Better With Popcorn

Dissecting the underachieving Flyers

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Call it underperforming, call it overrated – whatever you may call it, right now, the Philadelphia Flyers are pathetic.

The Flyers currently sit at 15-16-2 and have compiled 32 points in the East — only three teams in the league have fewer than 15 wins.

After their 6-1 waxing from the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night in Mellon Area and 3-2 overtime loss to the Pens on Thursday, the Flyers have fallen 17 points behind Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference standings.

But I thought this team was slated to win the East? Weren’t they picked to win the Cup by so many? What happened?

I’ll tell you why: locker room problems, childish relationships on and off the ice and heartless efforts night-in and night-out on the ice have turned this team into the Philthadelphia let down Flyers.

The facts: The NHL is and always has been about developing your talent. Development stops among teams when you sign the core of your team to long-term contracts, that’s when the turnover of fresh, young players practically stops, and you’re forced to make moves based on Salary Cap issues, not performance issues.

The Flyers top-six (forwards) are locked-in and aren’t going anywhere. Meaning there is no competitiveness among the Flyers forwards – they know they will always have a job, no matter how they perform – they’re all signed to long-term contracts with a hefty price tag. These facts show that the competitiveness level drops because they’re not feeling pressured from the bottom-six forwards, or potential call-ups, on the team.

There aren’t dynasties in the NHL and shouldn’t be for this reason. There should always be roster turn-over. Once your talent is developed they want the big $ so they’re easily traded or they opt for free-agency – it’s what keeps the League in business.

In addition to the long-term deals, a friend of mine pointed out that most of the Flyers sign ‘No-Trade-Clause’ contracts, meaning a player is practically immovable, thus, losing their desire to play and excel.

It’s a double-edged sword, when you sign someone to a NTC contract; you better know what you’re doing, because come hell or high water, that player is yours. Lots of times, players will lose their motivation.

The Flyers can surely win with the players they have currently on their roster, but to run a dump-and-chase (a system that I hate) you need to have relentless puck pursuit and outstanding fore-checking throughout the team. Remember the Flyers motto coming into this season? Relentless. I haven’t seen anything relentless out of this group.

Unless you have legit top-five picks signed for years, the window to win is small. It must be placed correctly between a hungry group of veteran players and young players who want that big paycheck. Once they get that money and are signed for a long time, they better deserve it.

Some players who deserve the contract off the top of my head are Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby, Backstrom, Toews, Kane – those types of players. When you stop developing players and hand out a lot of big contracts at once – you’re at the salary cap ceiling and start to rot from the inside.

The problem: Are Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne the types of players that I previously mentioned?… They all have extended contracts, worth A LOT of money. They were handed contracts that were based on pure potential.

Did they deserve those contracts? I don’t think so. Flyers’ brass hands out contracts on potential and not factual information. These players have these big contracts and they’re not game-changing offensive producers or consistent offensive threats. GM Paul Holmgren thought that they would be – but it’s back-fired in his face.

Richards – second line center with great leadership abilities – lacks pure offensive talent and uncomfortable with the puck. Top-line players want the puck on their stick and know what to do with it – THEY CARRY THE PUCK and make things happen in the offensive zone, not get it and dump it.

Carter – second line winger with a great shot. Is purely one dimensional and has no play-making abilities.

The Flyers were overrated coming into this season. They are a team loaded with players who have already cashed in on their contracts and are glorified second-liners.

As far as the product on the ice and how they play…

The dump-and-chase system works if you get teams to buy into it. But why run a dump-and-chase style if you can carry the puck into the offensive zone and make things happen? Like more of a European style of offense. They Flyers don’t do that and never have. When you’re not hungry, you don’t win the battles and the race for the pucks. The main reason why I don’t think they are hungry enough – $$.

They already got their payday.

If you don’t think the Flyers could become sellers sooner rather than later; you’re dead wrong. Parent, Bartulis, Giroux, JVR, Maroon, Marshall, Matsumoto, Bourdon…The Flyers have some legit talent that can be brought up.

Does Homer write off the season and look to ship out some of the “bigger” names on this team? If I had a say, it would of happened already.

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