He was a penalty-taking machine who didn’t have the speed or skill to make up for it on either end of the ice. He couldn’t log tough minutes against other teams' top lines, couldn’t kill penalties -a difficult feat from in the penalty box- and couldn’t seem to keep up with Claude Giroux and Jake Vorcek. He was a salary cap albatross on a team that has become known for them. His skating woes were so prevalent that they spawned the Hartnelldown foundation – an organization that donates to select charities every time Hartnell falls down on the ice; A great and honorable foundation, but does that strike anyone besides me as problematic? Why couldn’t his charity have been called Hartnellup, Or Hartnellscores, or even Hartnellhits for that matter?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Scott Hartnell, the man, just not the hockey player. That doesn’t mean I won’t have any fond memories of him on the ice. I’ll never forget him scoring the tying goal in game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, or “Hulkamania” (and it’s aftermath) or his strained relationship with Maple Leafs’ defenseman Dion Phaneuf. I’ll never forget his 37 goal season but with the reservation that a hockey stick duct taped to a traffic cone could have scored playing on a line with Giroux and Jagr. These memories make me smile.
But I also can’t forget Hartnell throwing his glove in a vain attempt to break up a Ryan Malone breakaway (thank God Marty Biron was there to bail him out). Or falling and careening into the goalie or net a few too many times. Or how his production dropped in the playoffs, or how his ill-timed penalties hung the team out to dry way too often. The NHL is getting faster every year and Hartnell, unfortunately, doesn’t fit the model that GM Ron Hextall thinks will lead to a championship.
You can argue that getting Umberger is a downgrade, (and according to our stat-head buddies at Broad Street Hockey you wouldn't be totally off base) but for once, the Flyers made an offseason move that wasn’t geared at “winning now.” Sure, Umberger’s contract is just fractionally cheaper and only two years shorter than Hartnell's, but those two years might matter. In two years the Flyers will have to figure out what to do with Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and hopefully, Scott Laughton, Mark Alt, Robert Hagg and Shayne Ghostibehere. Wouldn’t it be it seem like the same old story if one of those promising young players had to go because Hartnell’s salary was still be on the books?
Hartsy loved Philly and Philly loved him back. His abrupt departure is a shame. The Flyers lost a great personality, but they got rid of a bad hockey player.
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