by Frank Seravalli, Philly News philly.com
May 31, 2011
TWO TEAMS ARE still battling for Lord Stanley’s mug, yet James van Riemsdyk already has made at least one trip to Darien, Conn., to hunt for an offseason residence.
While not far, Darien is not exactly near the beach – and it’s certainly not within close proximity to a lake stocked with bass or trout.
Van Riemsdyk’s goal is not to hang out with his buddies, to catch rays or check out women on the beach, or to pack on the pounds one Bud Light at a time. Van Riemsdyk’s pilgrimage to Darien is to train for next season. Some players hire a personal trainer to come to them. Instead, Van Riemsdyk will spend nearly 16 weeks in Connecticut with renowned hockey trainer Ben Prentiss, where he will trade reps with the likes of Marty St. Louis, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Shannon, Matt Moulson and Matt Lashoff.
For van Riemsdyk, who broke out in the Stanley Cup playoffs with seven goals in 11 games, this summer is about picking up next season where he left off at the beginning of May.
“For me, I think it was a matter of getting an opportunity,” van Riemsdyk said in a recent phone interview. “I wanted to step up for the team, above the injuries that we had, and help take the lead.
“I got a taste of it, a tiny glimpse. I want more of that.”
The offseason, more than a month longer for the Flyers than last summer, already has been a whirlwind for JVR. Just a day after the Flyers were swept by Boston in the second round, van Riemsdyk jumped on a plane and ended up in Slovakia to don the red, white and blue for Team USA in the world championships.
He played in just two games, before the United States was bounced in the quarterfinals by the Czech Republic, and needed to turn back around to head home.
“It was a pretty long trip for a short stay,” said van Riemsdyk, not complaining about his seventh Team USA appearance. “I wish it was longer.”
JVR rested for about a week, visiting friends in Chicago, before starting to prepare for a vigorous offseason that will soon begin with a 4-week structural balance tuneup with Prentiss.
Prentiss works with each player individually for about an hour each day.
“Really, the structural-balance portion is to realign the body after a long, hard season,” Prentiss said. “There are a lot of weaknesses that pop up over the course of an 82-game season. We want to first work out the kinks before we get into anything else.”
After upper- and lower-body workouts, van Riemsdyk will move into a “more dynamic” group of exercises that incorporates more movement.
Prentiss and van Riemsdyk first joined forces last summer, helping pave the way for what was a much more consistent sophomore season. JVR was referred to his trainer by the Canadiens’ Pacioretty, one of his teammates from Team USA, and Chris Pronger.
Despite posting similar numbers to his rookie season in points, 40 in 2010-11 compared to 35 in 2009-10, van Riemsdyk was more of a consistent player throughout the season.
His playoff outburst that was so evident last month likely started last July in Prentiss’ gym. But it didn’t begin with the fire that some players bring to their workouts. Prentiss was quick to notice something about JVR’s demeanor in the gym that was unlike that of St. Louis or Pronger or Pacioretty.
“He is much more subtle and unassuming than most of the others,” Prentiss said.
“For lack of a better description, he is more like the Clark Kent of my gym. He comes in and does his business. A lot of guys are loud and intense. Not James.
“But he put a lot of trust in what we do. He was very dedicated. He changed his diet. He never missed a single workout.”
Prentiss said he was sure to tailor a workout specifically for van Riemsdyk, since his body composition is so different than a player like 5-8 former Hart Trophy winner St. Louis. Prentiss wants to continue to add to fill out van Riemsdyk’s 6-3 frame without sacrificing the speed and power that made him so dangerous in the playoffs.
A full round later, van Riemsdyk is second among all playoff skaters in shots. His 70 shots in 11 games (6.36 per game) nearly tripled his regular-season output of 173 shots in 75 games (2.3 per game).
Van Riemsdyk chalked up half of his success on the ice to his mental preparation. In addition to working on his body, van Riemsdyk has seen sports psychologists in the past to work on what he said was “not getting too high or too low.”
“It’s important to keep going,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s easy to keep chugging along when you’re playing well and you’re scoring and the team is winning. But it’s a lot harder to do that when things aren’t going so well. I want to be consistent to continue to get the opportunities I did.”
JVR’s play might have made another forward expendable, with the thought in Paul Holmgren’s mind that van Riemsdyk can pick up the slack if the general manager decides to target a top-level goaltender this summer.
At the very least, van Riemsdyk’s 11-game playoff run showed the flashes of brilliance that made him worthy of the No. 2 overall pick in 2007 behind Chicago’s Patrick Kane.
“I’m happy that he broke out a little bit,” Prentiss said. “But one of the things we always talk about is never being satisfied. James could be hanging out with his buddies. He will be here because he wants to keep addressing issues. We will keep pushing.”