Of all the Flyers, no one has a more important offseason ahead than Vinny Lecavalier, the 34-year-old forward who is coming off an odd first year with his new team.
Whether it was because of a bad back, a position change, or advanced age, one thing is certain: Lecavalier did not have the type of season the Flyers envisioned when they signed him to a five-year $22 million contract.
"I don't want to say I'm disappointed in Vinny for the year, but I'm disappointed for him," general manager Paul Holmgren said at the team's season-ending news conference last week.
"A lot of ups and downs," Lecavalier said.
Lecavalier was arguably the Flyers' best forward in the season's first month, but in December he was sidelined by a non-displaced fracture in his lower back.
When he returned to the lineup, he was placed at left wing, with Brayden Schenn remaining at center. Lecavalier never adjusted to the new position, and late in the season he was put back at center, but on the fourth line.
"Vinny's not a fourth-line player. He needs to play in our top nine [forwards]," Holmgren said.
Holmgren conceded that Lecavalier was better-suited playing in Peter Laviolette's attack system. Craig Berube, who replaced Laviolette after the third game, relied on a defense-first style.
Lecavalier was a defensive liability this season, and he finished with a minus-16 rating and just 37 points. You have to go back to 1998-99, Lecavalier's rookie year with Tampa Bay, to find a full season in which he had fewer points (28).
"It was kind of a tough year," Lecavalier said.
In the playoffs, Lecavalier averaged just 10 minutes, 41 seconds per game and he was minus-5 as the Flyers lost to the New York Rangers, four games to three.
Lecavalier said his back felt fine in the last few months of the season, but he seemed to be laboring, and seemed slower than earlier in the season. He hopes to strengthen his back in the offseason and to regain his form.
"I'm going to work out hard like I do every summer and be ready for next year," he said. "I still believe in myself and where I should be. Like I said, I've had a lot of ups and downs this year, but I believe in what I can do."
Someone asked Lecavalier if he still felt capable of putting together 30 goals and 70 or 80 points.
"I believe in what I can do, and I've gotten kind of a freak injury this year with the cracked vertebrae. I've got cross-checked there about 500 times in my career, if not more, and for some reason it cracks [this season]," he said. "It's not because of old age, you know what I mean? I believe in what I can do. I missed 13 games. I believe I can bring those numbers for sure."
Flyers center Claude Giroux was named a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, presented annually to the league's top player as voted upon by the players. The players association made the nomination.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf were also named finalists. The three are also finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.
The award winners will be announced June 24.