Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
As the Flyers pass the one third point of the season, by playing game 27 late last week and game 28 earlier this week, we now have a good idea of where they they stand.
Via Behind the Net
The first thing we can pull from this is the Flyers have a lot of low PDO players. The first third of the season has been filled with bad luck. The good news is, that as regression takes over, they’ll add some more scoring. Tuesday night’s NYI game was, in some ways, a welcome relief as the Flyers dominated an NYI team who was only saved by the fact that Jaroslav Halak is a very good goalie who can occasionally transform into basically a brick wall.
The WOWY Chart does a good job of illustrating just how top heavy the Flyers are. We know that Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek are elite players. The success of Simmonds-Couturier-Read can’t be denied and the emergence of Shayne Gostisbehere is a welcome site to a team that has not drafted and developed a defender to play more than 200 games with the team since Joni Pitkanen in 2002, in fact other than Pitkanen, the only other Flyers farm product on defense to play 200 games with the team in same time frame is Randy Jones. When it comes to Mark Streit, the Flyers should hope and pray his decline comes from his injury, and not age. Vinny Lecavalier being alone in a quadrant labled “bad” is both funny and sad, but after last season, it became fairly obvious he’s done as an NHL player. The only future question on Vinny will be when to buy him out or just ride out the final years of his contract.
To say the least, Michal Neuvirth has been amazing and Steve Mason has been good, if not a bit unlucky. The goalies are keeping the puck out of the net, and while Mason’s had a few off games, especially the Florida game that he had no business playing in, the goaltending is, once again, not an area of concern.
Earlier in the offseason, I called Radko Gudas a poor man’s Luke Schenn. Early results say that I was wrong. Gudas as been a solid addition to the Flyers blueline and has thrived with Michael Del Zotto as a partner. Luke Schenn has done well with Yevgeni Medvedev, but being anchored to Nick Schultz has dropped Schenn’s play considerably.
I’m not going with Vinny Lecavalier here, we knew he was bad. Nor am I going with Nick Schultz, as again, he’s a third pair defender being asked to log top pair minutes. Instead, I’m going with Brayden Schenn (who I’m normally a staunch defender of) and Sam Gagner. Brayden Schenn hasn’t quite rounded out his 5v5 game, for a super hyped prospect, to become a third line/top powerplay specialist isn’t exactly what you’d expect. He’s not a bad player, but he’s someone the Flyers need to part ways with solely because his next contract will likely be cap crippling on a team with a bunch of questionable at best deals.
Sam Gagner has shown flashes of offensive brilliance. I said at the beginning that he is what the Flyers expected Lecavalier to be. A 1033 PDO has hidden Gagner’s weaknesses quite well. The Flyers were hoping to get someone they could flip as a rental, or be a placeholder while prospects like Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel developed. Instead, Grossmann is gone, party.
The Salary Cap Situation. Andrew MacDonald, Vinny Lecavalier and RJ Umberger combined are charged 14.1M against the cap. None expire this year. Complicating matters is the fact that the super prospects on defense will all need their first RFA deal before MacDonald comes off the cap. Umberger might be tradeable in a Grossmann situation this offseason. Vinny could retire, but that’s unlikely, and he should not be expected to do so. With MacDonald, the Flyers might be best off eating 50% of his deal and sending him to a team that badly wants a LHD. Looking at you, Winnipeg.
The Ghost Bear is good.
Via Hockey Viz
Ghost is quickly showing that he is going to haunt opponents. His silent wrist shot has a tendency to sneak past defenders, while his roaring one timer slap shot has mauled opposing goalies, especially in OT.
The rest of the season:
Sitting four points out of a playoff spot, it’s not hard to envision them going on a run and keeping things interesting from here on out. However, one of the team’s ahead of them is defending Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay, and it’s highly unlikely they stay cold forever either. All the teams between the Flyers and a Wild Card, (Tampa, Boston, Florida, New Jersey, Pittsburgh) have flaws, but all have strengths too. The Flyers would need all but one of those teams to fall apart between now and April to sneak in. Is it possible? Sure, but this isn’t about catching one team, it’s about catching 4 of 5 teams. It’s an uphill battle, they overcame it in 2009-10 to reach the Cup Final and 13-14 to bounce out in round one, so this team has done it before.