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.