At times he would act as if he didn't care. It was a transparent hoax, exposed when his own expectations bubbled those trapped emotions up to the surface -like that night in 1995 when he accepted the Hart Trophy and broke into tears while thanking Philadelphia fans and promising "We're gonna do it."
It's an oft-recited adage: Nothing in sports is static. Things can get worse, or they can get better, but rarely if ever do they stay the same. The Flyers will test that this season. Not because they didn't make changes. But because the effect of those changes may not be measurable in the coming season.
The best thing to hope for from the coming season is the kind of coming-attraction finish experienced in Toronto last year - even if the thought of what the 2012 Kings did with a young D and good goalie and the 2010 Blackhawks did with an experienced D and a not-as-good-goalie is titillating.
Asked what he saw in his first extended look at Flyers prospect Oskar Lindblom, whom is expected to grab one of the open forwards positions come September Hakstol said, "Just growth. When you see the completeness of his game. The skill package."
The Flyers are among the NHL's smallest. According to James Mirtle's annual ranking of teams by size and weight, the Flyers were the shortest, and the third lightest in the entire league when the 2016-2017 season began. Which is one huge reason they had such trouble collecting those "greasy goals'' their coach, Dave Hakstol, spoke so frequently about.
For a scoring starved team - which the Flyers were last season - defenseman Travis Sanheim's strong AHL finish might warrant a promotion. His path though appears to be impeded or blocked - at least right now - by two of his more seasoned Phantoms teammates - Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin.
Once among Canada's most touted future stars and 2016 second-round draft pick of the Flyers, there was every reason in the world for Laberge's productivity to fall sharply after the dirty hit last October that rendered him unconscious.
Sam Donnellon is a Flyers beat writer for the Daily News and Inquirer. His career has spanned four decades and has taken him all over the world. Prior to joining the Daily News in 1992, he worked as a national writer for the short-lived but highly acclaimed National Sports Daily. He has received state and national awards at each stop and has been honored repeatedly by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Associated Press Managing Editors.