season before being waived by a second organization.

Mike Ratchuk (D, 2006, 42nd overall): An undersized (5-foot-10) converted forward with excellent mobility, Ratchuk specialized in a run-and-gun style as offensive defenseman for the US National Team Development Program and at Michigan State University. When he reached the AHL, he did not produce the hoped-for offensive punch and struggled defensively. In 2009-10, the Flyers traded Ratchuk to Columbus for one of their own former second round picks, forward Stefan Legein. Ratchuk split this past season between the EBEL in Europe and the ECHL in North America.

Denis Bodrov (D, 2006, 55th overall): The Flyers were excited thatBodrov, whom some considered a potential first-round-worthy pick was still available late in the second round. As with many Russian players of the last seven or eight years, signability was a question mark. The Flyers, and other NHL teams, projected Bodrov as a potential top-three NHL defenseman with a combination of good mobility, a sizable mean streak in the hitting department and perhaps even the raw tools to eventually develop some offensive pop. However, Bodrov's development never matched his potential and he became a serviceable second-pairing KHL defenseman but far from a slam-dunk NHL candidate. He came over to North America for the latter part of the 2010-11 season, posting one goal, four points, six penalty minutes and a minus-11 rating in 17 games on a minor league contract with the Phantoms. Bodrov returned to Russia the next season for family reasons and has remained in the KHL ever since.

Kevin Marshall (D, 2007, 41st overall): This pick hurt a bit in retrospect because the Flyers, who initially did not own a second-round pick in the draft, traded up specifically to draft Marshall because they felt there was little chance he'd still be on the board when their next pick came up. In one of those hindsight-is-20/20 blunders, the Flyers bypassed P.K. Subban, who went two spots later to the Canadiens. Marshall, a likable and outgoing fellow off the ice who drew the Flyers' interest with an aggressive style of play on-ice, has become an average AHL-level defenseman while struggling to crack the NHL. He finally got a 10-game stint with the big club when the Flyers were racked with injuries in December of 2011, but Marshall was thoroughly outplayed by fellow Phantoms callup Marc-Andre Bourdon. Marshall was returned to the minor leagues and eventually traded to the Washington Capitals organization in exchange for forward Matt Ford. Marshall has since moved on to the Toronto organization.

2008 to 2011: The Flyers did not hold a second-round pick in any of the Drafts in this four-year span.

Anthony Stolarz (G, 2012, 45th overall): The Flyers acquired this pick from Columbus in the Sergei Bobrovsky deal. The huge-framed goaltender made progress this year after leaving University of Nebraska-Omaha part of the way through the freshman season in order to join the OHL's London Knights. He was signed to an entry-level contract by the Flyers, which is eligible to slide back to the OHL next year.

Coming tomorrow: A look at potential second-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft.

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Leier Injured at Memorial Cup


There was a scary moment in the first period of last night's Memorial Cup game between the Portland Winterhawks and Saskatoon Blades. Flyers left wing prospect Taylor Leier attempted to beat Saskatoon defenseman Dalton Thrower by cutting over the middle.

With Leier about to move past him on Thrower's attempted open-ice hit, Thrower raised his elbow on his follow-through and left his skates slightly as the contact jarred Leier's head. The forward fell to the ice in a heap, bleeding profusely as his chin struck the ice. He had to be helped off the ice, and did not return to the game. There was no penalty called on the play and I don't believe Thrower was trying to cause injury. Even so, it was the type of head shot that has been drawing substantial (10-game) suspensions in junior hockey this season, and warranted a major penalty.

Thankfully, Leier felt well enough after the game to Tweet a thank you for the good wishes to all followers who personally expressed concern for his condition in messages to his Twitter account (@Leier22). Portland won the game, 4-2.

The Halifax Mooseheads have earned a spot in the Memorial Cup Final. Portland has earned a trip to the semifinals, where they will play the winner of tonight's quarterfinal meeting between the London Knights and Saskatoon. Leier's availability for the remainder of the tournament is unknown at this time, but it would be surprising if he avoided a concussion on Thrower's hit.



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Lindbergh's 54th Birthday

Pelle Lindbergh would have turned 54 years old tomorrow if not for the lapse in judgment that took his life at age 26 and injured the two passengers in his Porsche. Every year on May 24, I print unpublished excerpts from "Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask" on my HockeyBuzz blog. This year, I'll do one day early.

First up, an unpublished section of Chapter 12, detailing Lindbergh's adaptation to North American hockey during the 1980-81 season with the AHL's Maine Mariners. This part deals with his first exposure to the frequent on-ice fights of the era, which were rare in Swedish hockey. Lindbergh wasn't exactly shocked or horrified, as some other European players of that era professed to be.

The minor league hockey atmosphere in 1980-81 is still not far removed from what Nancy Dowd humorously portrayed in Slap Shot. Fights – including bench-clearing brawls – occur on a regular basis.

In Sweden, Pelle never saw teammates the likes of Glen Cochrane (201 penalty minutes in just 38 games before being called up to the Flyers) or rookie Don Gillen (255 penalty minutes to go along with 30 goals).

Known as “Cocher” to his teammates, Cochrane will fight any opponent with minimal provocation, regardless of the time, place, or score of the game. Well-liked off the ice by the Mariners players and fans, he can be something of a loose cannon on the ice. Cochrane is especially adamant that no one on the other team touch his goaltender, taking it as a personal affront when someone does.

Early in the season, opposing players attempt to break Pelle’s concentration by bumping into him or giving him gratuitous shots with their sticks. The 6-foot-2, 210 pound Cochrane soon puts a stop to it.

On one occasion, Springfield Indians center Derek Haas intentionally gives Lindbergh a shower by snow-plowing with his skates as the goalie covers the puck in the crease. Even before Pelle can look up and bark at Haas, Cochrane already has the gloves off and pummels the forward with lefts and rights.

“Thanks, Cocher,” Pelle says after the game.

Cochrane winks.

Another time, Cochrane jumps a New Brunswick Hawks player for celebrating a little too vehemently as he scores a goal against Lindbergh. Cochrane beats him to a pulp, breaking the guy’s nose in the process.

“Go celebrate THAT, you stupid [expletive deleted]!” Cochrane yells and points to the scoreboard -- the Mariners are still winning -- as he’s escorted off the ice.

In a 1984 interview, Pelle says in response to a question about fighting in hockey, “I leave the fighting to the big guys.”

In reality, he gets involved in several line brawls during his AHL and NHL career, going after the opposing goaltender in the midst of numerous battles erupting. The fighting in North American hockey doesn’t bother Lindbergh a bit.

“I remember that Pelle dropped the gloves a few times with the other team’s goaltender,” Kerstin says. “He never started a fight, but he got involved a couple times when he was supposed to ‘take his man.’ It happened.”

Pelle’s enthusiasm for these situations earned him teasing from those who knew him best. Former Philadelphia Inquirer writer Al Morganti says that Lindbergh loved to talk about the fights that happened during a game.

“Pelle thought it was as cool as could be. He fought a few times himself, both with the Mariners and later with the Flyers. He would come flying across the ice at the other goalie, and we’d bust his chops about it afterwards. It didn’t happen all that often, but it happened a few times,” says Morganti.



Now, for a change of pace, here's the full story behind how Lindbergh came to play a starring role in a 1980 Swedish feature film entitled "Don't Leave Me All Alone" ("Lämna Inte Mig Inte Ensam"):

Pelle discovered quickly during the 1980-81 season just how expensive it is to constantly call and send mail back and forth from the U.S.A to Sweden. Try as he might, he can’t keep in touch with everyone.

One of the first people he catches up with when he returns home for the summer of 1981 is Swedish movie director Jan Halldoff. Two years earlier, Halldoff and Lindbergh met at a Stockholm restaurant called “Kvarnen” (“The Mill”). The two hit it off quickly. Halldoff discovered the national team goaltender was a real movie buff.

Apart from directing movies, Halldoff was also a screenplay writer. Most recently, he’d been inspired to write a script about prostitution. An acquaintance’s former girlfriend had fallen in with a bad crowd and ended up becoming a prostitute. He based a film around it, entitled Lämna Inte Mig Ensam.

“Pelle, I’m a directing a movie and I think you have the perfect personality to play one of the main roles,” Halldoff said.

That’s all Pelle needed to hear. He immediately arranged to do a test reading for the part of Magnus, the lead female character's boyfriend. Magnus is a kid from the south side of Stockholm with a promising future in boxing, and a love for riding motorcycles at high speed. The test reading was done in an apartment on Enskedsvägen. Halldoff had Pelle walk, talk, laugh on cue, and pretend to get angry. He got the part.

In the spring of 1979, after returning from the World Championships, Pelle filmed his scenes for the movie. One one of the first days, he stood outside on seedy Malmskillnadgatan as the director bribed the (real) prostitutes on the street to go away for a little while so Pelle could shoot a scene with professional actresses portraying hookers.

If that weren’t surreal enough, the real-life prostitutes were upset about being asked to move. They demanded money to leave the area peacefully. Thinking quickly, Halldoff came up with an alternative to paying them to go away.

“We disturbed the surroundings with our film team, and the prostitutes couldn’t work the streets. So we gave them sandwiches to occupy them until we were done. Pelle took it all in stride, and did a good job with the scene,” Halldoff recalls.

To prepare for his role as a young boxer, Pelle took some boxing lessons with the BK Narva boxing club. His excellent balance and lower body power made him effective in sparring sessions despite his lack of height and reach.

“Pelle had a damn good time with two particular scenes in the movie,” Björn Neckman recalls. “One was a boxing scene. They had worked out choreography, where Pelle would hit the other guy with a left and then a right, and so on. But Pelle didn’t stick to the choreography. He wanted to show off what he’d learned, and he improvised. He ended up tagging the other guy for real. They had to pay the other guy extra.

“The other scene was a love scene, where Pelle had to lie down on a bed and pretend to make love with his girlfriend in the movie. It was actually a little tough, because the people behind the camera had a choreographed step-by-step script to follow even for this type of scene.”

Pelle wrapped up his scenes fairly quickly and posed from some publicity stills for the movie. The film was released the following year, premiering in Stockholm on March 7, 1980, shortly after Pelle got back from the Olympics.

The movie earned lukewarm reviews and a modest haul at the box office (even by Swedish film standards). Pelle was neither shocked nor disappointed.

“He thought the movie turned out so-so,” Neckman recalls. “But he had fun.”

Lindbergh and director/writer Halldoff remain friendly long after filming the movie. They get together in the summer of 1981, and every summer to follow.



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