You guys, should I throw this towel in or what? (Image c/o Amy Irvin)
After a quick start to the season, the Flyers have lost five straight games and find themselves with one win more than the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. In some ways, the past few weeks have been a nightmare scenario that has people questioning everything from the capabilities of Jake Voracek to the decision making of rookie head coach, Dave Hakstol.
These are the dark days we knew would happen long before the season actually started but quickly forgot after a couple of good games. All hope is not lost. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel. There are going to be plenty of ups and downs. [Insert your own cliche here!]
Navigating through a season of such choppy waters is no fun task as a fan. Nobody who bleeds orange wants to see a snakebitten Voracek or see our best goaltending tandem in years left hung out to dry night in and night out. At this point, it might be best to recollect ourselves and step back to get a wider view of what is in store for the Flyers.
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
When the Flyers lost Sean Couturier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to injury, it became painfully apparent just how much value they provide to this team.
The Flyers defense is really thin and two-way forwards like Coots and PEBs are invaluable because, not only do they keep the puck away from the goalie but they also keep the puck away from the defense.
Couturier is reportedly near returning and adding him back will have a positive ripple effect throughout the entire team. Related: F Rinaldo in the m fing a.
The Maturation of Dave Hakstol
One has to wonder if Hakstol has had any moments where he wishes he was safe and sound back in North Dakota after trying to polish turds night in and night out. Still, he’s done a respectable job so far and has not caved under this trial by fire situation. Hakstol is adapting quickly and learning on the fly. After surviving this season, the next couple seasons will seem like a cakewalk for him.
The Trade Deadline
The Achilles heel of this team is its cap situation. Bad contracts to players like Andrew MacDonald and Vincent Lecavalier really hurt this team to such a point where GM, Ron Hextall, has to tread very carefully and get fairly creative just to keep the team cap compliant when injuries occur.
Enter February 29, 2016, (Happy ninth birthday, Simon Gagne!) when a blue line fire sale becomes more probable.
Mark Streit has been an invaluable asset to this team and, as much as it would hurt to lose a vet leader like him, his value will never be higher and he is clearly not a part of this team’s future, given his age. If Streit continues to produce at his current pace, he will be a highly sought after commodity and the Flyers will be dealing from a position of strength, a spot that is unfamiliar to them.
Luke Schenn is still young and has upside. The small amount of money owed to him at the deadline will work in the team’s favor, as will the fact that he is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The play of R.J. Umberger has noticeably improved this season and, if he remains healthy, other teams will be interested in him at the deadline. He’s a good bottom six forward who is defensively responsible and can chip in a few goals. With one year left on his contract at $4.5 million owed to him, the Flyers may need to work money into the deal to get something of value in return.
Prior to factoring in any returns, the Flyers would clear out $14 million in cap space by trading these three players which would give them some roster flexibility.
If and when the Flyers clear out some cap space and roster spots at the trade deadline, the team may begin auditioning prospects for next season’s lineup. Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg could all see some NHL time patrolling the blue line in Philly. Nick Cousins, Petr Straka and others may get a look on offense.
Nobody likes tanking but, if the Flyers continue to play poorly, I guess it is not all that bad of a deal to have a top five pick to tack onto an already solid stable of prospects.
Ron Hextall has done a solid job at drafting so far and has already added a few extra picks for the next draft from the Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger/Nicklas Grossmann trades as well as a draft pick swap. He is likely to add more at the deadline too.
Many hockey pundits believed that Ivan Provorov could have made the Flyers team this season. It honestly would not have been a surprise if he did. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it is likely he will be on the Flyers next season, along with at least one or two other defensive prospects.
The same is true with human highlight reel, Travis Konecny. My god, the thought of Provorov, Konecny, Ghost, Travis Sanheim, et al. on this team makes me want to sell one of my kids to buy season tickets.
Err, kidneys. Yeah, I meant one of my kidneys.
As gloomy as the current situation may be, the future is as bright as it has been in ages. So, kick back, enjoy a beer and wait for the ride to start.