MATT KLENTAK'S name had barely found its way into Twitter universe last week when a familiar name kept buzzing his cellphone.
"Blowing up with messages from Shane Victorino," said the new Phillies general manager. "He's super excited. He said, 'Matt, when the team is good in the postseason, that town is rocking. There is no better place . . . You are going to love that town, those fans . . . It's through the roof.' "
Seven years to the day that the Phillies blew our collective roof off with the city's first championship in 25 years, an alternate universe played out Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. A sparse, late-arriving and early-to-bed crowd well short of the 19,241 tickets sold watched the home team lose to the New Jersey Devils, 4-1.
It was a lifeless night and an even more lifeless game, its most significant event quite possibly the 2015-16 season debut of Vinny Lecavalier after eight consecutive healthy scratches.
Like Ryan Howard, Lecavalier, now 35, plays out the remaining seasons of a once-dominant career both burdened and enabled by a contract that far exceeds his current value, and is in direct conflict with the long-range youth movement the Flyers have undertaken.
Unlike Howard, Vinny will likely never experience a night here like the one Howard - and Victorino - went through seven years ago. His memories of this place will instead consist of nights like last night, when lethargy and indifference both on the ice and off gave the Wells Fargo Center all the magic of a men's league game at midnight.
Vinny had five shifts in the first period, four in the second, spending a total of 5 minutes, 31 seconds. He used to log that in the first 10 minutes of play during those 14 seasons at Tampa Bay. In eight of those seasons, he played in at least 80 of his team's 82 games, and in two others he missed a total of 11.
Last night's game was his 1,164th in an NHL uniform. For five consecutive seasons beginning in 2002, Lecavalier scored at least 33 goals. His best year was 2006-07, when he poured in 52 goals and finished with 108 points. His discernible decline in both productivity and health began a couple of years later, and Holmgren's offer sheet was extended the summer after he played in only 39 games.
Which is a long way of saying Lecavalier's current plight is hardly a matter of a fat-cat athlete.
"It's tough," he said of his current plight. "There's no flow. You're just not warmed up. I try to go when there's whistles, just skate around. The last couple of years have been like that. You kind of have to battle through that. I never understood that before. But it's tough to play so little minutes and stay warm because you can't. I want to make a difference."
The Flyers' lone goal came on a soft, deflected goal from the point by Luke Schenn late in the second period, enabled by Lecavalier's stick check of Devils defenseman Jon Merrill behind New Jersey's net.
Later in the third, amid one of his three shifts in that period, Lecavalier fired a snap shot that was turned away by New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider.
He never made it back on the ice.
"I don't need to talk to anybody," he had said the day before. "I don't need to have conversations with people to feel better. It's more about me being ready for the next game if I'm out there. I've been through last year. Last year was tough. Now it's about me telling myself the right things and doing the right things out there and working hard in practice."
There is a morning skate Friday. He will find out then if he's playing that night. Day-to-day, shift-to-shift, playing out a contract that is ridiculously rewarding and suffocating in the same breath. Playing for a team that is an assemblage of spare parts, waiting for the next era to arrive, its fans walking that fine line between impatience and indifference.
He is in the third season of a five-year contract that averages $4.5 million a year, and if you think he should retire rather than practice with this team for the rest of the contract, your indifference to money rivals that of the Dalai Lama.
Vinny Lecavalier was in Tampa seven years ago, watching the hometown team lose on a cold night in Philadelphia. He had won his championship in 2004, had scored 52 goals, he was big in a place whose fandom will never, on its best of days, come anywhere near the madness that ensued that night.
That was Shane Victorino's Philadelphia.
Ryan Howard probably keeps himself sane these days remembering it.
Vinny? "Maybe before I had kids, it would be a different story," he said. "But I try not to take it outside the rink."
On Twitter: @samdonnellon