Coming off a lockout-shortened debacle the Flyers front office decided that they would aggressively attack the root-causes of their issues. They acquired a Stanley Cup winning goaltender to replace their Russian nightmare. They added two former captains (Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit) to bring skill, leadership, and a winning-attitude to a franchise suffering through the recovery of a season filled with failure. Normal expectations for the Philadelphia Flyers were restored, and yet here we sit, three games into the 2013-14 season, win-less, listless, and lost.
Sure it takes time to build an identity, but, right now, this franchise looks like they don’t care; like these games don’t matter. It has been an embarrassment. And who would have that thought that not even a week into the season that this talent-laden club would be at a crossroads?
So let’s dig a little deeper into this fiasco. Let’s take a nice long look at the “Good”, the “Bad (really the Average)”, and, of course, the “Ugly”:
The Good: And believe me, this is the shortest category of this Flyers squad. FIrst off, a few players. Vinny Lecavalier, the headline free agent acquisition this summer, has been a machine (despite the pedestrian production). He’s been all over the ice, winning key faceoff’s, and capitalizing on the teams few offensive chances. Next up, Matt Read. Usually when a player receives a shiny new contract their play tends to drop off, but that has not been the case with #24. Read has a been a catalyst offensively and a stalwart defensively. Zac Rinaldo has been the other consistent producer. His hits wreak havoc on the opposition and provide a jolt for the good guys. Also, unlike early in his career, Rinaldo now draws more penalties than he commits,
The Penalty Kill, physical play, and shot blocking have also been significant and visible positives. But goaltending has been the biggest surprise. It’s only been three games but Mason/Emery already look far more reliable that Ilya Bryzgalov ever did.
The Bad (and by that I mean Average): #1 on the list: Mark Streit. Talk about hit or miss. This guy can dazzle with an offensive maneuver and then make a backbreaking turnover the next second. There needs to be more consistency from the former Islanders Captain.
Up front Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, and Sean Couturier have all shown flashes of their immense combined ability. But, as of yet, the offense has been unable to break out of their collective slump. This was supposed to be the strength of the team, it cannot continue to be anemic.
One of the biggest issues with the offense is the clubs inability to sustain any semblance of a fore-check. In order for Laviolette to remain at the helm, the orange and black must greatly improve their ability to control the puck down low. Otherwise, Lavy will not last another two weeks behind the bench.
The Ugly (and I mean U-G-L-Y): One of the Flyers biggest issues so far has been the ineffectiveness of the Power Play. If this franchise is not scoring on special teams they are not going to score because their 5-on-5 production has been god awful. Something has to give; there’s far too much offensive talent on this team to be unable to put up more than a goal or a two every night.
Overall, the teams defense has been horrendous, and that’s putting it nicely. Andrej Meszaros and Braydon Coburn have both been appalling, but especially Mez. It is absolutely time to see if Erik Gustafsson has what it takes to be a full-time NHL-er, because, as a Flyers fan, there’s only so many times you can watch a player bungle a play before losing you, yourself, lose your sanity. And Meszaros has this writer at this point. Inserting Gus would also help to improve another serious issue with this club: it’s inability to move the puck out of the defensive zone.
It’s only three games into an 82-game season and the Philadelphia Flyers have already managed to panic an entire city. I’d be lying if I said things were looking bright right now, however, it is not totally bleak. There have been positives and some of the issues are easily fixable. But if the orange and black do no start playing to their potential then there were will be major changes coming; not necessarily personnel-wise, but head coach Peter Laviolette and General Manager Paul Holmgren could be inching closer and closer to the guillotine.