Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
With 2014 coming to an end, I’ve made 5 predictions as to how things will play out during the 2015 part of this hockey season. Here we go.
1. Claude Giroux will lead the Flyers in points this season, not Jakub Voracek
Though Jakub Voracek has 5 more points than Giroux after the first 35 games, there are many reasons to expect this to change. Voracek has shot a fairly high 12.50% at even strength this season, while Giroux has shot a low 5.26%. These will almost certainly regress towards their respective career averages of 10.40% and 10.51%. Voracek also is carrying a very high 89% individual points percentage (IPP), while Giroux is carrying a more sustainable IPP of 69.2% (nice). Giroux has always been slightly superior in terms of PP production as well. They will both put together fantastic seasons, but Giroux will come out a tad higher in the points column when all is said and done.
(Data from stats.hockeyanalysis.com)
2. Nicklas Grossmann or Nick Schultz will not be scratched.
At this point, it is pretty clear how Craig Berube feels about his defensive unit. Nick Grossmann has performed extremely poorly in terms of every possession metric so far, but continues to play a fairly large role (3rd on the team in total even strength ice time). For those (like myself) who have actively campaigned for him to be benched, I wouldn’t hold out too much hope. Berube gives a lot of value to having size on the blueline, and Grossmann is the largest defenseman on the roster. His name hasn’t come up in healthy scratch talks during Berube’s tenure, and it’s tough to see that changing now.
The only way I see Grossmann getting benched is if he goes through a huge downswing in PDO. His absurd 104.8 PDO has gone a long way towards masking some of his shortcomings this year. Perhaps if his on ice save% of 95.5 takes a big dive, Berube will start to see things differently.
Berube has also clearly shown a lot of trust in Nick Schultz, who has surprised a lot of people this season. His possession metrics, while they aren’t great, have not been quite as ugly they were in previous years. Chief’s partiality towards larger defensemen also gives Schultz a slight advantage over guys like Michael Del Zotto and Carlo Colaiacovo when it comes to lineup decisions.
(Data from war-on-ice.com)
3. The Flyers will never win a shootout
It just isn’t going to ever happen. The Flyers are going to match the impressive feat pulled by the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils and win zero shootouts in a season. If they do win a shootout this season, I promise all of you I will react in the same manner that Joe Thornton would react to a 4 goal game.
4. Craig Berube will not be fired midseason
Ron Hextall has repeatedly shown a commitment to long term thinking. We can argue until the cows come home about whether or not Berube deserves to stay, but Hextall would have removed him already if he had seen a midseason change as a viable option. This roster is not going to accomplish anything significant with or without Berube behind the bench. They could be coached by the offspring of Scotty Bowman and God and they’d still have a ceiling around 85 points. It makes more sense to take a long term approach and bring in a new coach this summer after exploring all available possibilities.
5. If the Flyers are 10 or more points out of the playoff picture at the trade deadline, Mark Streit will be traded
Most of the trade discussion regarding the Flyers this season has centered around moving out some of the bad players who are on bad contracts. While those trades are nice to think about, the chances that somebody will want Nicklas Grossmann or RJ Umberger are very low. Given that the Flyers probably won’t be good for at least another 2 seasons, it makes a ton of sense to move Mark Streit this year. Streit won’t be a part of any contending teams in Philadelphia, and he brings legitimate value to a team that is looking to win this season. He is currently 14th amongst defensemen in points, and has two years left on a contract that really doesn’t look so bad. It is completely realistic to think that the Flyers could, at the very least, get back the 2nd and 3rd round picks that they sent off last spring in exchange for Andrew MacDonald. They could probably get more. Teams in the past have done some crazy things to acquire defensemen at the deadline.