PHILADELPHIA, PA. – The Philadelphia Flyers are having another down year, the second in the past three years. The playoffs appear to be a distant dream but the season is still far from over. Even the most diehard Flyers fan might have to concede that a playoff spot is out of the question for this season. If that is truly the case than the Flyers need to start looking for answers not for this season but for the next few seasons as well.
Unfortunately that won’t happen right away because the Flyers will never admit defeat when we are still in late January. That said, the trade deadline is coming up on March 2nd so look for the Flyers to be in full sell mode with their eye squarely on the future.
In the past it would have been easy to blame the General Manager for the kind of season the team is in. In this case, however, the current GM, Ron Hextall, is not the one to blame for their current predicament, but the previous GM, Paul Holmgren, is in this case.
Bad free agent contracts, such as the one to Vinny Lecavalier is killing the teams’ salary cap space. Trading away top prospects such as the James Van Reimsdyk for Luke Schenn looks worse and worse with each passing game.
Despite having Chris Pronger on their blueline, the trade for him was great short term, long term it hurt big time in terms of having top prospects on defense. Not to mention not drafting quality blueliners in the draft when they had the chance, such as Dougie Hamilton and Ollie Maata, cost the Flyers big time.
The Flyers current and future situation doesn’t appear as bad as they seem. They have a 19-22-7 record (45 Points) but there are some positives to go along with the negatives.
The Flyers are 24th overall, 14 points ahead of the worst team in the league, the Buffalo Sabres, who have 31 points and are on an 11 game losing streak. Edmonton has 33 while Arizona and Carolina each have 37. The Devils are only 3 points back of the Flyers with 42 with Columbus a point back with 43.
Washington and Boston are tied with 57 points, 12 points ahead so the Flyers are no closer to a playoff spot than the top pick in the draft. The New York Rangers have 58 points in the Metropolitan division so the path to the playoffs are in no better a situation looking a top spot in the division than a wild card birth is.
The good news is the Flyers are 12-7-3 at home but are 7-15-4 on the road. The Flyers have scored 130 goals (16th overall) but have allowed 146 (25th overall) which is good for a -16 goal ratio.
The Flyers are 13th in face-offs (50.9 percent) which is a rare feat for them since they usually rank in the lower half of the league and are below 50 percent. The power play is 5th overall at 23 percent but the penalty killing unit is, no pun intended, killing the team ranking 29TH, which is tied with the New York islanders at 74.4 percent.
The Flyers have six players with 10 or more goals including the league’s point’s leader in Jakub Voracek with 17 goals and 39 assists (56 points) and Claude Giroux is tied for third overall with 16 goals and 35 assists (51 points). RJ Umberger has 8 goals while Lecavalier and Mark Streit is tied with 7. Streit leads the defensemen with 27 assists. Nicklas Grossman (+5) and Nick Schultz (+4) leads the defense in plus/minus.
The defense needs an overall but that won’t happen until the trade deadline. The Flyers will look to move Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn. Michael Del Zotto is a free agent at the end of the season but his strong play of late might mean bringing him back next season but it might depend on if the Flyers bring back Craig Berube as head coach. MDZ has been in Berube’s dog house this season so that will go a long way on things overall, not just regarding Del Zotto.
Despite his work offensively the Flyers should look to move Streit since he is 37 and will turn 38 in December. Regardless of who they move on offense or defense, their cap space and Hextall’s vision of building through the draft with draft picks and current prospects will be all the Flyers should and will get back in any trade.
The goalie situation is only has good as Steve Masons’ health will take him. Finally, the Flyers have something they can hang their hat on in net. Other than Mason, the Flyers have prospects Anthony Stolarz and Merrick Madsen. Stolarz is close to being NHL ready but Madsen is a long ways away. He won’t be starting for Harvard University until next season and will need time in the AHL when he is ready to go pro. The Flyers will need a solid veteran to backup Mason until Stolarz is ready.
The Flyers are for the first time in a long time have solid depth on defense in the system. The scary thing is they might get even better come draft time. The draft this year looks to be top heavy in centers and defensemen. If things stay the same the Flyers will be in a very good position to take another.
The Flyers need scorers, especially at left wing ever since JVR and Jaromir Jagr left the same year and have had very little production ever since. This is not a good year for wingers and with injuries to top prospects Mart Alt and Shayne Gostisbehere on defense taking another top flight defenseman would be prudent.
The Flyers could be in solid position to take either Noah Hanifan, Zach Werenski, Oliver Kyington, or Ivan Provonov and be very happy they added another solid blueline prospect alongside current prospects Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, and Gostisbehere. The Flyers could be in good position to take anything from the third overall pick down in the positioning doesn’t chance after the lottery.
It could mean taking another center such as Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner but could settle for Pavel Zacha. If they insist they need left wing help, which they do, power-forward Lawson Crouse could be the pick, or move down to take additional picks and take Jordan Greenway. If they look at right wing Mikko Rantanen would be perfect for them having been Finland’s’ best player at the latest world junior championships scoring 4 goals in 5 games.
No matter how you slice and dice it, the Flyers future both long and short term look very good. With some salary cap space and one or two solid free agents look for the Flyers to be back in the playoffs for a long time to come.