RAY EMERY says John Paddock "is like a father figure to me."
Ray Emery was a big reason why John Paddock was fired in Ottawa.
John Paddock is now an employee of the Flyers, the head coach of their top farm team, which made yesterday's press conference announcing Emery as the Flyers' newest goalie of the future - 1 year, $1.5 million - well, interesting. Down on one end, just outside the one-way mirrored doors that lead into the Flyers' offices at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., stood Paddock, well removed from the cameras and interviews being conducted across the way.
On the other end, Emery was bouncing from interview to interview, repeatedly peppered with questions about his exodus to Russia when the Senators bought out his contract after last season and cut him loose.
No one took a flier on him then. But that's why it's called a Flyer, right?
Heh, heh, heh.
The Flyers are no longer the gold, silver or bronze standard for on-ice success. But if you're looking for a second chance, this is the place to be. Most of the time - Alexandre Daigle, Billy Tibbetts, Steve Downie - it doesn't work out so well.
Hey, maybe this time will be different.
That's the roll of the dice here, underlined and perhaps bolstered by the low-risk, low-cost deal to which Emery has been signed. While saving several million in goalie costs, letting a low-maintenance, solid performer like Martin Biron go could really backfire if Emery isn't the "ideal fit on our team" that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren called him yesterday.
At times over the last two seasons, Biron played as well as anyone in the league, and proved several times that he was capable of winning a playoff game by himself. But there was a telling juncture during yesterday's events in which Holmgren lauded Emery's competitiveness, likening the action in front of a net nowadays to an NFL line of scrimmage. And while Holm-gren quickly added he was not disappointed in Biron's play in that regard, it was clear he values Emery's edginess - as long as it doesn't spill over into his off-ice relationships.
Emery once pummeled Biron in a fight. On-ice. He also, in his final season in Ottawa, went T.O. on his teammates. At the time of his release, he was described as a dressing-room cancer, and Emery spoke sadly yesterday about how he destroyed some valued friendships with teammates there. By some accounts, Paddock's downfall began when he told people that Emery's absence one day was due to illness, and the goaltender told everyone the following day that he was late and sent home, end of story.
Paddock's credibility was undermined. Some son, eh?
But if there's lingering bitterness, both glossed it well. Emery said he had not yet spoken to the man across the room, but the two had stayed in touch in the weeks after Paddock was let go in February 2008, that he was "a good friend."
Holmgren said Paddock was part of the decision to bring Emery here, but Emery's old coach downplayed that.
"He asked me more than once over the course of the regular season what I thought of Ray," Paddock said of Holmgren. "It
really wasn't a lot different than what the Flyers had seen from the outside for many years. They had always held him in very high esteem."
Emery said all the right things and he seemed quite sincere. He said he appreciated things more - friendships, opportunities, coaches - even spoke of how good we have it here in North America. He blamed only himself for his banishment to Russia, where he played on an all-star team with our old good friend, "Silent Bob" Esche.
Once, Esche was the Flyers' goalie of the future.
But that was many, many, many years ago.
Well, that's kind of the point. Goalies come, goalies go, and it's not just here. Martin Brodeur is an anomaly. Ray Emery is not.
"If he's willing to put the time in, he's a pretty good NHL goalie," Paddock was saying. "I think he'll put the time in. I don't think he's giving lip service there."
Paddock paused, then decided to lay off some of that bet. "If he's giving lip service there, he's hurting himself and everybody else," he said. "I think he means what he says, that he recognizes the opportunity. There might not be another one that comes along." *
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