Better With Popcorn

What Went Wrong in 2013 Part 2: Sophomore Slumps

This is the second of a five-part feature series on TCL Flyers titled "What Went Wrong in 2013."

By Alicia Sprenkle (@ActiveStick_44)

Flyers fans will always remember where they were on June 23, 2011 when two of the biggest trades in team history took place. 

In some ways it feels like an eternity ago, while in other ways it feels like just yesterday. But forget who and what left Philadelphia that Thursday afternoon two years ago. 

The only thing that still matters most today is the acquisition of the 1st round draft pick that became Sean Couturier and the acquisition of 21 year old Brayden Schenn.  

The trades changed the face of the franchise, and suddenly the Flyers became a team of youth with not only two but three of the best rookies in the NHL during the 2011-12 season thanks to those trades and the slick signing of college free agent Matt Read almost exactly three months prior.

That trio of rookie forwards shined in Philadelphia throughout the 2011-12 season, and the future was looking bright. But unfortunately what happens to even the best players in the NHL after a stellar rookie season is the dreaded sophomore slump. 

That slump hit all three promising forwards this season. Combine that with the terrible struggles of the whole Flyers team overall and the future has not been looking so clear anymore. 

Should the Flyers part with one or more of the three? Will they be able to bounce back easily next season? Can all three still be counted on to carry a bulk of the offense and power the team? Those are just a few of the questions that many fans are asking.

It is hard to make a knee jerk reaction, especially when talking about players as young as Couturier and Schenn and a player like Read who finished 4th in Calder Trophy voting a year ago while leading all rookies in goals scored. 

The term “untouchable” may not be a word in professional sports anymore as we are beginning to learn, but if the three rookies of the 2011-12 season are going to become “touchable” or trade bait, it should not be because of a sophomore slump.

This season was a mess for many reasons, but one of the biggest pet peeves that fans had with the Flyers was the constant shuffling of lines by Peter Laviolette from game to game. 

Guys like Schenn and Couturier would get thrown with someone like Jay Rosehill or Zac Rinaldo. You cannot expect offense from a player that is getting 4th line minutes or a player that is thrown with players that will be of no compliment to him.

The Flyers finished 20th in the league in the goals for and goals against differential. While they were top 10 in goals for, it did not happen nearly enough that the Flyers would get up on a team and maintain any type of lead in a game.  So while many fans want a top name defenseman this offseason, the importance to find that scoring touch again remains and should not be forgotten.

Read means depth on the wing, which the Flyers seem to be looking for at all times throughout every season. It would be hard to part with someone at his position with such potential. 

Then there are the two youngest Flyers as of right now. Couturier and Schenn dazzled Flyers fans as rookies in 2011-12. Of course it would be expected that their play would improve even more this season, and when that did not happen in came some panic.  

The term “sophomore slump” exists with reason. It is so common that we use it without hesitation. With their track record and position it would be silly to predict an Andrew Raycroft situation. 

Couturier and Schenn were not “bad” this season by any means. They simply did not shine. But given the right ice time, line mates, and a full season with training camp and the two young centermen are 100 percent capable of reenacting their rookie season. There’s a reason the two are so sought after by teams looking to trade with the Flyers.

Of course there could always be a trade where the price is right and the Flyers would have to part with Couturier, Schenn or Read. 

As stated before, no one is truly untouchable. But at the same time, it would be unfair to look at those three as untouchable and change that mindset because of this season. 

A minor slump is not the end of the world, nor is it a reason to change the whole game plan. These three forwards were brought in as an attempt to build a new core. And with a core built around them, the future is looking ever so bright.

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Part 1: Ilya Bryzgalov vs The Media, by Jordan Kuhns

Coming tomorrow in Part 3, Chris Bengel writes about the Flyers being decimated by injuries.

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You can follow Alicia on Twitter (@Activestick_44) as well as read more of her work on her own blog.