VOORHEES, N.J. – Only nine players in the history of hockey have amassed more than 3,000 penalty minutes in their career.
Flyers coach Craig Berube is one of them.
So, to hear him lament his team’s propensity for taking too many penalties is one of the more interesting dichotomies you’ll find in professional sports.
But Craig Berube the player had one philosophy. Craig Berube the coach has one that’s completely different.
“Special teams are always important,” he said. “I think our special teams has been pretty good around here for awhile. We’ve done a better job around here of not taking penalties too and that’s important, but we still go in stretches of like five games were we take too many penalties and then we stop taking them, but we need to be better there all around.
“I don’t want to be the most penalized team in the league. I don’t even want to be in the top five. It doesn’t help you at all, in any way. It hurts you. It hurts players. It kills your bench. It skews the ice time. All that stuff. Certain guys play too much. Then you have guys sitting there and they can’t get into the game. All those things come into play. We need to cut down on the penalties. “
Looking at the penalty statistics around the NHL, it’s easy to see why this is a cause for concern for Berube the coach.
The Flyers average the most penalty minutes per game (17.6) in the league, and second place Toronto (14.6) isn’t really close.
The Flyers have 162 minor penalties, second-most in the league behind only Ottawa (168). They have 27 majors, second most behind Toronto (28). They have the most misconducts in hockey with 11, meanwhile three teams (Carolina, Detroit and Montreal) don’t have any. They have the most game misconducts (four), the most total penalties takes (206) and the most penalty minutes total by a wide margin (Flyers – 615. No. 2 Toronto – 540. No one else has more than 500).
“It’s about being smarter,” Berube said. “The more you move your feet, the fewer penalties you’ll take. If you don’t move your feet, you’ll take penalties.
The other night (against Washington) we did a good job when [Brayden] Schenn got ran over, we did a good job of taking care of business without losing the five minute power play. That’s what I’m preaching around here. You don’t have to be stupid. You can stick up for your teammate but you don’t have to lose your power plays. It’s about not losing your head. It’s going to be an ongoing thing to teach and preach to get through to everybody.”
One of the affects though of taking a lot of penalties is that officials are more inclined to call more penalties on your opponents as well as they try to keep most games as close to evenly called as possible.
That’s why the Flyers also rank near the top of the NHL in power play chances. Their 133 power plays rank third-highest in the league.
And yet, Berube would rather there be less special teams in his team’s games moving forward.
“I want 5-on-5 play,” he said. “We’ve improved in that area tremendously and I think we’re going to still improve more. That’s what the game’s about. When you get into the playoffs it’s all about 5-on-5 play. There’s not that many power plays in the playoffs. It’s 5-on-5 hockey. You want to be successful in the playoffs, you play good 5-on-5 hockey.”
Now the question is, will Berube get the Flyers on the right path discipline-wise in time to first make the playoffs and second be successful in them?
An interesting note about penalty minutes:
When looking up where Berube ranked all-time in the NHL in penalty minutes (seventh, by the way, with 3,149 minutes) it was interesting to see how many players among the all-time leaders spent a portion of their careers with the Flyers.
There are 55 players who have amassed at least 2,000 penalty minutes. Of them, 21 players (21.8 percent) played at one point for the Flyers.
Here they are, with their minutes and ranking:
7. Craig Berube 3,149
10. Rick Tocchet 2,972
15. Donald Brashear 2,634
17. Gino Odjick 2,567
23. Scott Mellanby 2,479
25. Ulf Samuelsson 2,453
27. Jay Wells, 2,359
34. Dave Schultz 2,294
38. Kevin Dineen 2,229
39. Rob Ramage 2,226
46. Al Secord 2,093
50. Luke Richardson 2,055
The list grows longer between 51-100. Included there are Andre Dupont (56), Ian Laperriere (57), Joel Otto (59), Michel Petit (64), Chris Simon (66), Sean O’Donnell (69), Paul Coffey (71), Dave Brown (74), Ken Linseman (85), Paul Holmgren (92), Chris Gratton (97), Mel Bridgman (99).
That makes 24 out of 100 (24 percent). Oh, this is fun… let’s go further….
Between 100 -150 the Flyers employed:
Petr Svoboda (102), Chris Pronger (103), Terry Carkner (105), Gordie Roberts (106), Derian Hatcher (107), Glen Cochrane (113T), Keith Primeau (119), Jody Shelley (121T), Jim Cummins (121T), Sandy McCarthy (123T), Behn Wilson (133), Kevin Stevens (135), Reggie Fleming (137), Bob Kelly (145), Bobby Clarke (146).
That runs the number to 39 out of the top 150 (26 percent), an impressive total for sure.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers