If you’ve watched the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers then their play needs no explanation. It’s been lifeless; disheartening; downright painful. But what are the true underlying issues? Is it really that this club is just devoid of talent, as the ever growing number of critics are saying? Or is this fixable? After all, it is only six games into an 82-game season. So what do the Philadelphia Flyers need to accomplish to turn this debacle around?
First, some of the positives: Steve Mason, team defense, the penalty kill, and that’s about it. Mason has been stellar in his short Philadelphia stint. Before Saturday night’s 5-2 drubbing (which was actually closer than the score), the much-maligned defense had only allowed 12 goals in the first 5 games. As for the penalty kill, it’s been solid (for the most part), just like the 2012-13 season. Unfortunately, that’s about it for the positives.
Now, where can this organization improve:
- PENALTIES, PENALTIES, AND MORE PENALTIES– The Flyers are, by far, the most penalized team in the NHL. They have taken penalties when it hasn’t mattered; they have taken crucial, back-breaking ones as well. It’s something that must change and even Head Coach Craig Berube, who is 7th ALL-TIME in NHL history in penalty minutes, agrees. If the Flyers hope to improve their 1-5 record they must start playing more disciplined hockey.
- Improve in the face-off dot– This has been an issue for years in Philadelphia, and, in my personal opinion, it’s been a huge hindrance on the teams ability to put the puck in the net. Their Power-Play has been anemic and an integral part of that has been their inefficiency in the dot. The easiest way to set-up the PP in the offensive-zone is to win the puck back to the point. Giroux is usually a 50%-type but even he’s been struggling. Winning face-offs has always been one of Couturier’s biggest weaknesses. Lecavalier and Hall are the only center’s who are at-least above average in the dot. And with Vinny out for about a week, it may be difficult to get a boost. If the Flyers can somehow find a way to win more face-offs then their feeble offense should improve, at-least slightly.
- The Stars must step up– Brayden Schenn (4 pts) and Vinny Lecavalier (3 pts) have really been the only forwards to produce at all. And now that Vinny is out for at-least a week, the other big money guys must step up (Hartnell is also out 2-4 weeks). Voracek (2 pts), Giroux (1 pt), Streit (2 pts), Couturier (2 pts), Timonen (0 pts), Simmonds (1 pt), and Read (0 pts) must begin to produce. Now, it’s obvious that they haven’t played well, but the club also hasn’t received any so-called “puck luck”. A lucky bounce here or there can certainly get a club out of a slump. But the stars need to play much better to get the Flyers out of their 1-5 rut, and it starts at the top, with the face of the franchise, Claude Giroux. If #28 wants to be mentioned alongside the Crosby’s, Toews’, and Datsyuk’s of the world, then it’s time to put the team on his back.
Who knows, the turnaround may start tonight as the orange and black take on the 3-3 Vancouver Canucks, coached by old rival John Tortorella. That match-up is followed by a home contest with the arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins. If there’s a time to pull this franchise out of its rut, it has to begin this week.