Tag Archives: NHL

Flyers Up and Down Approaching the Trade Deadline

No more than a week ago, I thought the Flyers might be able to actually make a push and make the playoffs.  However, with the key injuries starting to pile up, that’s becoming a distant possibility.  The loss of Couturier was bad enough but now it looks like del Zotto is also out for a good chunk of time.  If last night’s game is any indication, I just don’t see how this roster can put together enough wins to not only keep pace but jump over the other teams ahead of them to make it into the playoffs.  And then if they get there, outside of the Penguins, I don’t see them advancing.  As the end of the month trade deadline approaches in the NHL, it is a very interesting time for the Flyers and one that will be critical to them maintaining this progression on the rebuild.

As a fan of the team, I don’t support the whole “tanking” concept trying to get a better draft pick, and I believe the Flyers are too proud of an organization to actually do it.  So I don’t think that’s even a viable option for the rest of the season.  I fully expect the team to continue to compete as they’re also working to learn coach Hakstol’s system and get stronger in what he’s trying to do.  Here’s what I’d like to see them do during the next couple of weeks.

With regards to the actual trade deadline, I would be fine with them not making another move.  They’ve already shed 2 painful contracts with the trade Lecavalier/Schenn trade.  Of the players remaining on the team, I only see 2 that are relatively high paid players that consistently spend time in the press box as healthy scratches – R.J. Umberger and Sam Gagner.  Gagner’s contract actually expires at the end of this year, so I don’t see him going anywhere and it really doesn’t hurt the Flyers all that much.  But perhaps someone would take a shot on a rental for a draft pick.  As for Umberger, he still has one more year left on his deal (cap hit of $4.6 million) and would be very nice to get off the books.  This would be another cap shedding move that I would be happy to just see a “bag of pucks” in return.  I would be perfectly fine seeing both these players move on before the trade deadline, but don’t expect to see much in return.  Anything Hextall can get for them should be seen as a win, which was exactly what he was able to do in that deal with the Kings.

The other interesting player on the roster is Mark Streit, who carries a $5.25 million dollar cap hit through next season and isn’t getting any younger at the age of 38.  However, he’s still a very solid defender and one of, if not the best defender on the roster.  IF del Zotto was healthy, I would think the probability of Streit moving would be higher, but the prospects of replacing the top 2 defenders from a minutes played perspective could prove very daunting.  In the first game since del Zotto’s injury MacDonald was recalled from the Phantom’s and reminded everyone why he’s down in the AHL as he was just horrid.  I guess there could be some unfamiliarity and nerves involved, but he was playing with Gostisbehere (Ghost) who he spent lots of time playing with prior to Ghost’s call-up to the Flyers.  I would expect Streit to remain on the team through this season and perhaps move next year at this time as a sort of Timonen move to give him a last shot at a cup if the Flyers aren’t in contention.  Unless of course, someone comes forward with a deal too sweet to pass up, but that would need to be very cap friendly and with either prospects or draft picks.

As for the rest of the roster, the biggest thing I’d like to see is an extended “try-out” for some of the younger players in the Flyers system.  I will fully admit I don’t know all the complicated rules for calling up and sending down players and how that relates to waivers, so what I’d like to see happen may not be possible.  But a player like Jordan Weal is already on the roster and I’d like to see him get a shot just to determine if he’s an asset for next year or someone who is a Phantoms player in all reality.  Aside from him, there’s a handful of young defensmen in the ranks with varying degrees of actual NHL experience.  Maybe rotate some of those guys in for a few games or something as they couldn’t possibly be any worse than MacDonald.  Although I guess perhaps giving MacDonald some time before the trade deadline might get him some visibility for another sucker, i mean team, to offer the Flyers a puck in return for his play.

Overall this is a rough spot for fans, and I’m sure frustrating for the franchise, but it is one where patience will payoff as there’s finally a ton of talent in this organization.  Hopefully they can make the most of this year and make a good solid push for next season.

Flyers Mid-Season Review

Even though I spent many years living in Philly, the only team I’ve really gotten behind is the Flyers.  I’ve been to quite a few of their games, and was even there for the infamous Scott Stevens hit on Eric Lindros, but have not been to a game for a number of years.  Luckily they seem to be on TV quite a bit so I do get to catch my fair share of their games.  But before I started looking at things on a more current timeframe, I at least wanted to take a look back at the season so far as it has been a rocky road.

Starting off this season, I really didn’t expect much from the Flyers, maybe squeek into the playoffs, but that would have been a stretch.  The team has just been straddled with too many bad contracts and not enough depth to survive deep into the season.  My main hope for this year was to maintain respectability (not pull a 76ers and tank) and try to figure out the log-jam of young prospects to see who’s an option for next year(s).  But so far, this team and leadership has far exceeded expectations and looks like they could possibly do some damage in the playoffs.

Let’s first look at some of the moves they’ve made so far.  It was a pretty quiet off-season as there just wasn’t too much they could do with bad players signed to horrible contracts.  Early on this year MacDonald was sent down to the Phantoms to bury his salary, but I have to think Hextall would love to move him if he could but also is a bit of an insurance policy in case someone gets hurt.  The Grossman for Gagner trade really seemed like one of those “helps each team” kinds of deals, although I really haven’t been too impressed with Gagner this year.  However, his contract is up after this year so there really isn’t too much to worry about and Grossman just wasn’t going to work with the amount of defensemen the Flyers have.  The other big trade so far was the one done with the Kings that sent Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn packing and brought back Jordan Weal as consolation.  This was another cap saving move that helps the Flyers out but doesn’t really cost the Kings all that much as Schenn’s contract is up after this year and Vinny has said he’ll retire.  So they get a rental and give up a prospect and a draft pick.  Weal hasn’t had too much playing time, but anything more than a bag of pucks is a bonus from what I was expecting.  As we get closer to the trade deadline I don’t see the Flyers rocking the boat too much but it wouldn’t shock me if they could unload another bad contract or two onto someone a player away from a Cup run.

As for actual play on the ice, I have to say I’m quite surprised.  So many things have gone “wrong” for the Flyers that I would’ve expected them to be much worse off.  Voracek’s slow start and Streit’s injury are the two obvious ones but also having to adjust to a new coach is always rough.  I’m been impressed with the system and style Haskol has implemented and it seems like not only are the players buying in but they seem to embrace it.  Two main things have happened this year that have allowed the Flyers to stay afloat:

  • Consistent and solid goaltending
  • Contributions from their younger players

The first one is obvious, and very much unlike the Flyers but I have seen multiple smart people say they Flyers have had the best goaltending play in the league.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, or feel super confident one of them could steal a playoff series, but the Mason/Neuvirth combination has been very effective.  As for the youth contributions for me it comes down to 3 players:

  • Couturier (thankfully back tonight from injury)
  • Brayden Schenn
  • Shayne (Ghost) Gostisbehere

Ghost is the easy one, he was on the fringe of making the team last year until a nasty knee injury, but has been amazing this year.  Sure he’s making mistakes, but he’s solid enough on defense and such a force on the attack that the good out-weighs the bad.  He’s making a real push for rookie of the year and is looking like quite a draft steal for the Flyers.  Schenn has turned in a nice solid and consistent offensive year helping provide another scorer on the power play to help crowd the net.  But I think the real advance has come this year from Couturier as he just keeps getting better on defense and this year is really turning up the offense.  Its not going to be long until we start seeing his name mentioned in the Selke debates.

Overall, I’m pretty happy the way this year has gone and have lots of expectations rolling into next season as spots open up for some of the exciting youth in the system.  I’m not going to promise any sort of game by game update, but focus more on the big picture kinds of stories.