Instant Analysis: Flyers Reacquire Fire of Steve Downie in Exchange for Max Talbot

By David Strehle (@DStrehleTFP)


The Philadelphia Flyers are well known for making the ‘former-Flyer’ tag something that doesn’t always stick with players they’ve sent out of town, and they removed the label from the front of 26-year-old winger Steve Downie’s name on this Halloween day when he was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Max Talbot.

The Flyers have been going through the motions somewhat for a good portion of the first 11 games of the schedule, and the fiery winger should provide a good amount of emotional play. For those of you who don’t remember Downie’s first tour in Philadelphia, he was kind of like the Tasmanian Devil. He was akin to the style of play brought by Zac Rinaldo — with a more dangerous edge — but with a much higher offensive upside.

Downie is a natural winger, something the Flyers have lacked with many of their center men being moved off to the wings over the last several years.

Before he even made his NHL debut, Downie received one of the longest suspensions in league history when he was banned for 20 games for a deliberate hit to the head of Ottawa Senators’ forward Dean McCammond during the 2007/08 preseason.

Originally selected by the Flyers in the first round of the 2005 NHL entry draft (29th-overall), Downie posted six goals, 12 points and 84 PIMs in 38 contests over the course of the 2007/08 and 2008/09 campaigns, before being traded (along with defenseman Steve Eminger) to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Carle in November of 2008.

Downie’s game blossomed during his time in Tampa under head coach Rick Tocchet, as he posted 22 goals and 208 PIMs in 79 games in 2009/10. He even played on the right side of current-Flyers center Vincent Lecavalier.

He was sent to Colorado prior to the 2012 trade deadline as part of a three-team deal that included the Detroit Red Wings.

Downie tore his ACL and missed all but two games during the lockout-abbreviated 2012/13 season, and he had managed one goal, seven points, and 36 PIMs in the first 11 outings this year. He was playing on a line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly as the upstart Avs bolted out of the gates with a 10-1-0 record.

Even though he has revamped his game somewhat, he still plays on the edge of that fine line between playing good, gritty hockey and exhibiting spur-of-the-moment dangerous behavior. This hit on Nashville Predators’ defender Roman Josi in the first week of the present season wasn’t nearly as serious as the one on McCammond before his rookie year, but it sure looked very similar.

Though it’s not known on which line he will be skating, Downie will be in the Flyers’ lineup Friday night when the club takes on the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center. He could end up on the right side of the top line with Lecavalier and Claude Giroux, or he might be to the right of Sean Couturier to try to jumpstart the club’s unproductive third line.

Talbot’s time ends in Philadelphia at the midpoint of a five-year contract that pays him $1.750 million annually. The Lemoyne, Quebec-native posted career-highs of 19 goals, 15 assists, and 34 points during his initial season with the Flyers in 2011/12, and helped the team to a first-round upset over his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates.

But he had struggled offensively ever since that first season. posting five goals and 10 points in 35 games last year before suffering a broken leg, and one goal and two points in 11 contests in the early going this year.

He provided head coaches Peter Laviolette and Craig Berube with a good amount of versatility, being able to play at center or on the wing. He had most-recently been employed as the pivot on the fourth line, between Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill.

The 29-year-old showed the true warrior that he is last week when he was sent face-first into the boards by Benoit Pouliot late in the second period in a game against the New York Rangers, then returned to play the third period with bandages across his nose.

In an exclusive interview over the summer, Talbot told me the following about his name coming up a couple of times in trade rumors:

“It doesn’t stress me out too much,” Talbot added, placing a positive outlook on what can sometimes be a difficult situation for a professional athlete. “If there’s one way to take it, I like to think about the glass half full all the time. I’m more of a positive type of guy so if my name’s out there, it’s because teams are requesting for me.”

Talbot’s veteran leadership should be a welcomed addition for Patrick Roy’s young squad in Colorado.

It was apparent that some adjustments would be made to the Flyers’ roster. They’re coming off a stretch that has seen a non-playoff year, a training camp that Ed Snider called “the worst in his 47 years”, the firing of Laviolette, and 3-8-0 beginning to the 2013/14 campaign.

And this is likely not the end of the restructuring of the club’s on-ice personnel.

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros has been being shopped for some time with no takers, and after taking on nearly $1 million of additional salary (Downie is in the last year of his contract, at $2.650 million) Philadelphia will probably continue looking to move Meszaros’ pro-rated $4 million pact. There have also been rumblings of the organization’s dissatisfaction with the play of last year’s leading goal-scorer Jake Voracek. The 24-year-old has managed just a single goal and four points thus far in the early going.

While Talbot’s steady play and locker room presence will certainly be missed, Downie should be able to stir the pot for a team with a shortage of on-ice emotion. The Flyers have fed off that type of style in previous years, and Paul Holmgren has to hope that the infusion will spark what has been a painfully dormant group.

But it is something of a gamble, as Downie’s play could prove to bring a further lack of disciplined play that has seen the likes of Scott Hartnell, Rinaldo, Rosehill, and even Giroux taking bad penalties at critical junctures of games. While Downie has revamped his game somewhat, he still takes liberties. This hit on Nashville Predators’ defender Roman Josi during the

If the Flyers continue to lose in the upcoming weeks, there could be a general reshaping of the team like the one undergone during the 2006/07 season.

Stay tuned.

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