Time to break up the flawed Flyers

Time to break up the flawed Flyers

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers are going to live in NHL infamy if they continue on their current path: They will become the first team in league history to miss the playoffs during a season in which they had a 10-game winning streak.

And for those who say they’ll at least get a quality first-round draft pick because of their messy season, think again.

This is considered a weak draft class. After the top two players – center Nolan Patrick, who was Ivan Provorov’s teammate in juniors, and Nico Hischier, a center called the Swiss Connor McDavid – there isn’t much difference among the rest of the first-round talent, scouts say.

So unless the Flyers win the draft lottery – the odds would be stacked against them – they would probably get the same type of player as, say, the Penguins and Rangers select late in the first round.

OK, there are still 24 games left. Enough time for the Flyers to make up ground and eke into the playoffs. But the way this team has played since its winning streak ended – an 8-14-4 record, no identity, no push-back when teams take cheap shots at its players – it’s difficult imagining them making another run like they did at this time last season.

A year ago, the Flyers finished the season on a 17-6-4 spurt, earned a playoff berth, and pushed powerful Washington to six first-round games.

The goaltending was a lot steadier at this time last season, and the offense was much more cohesive.

This team, well, the parts just don’t seem to fit. Some of the players have aged quickly. Others have underperformed and look as if they need a change of scenery.

So what should general manager Ron Hextall do?

My suggestions:

At some point before the March 1 trade deadline, sell, sell, sell.

Try to get some draft picks for soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Mark Streit, Nick Schultz, and Michael Del Zotto, three defensemen who don’t figure to be here next season. And attempt to get a team to throw in a backup goalie who can be exposed in the expansion draft, enabling the Flyers to protect Anthony Stolarz.

Deal one of the goalies. Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason also will have the potential to become unrestricted free agents after the season, and playoff-bound Edmonton is shopping for a backup goalie. Neuvirth, who didn’t help his value in Thursday’s embarrassing 6-3 loss to the Oilers, or Mason could fill the bill.

Remember, Mason carried the Flyers into the playoffs last season, and Neuvirth, when healthy, is a gifted goalie. Both could help a team in the right situation.

Promote 6-foot-7, 225-pound defenseman Sam Morin from the Phantoms to start the rebuilding process early. Give the kid some NHL experience. Find out his weaknesses so he can work on correcting them in the summer.

Morin would give this team some much-needed snarl. Do you think he would have sat back after watching the Oilers take runs at Brandon Manning on Thursday?

Listen to offers for one of the core players because the makeup of this team is not working. In other words, nobody should be deemed untouchable if the right offer came along.

Find out why Claude Giroux looks as if he’s 29 going on 34.

Maybe Giroux is playing injured, though he denies it. Maybe past injures, including a concussion, have just taken a toll. Maybe he just needs big wingers by his side – he was at his best when he played between Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr – to give him more skating room.

Whatever the case, Giroux’s downward spiral is downright stunning. His dynamic play was one of the main reasons the Flyers created so much optimism with that early 10-game winning streak. But he has just two goals in his last 23 games, and he is an alarming minus-22 in his last 27 games.

The Flyers’ collapse isn’t all on Giroux’s shoulders, of course. It’s been a teamwide production, and that includes a glaring lack of offensive depth that was perpetuated by Hextall’s offseason free-agent signings of Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon.

Weise has been unproductive and has recently been a healthy scratch. Gordon was demoted to the minors.

Hextall, who has done exceedingly well in his drafts, will have much more cap space in the offseason and needs to hit a home run in free agency.

But first, he needs to unload some players, stockpile draft picks, and admit that this team is flawed and needs to be broken up.


@BroadStBull www.philly.com/flyersblog

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Published at Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:57:02 +0000

Categories: Flyers

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