Voorhees, NJ – With the splash that the Flyers made in the free agent market early last month, it's almost easy to forget that the team has added a number of other players that could prove to be just as important to the team as they prepare for the beginning of the season.
One of those players is right wing Mike Knuble, who signed with the Flyers in the summer of 2004, but is just now beginning to adapt to his new teammates and surroundings. Knuble is coming off of his two best NHL seasons by far, totaling 59 points in 2002-03 and 46 points in 2003-04. He then spent all of last year in Sweden during the NHL work stoppage and finished with 26 goals and 13 assists for 39 points in just 49 games.
Flyers fans could be pleasantly surprised with Knuble despite being seemingly lost in the shuffle of other new additions, such as Peter Forsberg, Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje and rookies Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. In reality, Knuble could be one of the best-suited Flyers to adapt to the new rules changes, as many of them were already in place while he was playing abroad last season. Hopefully for the Flyers, his experience will translate into a fast start for the 33-year old Toronto native.
"I saw the lockout as a chance to broaden my game a little bit and play a different style of game," said Knuble. It's different over there. It's not like one is better than the other, but it was just a different way to play the game and a different way to see the game. Now, as a result of the lockout, they brought a lot of the rules and I've seen a lot of the things that I played under there last year being played in the NHL this year.
Knuble's recent career success was due mainly to his taking advantage of an opportunity that was presented to him while he was in Boston. Known mainly as a third or fourth line winger at the time, the Bruins' Sergei Samsonov missed most of the 2002-03 season after undergoing wrist surgery. Knuble was thrust into the top line, playing alongside Joe Thornton and Glen Murray, and he immediately began to produce. His success continued into the 2003-04 campaign before he became a free agent and signed a three-year deal with Philadelphia.
"Things went my way, and playing with Joe and Glen, they were able to trust me and not be selfish, and say 'who the hell is this guy, he can't play with us,'" said Knuble. They took me in right away, and we all benefited. We all did well and had a terrific year. What they have done for my career is amazing.
Knuble clearly enjoyed his new role in Boston, and learned to think about the game in a whole new light.
"As a fourth line guy, you're not really sure what's going to happen, so you approach games a little bit different," he said. You go out there and try to not make mistakes, and do the best you can in your short amount of time. When you are thrust into a different role, you have to stay with it whether things go good or bad right in the beginning. You know that the two other guys on your line are offensive and demanding in their play. Joe became very demanding in his play, and that's good. It makes you become a better player when people are demanding more.
When Knuble signed with the Flyers last summer, it would have been impossible to predict what would have gone on with the NHL's labor negotiations, let alone the Flyers' roster. He was prepared to accept a little bit of a lesser role in Boston, but now, with the departure of players such as John LeClair and Mark Recchi, he could be relied upon once again to put the puck in the net.
"I was prepared to have maybe a little bit of a lesser role with some of the guys they had here," said Knuble. As a result of everything that has gone on, and with a salary cap, some higher paid guys are gone and there is a big change on the team. Maybe the roles of some guys will be different. Maybe I wasn't slated to be in a scoring role so much when those guys were around, but now with the changes, maybe I'm back there, I don't know.
FLYERS NOTES The Flyers will leave for their first preseason game on Friday afternoon, as they charter to London, Ontario to face the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. … Individual game tickets for the Flyers' 41 home games go on sale Saturday at 10:00 a.m. … The Flyers will be holding an open house for anyone interested in full season packages and game plans on Monday, September 19 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and also 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, call the Flyers at (215) 218 – PUCK (7825).