Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Baby Steps Towards The Future or Blow It Up?
Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.
By John Saquella (@jsaquella)
The dawn must be coming on fast, because it’s really a dark time if you’re a Flyers fan.
The high paid offense can’t manage to score any goals.
The high paid defense can’t execute simple coverages.
The reclamation project in goal is the only guy that has consistently done his job at anywhere near an acceptable level.
The Flyers leading goal scorer? Tye McGinn.
The team’s most effective defenseman? Erik Gustafsson.
Gustafsson was on the opening night roster, but was a healthy scratch for the first 5 games and probably wouldn’t have been on the roster at all if he was waiver exempt. McGinn didn’t make the roster. He was among the first cuts of camp and playing for the Phantoms.
They’ve changed the coach, and there’s signs that the players are buying in and trying to adapt to a new, more defensively responsible system that supports the puck better in all three zones. The last three games they have played, against Phoenix, Detroit and Vancouver, they spent long periods being the better team on the ice, but ultimately failed to convert chances into goals, and suffered breakdowns in their own end that killed them. Players that they are counting on are failing spectacularly.
There’s a marked lack of hockey sense being displayed. The confidence is clearly lacking on the offensive end. It adds up to a team that crumbles and loses games it should be winning. Will it lead to a big player move? Will it lead to a change in the GM’s chair? If they do make a change in GM, it’s pretty obvious that Ron Hextall would be the choice. He was lured back to the Flyers after 7 years in Los Angeles, where he helped Dean Lombardi build the 2012 Stanley Cup winning Kings.
As for trade possibilities, well, the Flyers might be struggling, but they have company…like most of their division. The Metropolitan has been an abject mess, outside of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Edmonton Oilers were expected to finally be on the upswing with all that amazing young talent and new coach Dallas Eakins…and their team defense and goaltending has been abysmal. The Buffalo Sabres have scuffled badly, as well.
Will we see two desperate and under performing teams pull off a trade to shake things up?
There’s a lot of speculation out there about the Flyers and Edmonton, and has been since the NHL entry draft in June. The teams seem to be a good fit, as the Flyers defense, despite it’s struggles, has some individual pieces that could help the Oilers. Conversely the Oilers have some talented guys that can light the lamp. There could be other paths for the Flyers to take, as well, especially if they wait and sell off pieces to playoff teams near the trade deadline.
One hinderance for the Flyers could be the numerous NTC and NMCs that they have handed out. Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen(who seems to be in rapid decline over the first 7 games) have full no move clauses, as does the recently signed Vincent Lecavalier. Wayne Simmonds has a modified No trade clause, as do Coburn and Grossmann. Even with the improved overall play, it’s beginning to smell more and more like a rebuild.
The Flyers need to step out and get ahead of the curve, instead of trying to win last year’s Stanley Cup. Fans will accept a rebuild, so long as it’s done smartly and if the team stays the course. The current group has fatal flaws, but could be a solid foundation to build upon.
The Flyers definitely need a good top pair defenseman, if not an out and out number one guy. They desperately need to abandon the goon theory and build a 4th line that can play a regular shift so the top 3 lines don’t get run into the ground. Their best successes over the past decade or so has come when they have foregone dressing a goon and had a 4th line capable of playing ten minutes a night on a regular basis. They could really use a more natural goal scorer for the top line, as far too many of their best offensive guys are pass first, or are gritty guys who score goals in traffic on redirections of goal mouth scrambles. They could also use and infusion of guys who play smart hockey and have good hockey sense.