Fire Ants First In Points and Egoby Brother Lee Love | December 14, 2016, 3:37 PM ET
Heading into the season, few would have guessed that the Fire Ants would be leading the World Conference, let alone be tied for first overall. With most of their starting defencemen gone, a questionable bottom six at forward and a number of high-profile players headed to free agency next season, Philadelphia seemed primed for a step backwards. Indeed, GM Norm Donovan had been actively shopping Mike Fisher, Corey Perry and others leading up to the draft with just that in mind.
“We were thinking rebuild,” admitted Donovan, “I figured I’d dump a few big contracts while they still had value, patch a few holes with cheap talent and then ride out the season. I was setting us up for a run next season.”
As with most of Donovan’s plans, things went awry almost immediately. “No one was making offers on my guys,” he recalled with contempt, “I’m out there dangling a winger who’s scored 50 points a year for his whole career and one of the best two-way centres in the game and all I get are a couple of tire-kickers? I was furious.”
So, Donovan reacted as he usually does in such situations – with petty spite. “I told those other GMs that they were forcing me into making a run. I gave them every opportunity to make me a fair offer, but nothing. So screw ‘em. I kept my players, grabbed up some solid defencemen in free agency and here we are - first place. I hope every time one of these pea-brains loses to us they remember it, too. Fisher and Perry are doing great this season, as are John-Michael Liles and Roman Polak, neither of whom I would have picked up if a deal had been made.”
Despite his bravado, the Fire Ants still lack depth at all positions and much of their success thus far has rested on the shoulders of their goaltenders, Tuukka Rask and Andrew Hammond. When pressed, Donovan was dismissive. “Look, are we going to be in first the whole year? Who knows. Are we going to get hit with more injuries? Who knows. Who cares? This is the World Conference. I could prop up a cardboard cut-out of Patrick Roy between the pipes and still make the playoffs. I just have to sit back and wait for that sweet sweet playoff revenue to… err.. I mean… wait for that chance at the Continental Cup.”