The Blame Game: The Players

Thank you for reading parts one and two of The Blame Game. So far the inquisition of whether or not GM Ron Hextall or Coach Dave Hakstol has proven to not be the unilateral slam dunk right into Dave Hakstol’s face as I thought it would be.

In our final indigment, let’s look at the players:

Claude Giroux – If you’re a WIP calling, mouth breather than you’re probably tweeting Howard Eskin about how the Flyers need to trade Giroux or some other nonsense about “leadership.” To understand how much blame to put on Giroux, we have to understand what he is. More specifically, understand what he isn’t.

What he isn’t, is a 40 goal, 100 point guy. He is capable of replicating his famous shift in the 2012 playoffs against the Penguins and has game breaking ability, however, at the end of the day, he is a much grittier Niklas Backstrom with more goal scoring ability. In other words, G-Unit ain’t your trigger man. He needs to feed somebody the puck. If you’re going to criticize Giroux’s production, you better start gravitating that finger pointing over to his left winger, and I’m not referring to Michael Raffl.

Brayden Schenn – (I consider him a 1LW because that’s what he’s getting paid a crap ton of money to be)- I will never blame any professional athlete for squeezing as much out of the market as they possibly can. If you think Schenn is overpaid, you are correct. But Hextall is the guy who gave him too much money instead of shopping his RFA rights.

Regardless, Schenn is here for the foreseeable future and he is going to continue to be invisible during 5-on-5 play. I think the most frustrating thing about Schenn is that no one knows what he is. Is he a center or a winger? Is he a power play specialist? Is he a power forward, if so, what the hell happened to power forwards?

I want to be able to blame Hakstol for not being able to define a roll for this guy but the fact is that Schenn hasn’t declared himself to be really good at anything aside from shooting in the inner half of the Giroux side face-off circle on the power play. I assign a lot of the Flyers lack of offensive output because he and Simmonds are supposed to be the goal scorers of this team. Between the two, one is the All-Star MVP, the other is Brayden Schenn.

Sean Couturier – If I were Couturier, I would be pretty okay with all the heat Hakstol is getting because almost no one is talking about Coots’ lack of production. In Couturier’s defense, it made no sense to take Travis Konencny and Jakub Voracek off his wings. I understand that he got hurt and the landscape of the team was different upon his return, but if that trio worked in the beginning of the season, why wouldn’t it work again? The next couple of seasons are going to determine if Couturier is going to be Patrice Bergeron-Lite like we want him to be, or will his career mirror closer to Mike Ricci’s?

Justified or not, we all want to see more offensive production from him whether he has that ability in him or not.

Andrew MacDonald – Good grief. To be fair, just as I won’t judge a player for signing for as much as he possibly can, I not going to judge a player for skating the minutes he gets whether they are deserved or not. I will however, ascribe a large amount of blame on MacDonald  for being very bad, but not “late career Wade Redden” bad enough to the point where we have no other choice but to bury him in the minors. If you’re reading this, you really don’t need more evidence as to why Amac is terrible but if you’re reading this, you’re a Flyers fan and therefore a masochist. So, click the play but below to twist that self induced knife:

Dale Weise – Could you imagine being really average/adequate at your job, go on a super awesome hot streak for two months, and then get a four year contract paying out $2.35M a clip despite not being able to replicate that anomalistic performance for a full calendar year and counting?

You can, you say? Well then your name must be Dale Weise!

Yep. Dale Weise had an above average mid to late finish to the 2015-2016 season and then somehow became worth a 2nd round pick in a trade to Chicago, and $9.4M in free agency. I really wanted Hextall to be above overpaying big dudes that get on hot streaks who have the ability to bother Milan Lucic for two weeks, but here we are.

Weise is an absolute waste. His minutes would be much effective if they were skated by as many as three of the top-end Phantoms, Ryan White, or power play/league minimum salary recipient, Sam Gagner. The only value that Weise could possibly bring is that I hope he serves as a skeleton in Hextall’s free agency closet in perpetuity.

THE FUDGING GOALTENDING – This defense. Is. Not. Good. Even if with Ghost in the lineup, the Flyers backend would never be confused with the Flyers backend of 2010. In other words, the more you ask them to do on a nightly basis, the more opportunity they have to make mistakes. More specifically, the Flyers breakout is arguably unnecessarily too complicated for this defensive corp to execute in controlled situations. Why then would we expect this same crew to be able get zone exits when the situation is not controlled?

Well, how does goaltending affect the breakout you ponder? Simple. Steve Mason gives up way too many rebounds for a defense of this ability to be able to adjust to those rebounds and get zone exits. Now don’t be confused. Steve Mason total of saves he makes is very high. Part of that number has to to with the bad defense. The other part of it is that he has to make more saves, because he lack of rebound control keeps the puck in play longer, resulting in him having to make more saves. I understand that this might be a tough pill to swallow for some of you out there, but the next time(s) you see a puck bounce off his torso, and the play stays alive, imagine my voice (which is oddly deep for an Asian) saying, “I told you sooooo!”

Furthermore, I whole heartedly accept all of your angry tweets and will even read your Mason Apologist newsletters. I understand from a statistical stand point, Steve Mason should be grouped in the top third of league starters. I hung on every single word that Nick Mercandante spoke on the PDO Cast hoping that Mason was good as he was pervieved to be. But what we all have to start accepting is that this team is not good enough to have the average goaltending that Mason provides and vice versa.

(For the record, Michael Neuvirth gets an “Incomplete” in terms of culpability. It’s not his fault that he literally cannot stay healthy long enough the be the hero or the villain.)

Everyone Else – Unfortunately, one could make equally pressing cases against Voracek, Bellemare, and every other bum on this squad. It is very easy to want to blame the Flyers management but these dudes have to play the games. And, yes, the salary cap makes it easier to fire coaches vs. trade players, and blah, blah, blah. Regardless of what you think about Hakstol and his tactics, there is enough skill and talent on this team to the point that we as a fanbase are disappointed because we know they can perform better. The players know that they can perform better too.

The question then becomes, are we all wrong in our appraisal of this team’s abilities? Or, have the players already convinced themselves that this season’s fate is already determined and it’s time to start thinking about next season?

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