PHILADELPHIA, Pa – If anyone out there can figure out this year’s version of the Philadelphia Flyers, please send us a letter explaining just how you figured them out. This is one equation even Albert Einstein couldn’t have figured out. Welcome to Team Schizophrenia.
When last we saw the Flyers, they were four games over the .500 mark at 20-16-4 (44 points) and were sitting in 8th place in the Eastern Conference. Since then the Flyers are still four games over .500 (27-23-6 60 points) and are still in 8th place.
Lovingly called Team Schizophrenia by yours truly, there just is no way to figure them out on a game-by-game basis. One minute they are getting blown out by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the other they are blowing out the Detroit Red Wings. As we’ve mentioned before the Flyers look like a team headed for the NHL Entry Draft, the other like playoff contenders.
Claude Giroux is playing some of his best hockey of the year leading the team with 52 points and 35 assists but Wayne Simmonds is also on a roll these days leading the team with 18 goals. In fact, the Flyers now have eight double-digit goal-scorers. The Flyers have bumped up from 18th in offense to 17th.
On defense the Flyers have fallen from 16th to 18th in large part because the Flyers religiously give up the first goal of the game, get routinely outshot in games, and both goaltenders had gone into slumps. The good news is that Steve Mason has rebounded lately winning 2 of his last 3 games, both via shutout to Detroit and Los Angeles.
Because of the improved play on offense the power play has benefited bumping up from 16th overall to 12th in the league. The penalty kill, despite its recent defensive woes, have also improved 4 spots from 10th overall to 6th overall.
Kimmo Timonen is out with a lower body injury and was replaced by Erik Gustafsson. Mark Streit, Nick Grossman, Braydon Coburn, and Andrej Meszaros anchor the blueline. Still, there is a major need to bring in a first line defenseman since losing Chris Pronger and missing out on Shea Weber. Don’t be surprised if the Weber trade rumors heat up once the Winter Olympics are over.
Steve Mason and Ray Emery seemed to have hit the skids at the same time, but as mentioned before Mason seems to be coming out of his funk, which is great news for the Flyers. It might also mean the Ryan Millers trade rumors will die down in Philly. GM Paul Holmgren is known for making trades outside of the box at the trade deadline but the better Mason plays the less likely a big trade package will take place between Buffalo and the Flyers.
Keep one thing in mind this year. The NHL Entry Draft is in Philadelphia this year, but the big prize is in next year’s draft when Connor MacDavid is eligible to come out. When the names Crosby and McDavid are being said in the same sentence people listen.
That said, the big prize literally in this seasons draft is 6’ 4” defenseman Aaron Ekblad. A trade with someone at the top of the draft like Buffalo would kill the need for a Weber and save the Flyers a ton of money in the process. The Flyers also have Samuel Morin in the wings so a future pairing of Ekblad and Morin, who is 6’ 6”, has to be enticing if you are in Flyers Management.
The Flyers are a mystery these days but Flyers Management can be easy to predict. If the Flyers continue to slump look for a major salary dump to get Weber, otherwise look for the Flyers to make a couple of minor moves, one for offense, the other for defense. Holmgren never makes a trade deadline and draft day boring of nothing else.