By David Strehle
NHL Hot Stove Managing Editor
When the Philadelphia Flyers inked forward Maxime Talbot to a five-year, $9 million free agent contract in July, it seemed that he got caught in the cross-fire of Pennsylvania’s ever-volatile hockey rivalry – it seemed that fans from neither side in the Keystone Klash had anything good to say about the 5′ 11″, 190-pound centerman.
Fans from Pittsburgh - already smarting over what they deemed to be a huge diss from Jaromir Jagr in turning down the Penguins offer to instead sign with the Flyers earlier in the day - saw it as yet another act of betrayal by one of their own. Like Jagr, Talbot had won a Stanley Cup in the Steel City, but now the pair would be donning the Orange-and-Black of their most-hated arch enemy. Pittsburgh supporters voiced their displeasure on social websites such as Twitter and Facebook, and other hockey-based message boards.
Instead of a joyous reception from the City of Brotherly Love, there was also an air of aversion from fans to the East. “How could Paul Holmgren do this? Talbot’s not worth that much, and we’ve already got Blair Betts!” was a frequently-seen tirade throughout the day on Twitter and Facebook, as well as other hockey-based message boards.
Talbot celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes October 29, 2011. (Photo credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)
There was no secret that Talbot has made his professional living as a ‘glue guy’ and defensive specialist. He’ll agitate and sacrifice his body, all for the ultimate good of the team.
Look no further than the 2008-09 playoffs with the Flyers, and the pummelling he took from Dan Carcillo in somehow turning the series around for proof.
Talbot’s never been known as a big-time goal scorer, except for maybe in the 2002-03 season with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL. Talbot scored 46 times in 69 games that year, but during his time in the NHL, his career-high total in goals is just 13 (during the 2006-07 campaign) and 26 points (during 2007-08).
But this season Talbot is providing the Flyers with everything the team had expected, plus some additional offense.
After starting off the season with just one goal and three points in his first nine games – usual offensive output numbers for Talbot – he has recorded four goals and six points in the last seven games.
As a matter of fact, the Lemoyne, Quebec-native is in the club’s top 10 in both goals scored and points. In 16 games, Talbot has five goals (tied for fifth on the team) and nine points (good for eighth overall in Flyers scoring). That’s a pace for 25 goals and 45 points, which would both nearly double his previous career-high totals.
He even scored on a penalty shot two weeks ago on New Jersey Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg, his first such successful forray in his second career opportunity.
And he fared much better in this one.
“Yeah, well it’s the second one of my career,” Talbot said after the November 3rd game. ”I had one last year or two years ago and missing that by about five feet, it was nice to have a second chance and actually put it in the net.”
If you notice in photos taken of him throughout his NHL career, you will find more often than not Talbot has a black eye or some kind of other visible mark left from laying it all out on the line for his teammates.
Talbot has shown the aspect of what he will do in order to help Philadelphia win games all year.
On October 27 against the Winnipeg Jets, Talbot blocked a point shot while killing a penalty. The shot hit him on the inside of the ankle, and he went right off the ice and hobbled down the tunnel towards the Flyers’ locker room. This was not a good sight, especially considering that Philly rookie Brayden Schenn had broken his foot in the previous game doing the exact same thing.
Talbot would return after missing only a couple of shifts, and scored a goal as the Flyers came back from a 6-2 deficit to take a 7-6 lead, only to end the night with a 9-8 loss.
“It sucks,” Talbot said after the game when I asked how he felt, while showing me the huge bruise on his ankle. “It really hurts. I think it’s only bruised, thank God it isn’t broken. ”
Last night in Miami, Talbot gave more of the same for the Flyers. After being nailed for a high-sticking double minor call earlier in the contest on a play where he barely clipped defenseman Brian Campbell with his stick, Talbot was hit across the face with brutal force by the stick of defenseman Jason Garrison late in the game.
As Talbot drove to the net, Garrison looked to be attempting to either lift Talbot’s stick, or just be taking a hooking minor to prevent a quality scoring chance. At any rate, all he got was Talbot’s face with the shaft of his stick, cutting the Flyer forward for stitches and breaking one of his teeth.
A high sticking minor is called when a player is hit in the face with a stick, even for accidental infractions. If blood is detected, it’s almost automatic that a double-minor is called. Amazingly, no penalty was called on Garrison.
“I was not able to get an explanation (from the officials),” Talbot told CSNPhilly’s Sarah Baicker after the game. “I was looking for my tooth. There was blood everywhere, so I couldn’t really talk. But I would have liked to hear what they (referees) had to say.”
“I find it funny that I not even clip a guy in the face in the third, he bites his lip and I get four minutes,” he continued. “And then something like this happens, and there’s four refs on the ice. I know they’re human and they don’t see everything, but there’s something not right there.”
It’s obvious that Talbot brings much more to the table than Betts (who is also a warrior) could, even when he was healthy. For those who were comparing the two when Talbot signed, Betts scored a total of just five goals in 75 games last season - a number matched by Talbot in only his 14th game this year.
It’s hard to know if Talbot will be able to keep up his offensive pace or not, but one thing is certain. Whether it be with the linemates he is skating with on any particular night, or on a penalty kill with Claude Giroux or rookie Sean Couturier, he will get his chances to score.
Coincidentally, two important dates to mark on your calendar – December 8, when the Flyers meet the Penguins for the first time this season, and December 29, when the teams meet in Pittsburgh for the first time.
All the while, the bad blood continues between the two organizations – and it should definitely hit a boiling point during the meetings with the Pens.
“It’s nice to be on the right side this time,” Talbot said via Flyers On The Fly on the club’s official site.
Talbot sure knows how to stir the caldron, but at least now Flyers fans are learning just how lucky they are to have the services of ‘Mad Max’.
If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle
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