PHILADELPHIA FLYERS COOKED

The Flyers lost their third game in a row tonight, virtually eliminating them from the Playoffs. There is a very minuscule chance for the Flyers to sneak into the Playoff Picture, however, they would need help from a bunch of teams that are ahead of them. The Flyers Number 1 Ranked Power Play is now 0-for April. Their penalty kill is ranked third. So, judging this season cannot place blame on the Special Teams.

Ok…well with adversity comes questions and the blame game will begin. Many fans have called for the ousting of Paul Holmgren. Although Holmgren has made many good moves in free agency as well as trades, he has failed to sign the players to get this team over the hump. Nonetheless, Holmgren did try and sign Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and trade for Rick Nash in the offseason. The Flyers brass was unsuccessful with all of these players.

It is no coincidence that ever since star defenseman Chris Pronger went down with post concussion syndrome, this Flyers team has not been the same. And while the Flyers were trying to sign the top free agents and trade for the best talent, they lost some of their own key players. Matt Carle, who came to the Flyers from the Tampa Bay Lightning, had grown into a top tier defenseman and was lost in free agency. The Flyers also lost Jaromir Jagr, who really had a comeback season and made all of the Flyers youth get better.

Lets take a look at why this season has went downhill. First and foremost, the teams major weakness was their Defense and turnovers. As mentioned earlier, the Flyers did try to address their defense in free agency and also at the trade deadline, but were not willing to part with their young talent. However, Holmgren did trade budding young star James Van Reimsdyke in the off season for Toronto Defenseman Luke Schenn. JVR has been superb for the Maple Leafs while Luke has struggled to be one of the Flyers top Defenders.

Another crippling aspect was the loss of Andre Mesaros and Brayden Coburn, probably their two best physical defensemen to injuries. So in retrospect, the Flyers must make some moves this off season this time around. The Flyers need to start addressing their weakness and the major fault is defensive breakdowns. Had the Flyers signed Shea Weber or Ryan Suter, their misfortunes could have been erased. Weber and Suter would bring the same type of physical play and leadership that Pronger gave this team.

Every year the Flyers have fell short in the Goaltending Department. Holmgren tried to address this last season when the Flyers went out and signed Vezina finalist Ilya Bryzgalov. Last year Bryzgalov struggled and was inconsistent. However, this season Bryzgalov has been stellar and he truly has been hung out to dry by a terrible defense. Bryzgalov has played in all but two of the Flyers games. He has all of the team’s wins with 17. His GAA is around 2.85. He has a .900 Save Percentage. Those stats may not be top rate but they would be a lot better if the defense has not let them down.

Of course this week…Bryzgalov went through a ton of turmoil by a Story that was reported that he fell asleep during a team meeting. This is yet another gaffe in the roller coaster of the Philadelphia Media. Then, last week at the trade deadline the Flyers traded for young goalie Steve Mason. This raises questions about who will be in net next season for the Flyers.

The Flyers also lost Daniel Briere…one of their offensive stars and team leaders. Briere may come back this weekend, but this may be his last nine games in a Flyer’s uniform. The Flyers also lost gritty leader Maxime Talbot for the season. Talbot brought tenacity and experience as he won a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins, actually scoring the Game Winning Goal of that championship. Talbot will be back next year and hopefully healthy.

Let us not forget that the Flyers core players have an average age of 23. This fact cannot be discounted. Courtier just turned 20. The Schenn brothers are 23 and 21 respectively. Claude Giroux is 23. Wayne Simmonds is 24. These five players can be considered the Flyers core players. The leaders have to be Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere, Max Talbot, re-acquired Simon Gagne, and Mike Knuble.

If I am the ownership of the Flyers, I am making a few moves next year. As good as Holmgren has been…I am moving another direction. I would go after former Goalie Ron Hextall to captain the ship. I’m keeping Laviolette. Peter has received a lot of criticism this season, but he has shown a great work ethic and I am keeping him.

The Flyers should also let Briere go, unless he decides to sign for a bargain price. They should also buy out Bryzgalov’s contract not because he has been horrible, but to have more payroll flexibility. They would save millions of dollars and could go after another top scorer as well as a Top Tier Defenseman. They should look at the goalies that will be available and if they can sign Luongo do it…if not go with Steve Mason who is only 24.

I think this team is still one or two years away from a Championship. Even though Jeff Carter and Mike Richards won a Cup after leaving the team…I still believe this team is more talented than the team that went to the cup a few years ago. The XFactor…Chris Pronger. Pronger was a Born Leader and was the player that made this team go, go, go. Anyways, this has been a disappointing season but there is still a bright future for this very young team.

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GAGNE RETURN HIT WITH FANS: MORE TO COME

Last night marked the return of Simon Gagne to Philadelphia. Gagne was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Well, Gagne finally won that elusive ring last season with a few other Flyers of the past. As a huge Flyers fan, and an even bigger admirer of the NHL, I could never be jealous that Gagne won a cup wearing another teams jersey. Look, the ultimate goal of any player Is to win a Cup, and lets face it, Gagne had never tasted it in his plus ten years with the Flyers.

Ok…flash forward to last night at the Wells Fargo Center. As Gagne took the ice, I cannot remember a louder ovation for a returning player in an extremely long time. Simon was always a fan favorite and was drafted by the Flyers. He had many great seasons with this team. Some of his most notable goals were the Game 4 Overtime winner against Boston in the 2010 SemiFinals that saw the Flyers down 3-0 to the Bruins. He also scored the game winner in Game 7 of that same series. The last goal that Gagne would score as a Flyer was in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, the closet he would ever come to tasting Cup Glory as a Flyer. The Flyers eventually lost that game in overtime as a seeing eye dribbler went past Michael Leighton and ended the Flyers chase for Glory.

Well, the Blackhawks are perfect his season so far…sitting a top the NHL in almost every statistical category that is measured. Last Seasons Champion, the Los Angeles Kings have also been on a role after an early struggle. However, Gagne had not scored a goal and was a healthy scratch for six straight games. When the trade was announced on Tuesday, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised. Caught off guard, yes, but not surprised. The Flyers have been known to bring stars back into the fold after trading them away. Mark Recchi three times, John LeClair, Ron Hextall, Mike Knuble most recently and the list could go on for days. The point I am trying to make is that the Flyers have actually made a wise choice at a wise time.

Simon was struggling on the Kings this season…to the point that he was benched. However, he still has better than average speed and a knack for putting the puck in the net. Gagne also should be able to help both sides of the Flyers special teams with their horrible penalty kill and their average power play. Gagne’s presence on the ice paid off immediately in his first game back last night as he scored a power play goal, his first goal of the season. Now Gagne not only brings veteran leadership back to this team, he also brings playoff experience and a ring. Never discount the importance of that fact. Look at the Rangers in 1994 when Mark Messier brought the Rangers a Cup. It happens all of the time. Now the Flyers should make a few more trades for veterans to mix with the star youth of this team. They should not be ready to give up on the season yet…anything can happen if they just make the playoffs.

The trade rumors for Daniel Briere are just that…rumors. First of all, Briere has a no trade clause. Secondly, even though he is struggling right now, he may be one of the best active performers in the playoffs right now. Thirdly, I think trading Briere would send a bad message to the team that they are basically not going anywhere this season. Instead of trading Briere, how about trading Courtier or another young player for a veteran that can put the puck in the net. Look at the trade block, there are many big names available that could help the Flyers get back on track. It’s great to have Gagne back on this team and I believe he Will give this team a tremendous lift. Stay tuned for more moves. Paul Holmgren never sits back.

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FLYERS STRUGGLE TO FIND IDENTITY

Ok, with over a month into the 2013 NHL Season, the Philadelphia Flyers continue to find an identity. At the beginning of the season…many analysts agreed that the shortened season should help a team like the Flyers, and may even give them an advantage. Well, it has been anything but an advantage for the Flyers. The Flyers have played 19 games and are only 8-10-1. Only 8 wins and 17 points.

With only a 48 game season, the 24 game spot will mark the halfway season. The Flyers better turn this season around in a hurry or they will fail to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. Their special teams have been horrible, especially the penalty kill. Of course, losing Scott Hartnell their unquestioned leader has not helped this team in its quest to win the CUP.

As of now, the Flyers are the 20th best team in the NHL with 17 points, and are fourth in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. As of now, Philly is in the outside looking in. One could ask what is wrong with this team? Is it the coach…has he lost the team? Is it the injuries to Scott Hartnell, Andre Mesarojs, and others. Is it the continued inconsistency of their defense and the sloppy play of their Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. In the beginning of the season the Flyers could not put the puck in the net. Now they can’t seem to stop pucks from going in their net.

As a huge hockey fan, I am always following the rumors that are brandied around the league. Well, I can remember before the season that there were rumors floating around that the Flyers were interested in all world goalie Roberto Luongo. Many fans snickered at this rumor and said we have a 50 million dollar goalie and he deserves a chance. Well I will agree that last season was not all of Bryzgalov’s fault, I will point out that his inconsistency cost them in the season and ultimately in the Devils Series.

The Flyers lack identity. I was totally about naming Claude Giroux the team captain at the start of the season. The only drawback of naming a young rising star to the captaincy is the added stress and pressure that it imposes on the player to perform and produce. Claude Giroux is not having a terrible season, but teams are game planning to take him out of the game. The truth is, Giroux cannot do everything. Missing Scott Hartnell has been a tremendous loss for this team. Signing Mike Knuble was a nice effort, but lets face it…Knuble is 40 years old and does not have the ice presence he once did.

The Flyers decided to part ways with James Van Reinsdyke in the trade that brought Luke Schenn to the Flyers. Yes, the Flyers did have to improve a defense that lost Chris Pronger. However, Van Reimsdyke was the other rising star who still had another level. He is showing this fact in Toronto as he is tearing it up. The other young star Matt Read is now injured and may be out five weeks. The Flyers lack offensive cohesion and I think you can point to all of these factors.

If you asked me today, should the Flyers have went after Luongo. I say…are u kidding me?!!! Of Course, even if Luongo was not leading the league (which he is) he would still be an upgrade to Bryzgalov. I will give Holmgren kudos for trying to bring an all word goalie into the fold with Bryzgalov, however, BRYZ continues to play down to the competition. In order for the Flyers to turn this season around they must make a few moves.

The New York Rangers have Dubinsky, Nash, Gaborik, and Richards. The Penguins have Crosby, Malkin, Neal And Stall. The Devils have Kovalchuk. The Flyers have Giroux and then there is a drop. I live the fact that the Flyers are trying to build the team through youth, but they are short on star power. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks…14-0! This is after a down season last year one year removed from a Cup. The Blackhawks still have great goaltending and plenty of firepower. The Flyers better make some moves quickly. I would go fast and hard after Luongo. Courtier has been a huge disappointment and could be used in any big trade. Stay tuned… It

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FLYERS LOOK FOR CONSISTENCY

So far the Flyers are 2-5 in Seven Games. In those Seven Games they have scored 14 Goals which averages out to 2 Goals a game, not typical for a Flyers Team that usually is in the Top Scoring Teams. What makes this stat even more disturbing is that the Flyers scored 7 Of those goals in one game. So if you take away the 7 goals, the Flyers have scored a total of 7 goals in the six other games. Lets face it…Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek could all be in net and the Flyers would still not win under this formula.

In Contrast, Ilya Bryzgalov has been the one bright spot for the team. Remember back to last year, fans were calling for Bryzgalov to be cut or traded after a horrific first half. He came to the Flyers on a huge contract with Vezina Credentials. Well lets just say it took him most of the season to get in a groove. However, down the stretch he was stellar. He was playing in the Russian League during the Strike where he posted solid numbers. So Far this year, Bryzgalov has a 2.19 GAA and a .924 Save Percentage both in the Top 10 and he has faced the third most shots in the league. What a turnaround.

Of course, one major problem is the team’s penalty killing which is second to last in the league at a 65%Rate, horrible for a team that usually has a great penalty kill. Not only is the Penalty Kill piss poor, but the power play is terrible as well. I remember a few short years ago the Flyers always had one of the Top 5 Power Plays and Penalty Kills. Now, most of that had to do with Mike Richards being one of the best two way forwards in the league. But it also had to do with getting pucks on net.

The injury to Scott Hartnell puts a serious hole in the team’s lineup. Scott not only puts up a ton of points, but he has also become one of the teams top leaders being a role model for all of the Flyers youth. With no surprise, Claude Giroux has been the Flyers best player. However, Giroux cannot do this on his own. The Flyers must get back to Peter Laviollettes system. They need to buy into the defensive first style and then pounce on turnovers. Danny Briere is back and should give the team a jump start on offense. He had 10 shots on net last game.

Well, there are only 41 games left so the Flyers need to right this ship fast. They are not afforded the luxury of waiting awhile to turn it around. It must start tonight against the Washington Capitals. Cut down the turnovers, Score on the Power Play and stop the other teams special teams. Also, shoot the puck. Stop trying to be so fancy. Well, if my hunch is right, the Flyers will start to right the ship tonight!

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