Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Kubina experiment

Pavel Kubina packed his bags last Thursday at the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees. Before his exit meeting with Peter Laviolette, Kubina was one of the few Flyers to pack all of their equipment.

The Kubina experiment

Defenseman Pavel Kubina played 22 total games with the Flyers, including playoffs. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Defenseman Pavel Kubina played 22 total games with the Flyers, including playoffs. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Pavel Kubina packed his bags last Thursday at the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees. Before his exit meeting with Peter Laviolette, Kubina was one of the few Flyers to pack all of their equipment.

It was time.

For Kubina, his strange, three-month odyssey in Philadelphia was finally over.

It was time to return to his home in St. Petersburg, Fla., where his five-year-old daughter was waiting.

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When he left, though, Kubina did it with a smile on his face. He was not bitter that he was a healthy scratch in 6 out of the Flyers’ 11 Stanley Cup playoff games. He was not angry that he was shuffled to the sidelines after such a small sample size of an audition with the Flyers in March and April.

Surprisingly, Kubina was thankful for the opportunity.

“I would have liked to be playing, that is for sure,” Kubina told the Daily News. “But this was a great experience for me. I leave here knowing this was a tight group. I had so much fun. I had a chance to play for this team, one of the top organizations in the league. I really liked it here.”

Kubina was acquired on Feb. 18 from Tampa Bay in exchange for Phantoms forward Jon Kalinski, Florida’s 2nd round pick in 2012, and the Flyers’ fourth round pick in 2013.

He played 22 total games with the Flyers, including playoffs.

Now, after the fact, it would be easy to sit back and point to the trade and call it a failure. What exactly, though, would the Flyers have done without Kubina? After Kubina’s arrival, the Flyers went without Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, Nick Grossmann and even Marc-Andre Bourdon, before Erik Gustafsson came in and bailed them out in the playoffs.

Yes, the Flyers moved two surplus draft picks to get him. But Kubina plugged a big hole for the Flyers. It’s easy to wonder where the Flyers would have finished without the trades of Kubina and Grossmann four days apart in February.

Kubina probably wasn’t even utilized in the right role. The biggest knock on Kubina was his speed. His conditioning wasn’t top notch when he joined the team since he went more than a week in limbo with the Lightning not playing. Tampa Bay sat him out while deciding where to trade him.

Kubina averaged 17:19 in ice time with the Flyers, well off his 22:02 average over 970 career NHL games.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, Kubina was a healthy scratch in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. The Flyers simply hadn’t seen enough of him to instill trust.

“In the playoffs, there was nothing I could do about it,” Kubina said. “Sometimes, that happens.”

Kubina, 37, isn’t sure what’s next. He is coming off a two-year deal in which he made $3.85 million per season, a big number for a player whose career is clearly on the decline. He waived his limited no-trade clause to come to the Flyers in February.

If healthy, Kubina would make a decent depth defenseman somewhere at a significantly reduced salary. In the $1 million range, he would be a decent veteran presence to round out a defense crops. He is a Stanley Cup winner, a proven shutdown defender, and a physical presence with a right-handed shot the Flyers could use. And his positive attitude always helps.

“Hopefully I can play for a few more years,” Kubina said. “I love this game, that’s why I came here. If the Flyers called me, I would answer. I think Paul Holmgren did a great job with this team. If you look at this team, you look at their age with 10 guys around 20-22 years, you realize how much potential and future they have. They’re going to be in great shape for the next 5-to-10 years. They’re just going to get better.”

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

About this blog
Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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