(Editor's Note: Matt originally wrote this piece for another site that he writes for, it was so popular there and sparked a lot of positive discussion that we thought it best to double post it here for the DGS regulars. If you want to read the article at its original location click here)
A lot of people have recently began to loudly and vocally question whether or not Mike Richards should be wearing the "C" in Philadelphia. These people are mostly angry Flyers fans who seem to think that Richards is the sole holder of the blame of the Flyers struggles over the last 20 games. But is Mike Richards really the problem? I say not exactly.
First off, let's look at what wearing the "C" on your sweater actually means from a league perspective. The "C" is used to define who the captain of the team is. This means that the player with the "C" has the responsibility of delegating with the referees over disputed calls, communicating messages from the coach to the referees or scorers bench or timekeeper or penalty box staff. This is it, there's no provision that the "C" has to be 'pleasant' to the media. There's no provision that the "C" has to be excessively vocal or score 80 points a season. There's NO provision that a "C" has to like the city's baseball team. Richards handles his assigned duties well, and he's respected in the lockerroom by his teammates, coaches and GM.
So, what is the problem then? Well, I personally began to think, what if there are too many cooks in the Flyers kitchen. Now, I already mentioned Richards, but let's look at some of the other people in and around the Flyers.
Peter Laviolette is a very hands on, outspoken, active coach who doesn't mix words and tends to keep secrets from the media, and probably his players too, even though I cannot prove that.
Chris Pronger is a vocal, loud leader who isn't afraid to call teammates out while wearing the "A" for alternate captain.
Kimmo Timonen has recently taking to calling for hustle and urgency from his teammates in his straight to the point style.
Sean O'Donnell is a 39 year old veteran who's won a cup, when Pronger is being sarcastic to the media, SOD is usually the guy giving detailed answers to the media because of Richards media shortcomings and Pronger's massive use of sarcasm and snark.
Danny Briere is a former Captain of the Buffalo Sabres. His scoring touch and willingness to handle the French speaking media has been helpful to the team as he's the most experienced Francophone on the team. Also, his skill in the playoffs, even being called Mr Playoffs makes people look to him as a person who should be emulated during crunch time.
Jody Shelley's another player who, like OD, has a respected veteran voice in the lockerroom. This voice is why Lavi refused to scratch him during the middle of the season.
During the preseason, the following players wore "A"s: Braydon Coburn, Claude Giroux, Blair Betts, Darroll Powe and Scott Hartnell.
That's 10 players with leadership experience when there's 20 players on the ice. That's 50% of the team. Each person has their own unique style and while they seem to work together, and for sure intend to work together, are they somehow actually causing detriment to the team. Are they actually corrupting young and new players like Bartulis, Meszaros, Versteeg, Zherdev, Carcillo and the rest of that other half of the team.
To me the phrase "Too many cooks in the kitchen ruins the soup" comes to mind here. All of these guys together, no matter how hard they try, are not going to be 100% unified on every issue. Not only that, but the more "leaders" and "alpha personalities" in one room, the more likely that small issues will actually be big issues if the natural egos of leaders start rubbing together. There's something to be said about having a small corps of leaders, and maybe the Flyers recent struggles have lasted so long because the team's leadership had too many different ideas on how to stop it. It's a slippery slope, and quite honestly, none of us are in that lockerroom all the time to really know what's going on, but this playoff run will truly test this group. If they can get it together, this team has the talent to go far, if not, maybe, the solution is trading these "leaders" for solid players with more passive personalities so the committed long term leaders like Richards and Carter who will wear the orange and black for another decade, can really lead this team.
Maybe that's the answer, or maybe I'm just crazy.