Better With Popcorn

The ultimate Philadelphia Flyers breakdown

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Some of stats I dug for about each player, my thoughts on the 22 of them, followed by what must change in Orange-and-Black land, before it becomes Black-and-Blue land.

ASHAM: Recorded a career-high three game goal scoring streak earlier in the season and has done an awesome job of playing a more disciplined brand of hockey. Asham received a two minute instigator, five-minute fighting major and 10-minute misconduct for stepping in and fighting Colby – Coward - Armstrong after his cheap hit on JVR – outside of those 17 minutes, Asham has only 25 penalty minutes and that’s great for the Flyers.

Asham has shown flashes of brilliance playing all over the line-up this year. He’s played on the top-line and the fourth and continues to be a physical force. He steps in when he needs to and will do anything to step-up for his teammates. Every team needs a role player like Asham.

BARTULIS: Oskars Bartulis recorded his first NHL point in the Flyers 6-3 loss to San Jose in November.

Bartulis has been a pleasant surprise on the blue line. As a sixth defenseman he is what you want. He doesn’t get tons of ice time but when he is on the ice, you do not hear his named called a lot. A smart player

BETTS: The Flyers are 10-3 with Blair Betts in the line-up; 3-7-1 without him, coincidence?

Blair Betts has been everything as advertised, plus more. Betts is the ultimate team player and the Flyers success directly relies on Betts’ health.

BOUCHER: Take out Boosh’s first start of the year against San Jose, Boucher is 2-2 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

As a back-up this is exactly what you want. Boucher has done a great job when he’s been called upon and isn’t a huge drop off when Emery needs a break.

BRIERE: Ten goals in 17 games, is on-pace for a career high in goals and has been a deciding factor, when healthy. He’s producing at a point per-game clip; like he’s done since he’s got here.

Unfortunately for Danny, the injury bug has hit hard last year and this year. With that said, when he plays he is a pure offensive threat and for a little man, gets to the high traffic areas and in front of the net. I like Briere playing the right wing on the second line with Giroux.

CARCILLO: Dan Carcillo has only 58 penalty minutes through his first 24 games played. his lowest in his career.

DISCIPLINE! Carcillo has been very smart this year and has not taken many bad penalties. He’s had his moments but compared to years past. Is playing like an entirely new player. He hasn’t missed a game yet, and can finally be counted upon by the team.

CARLE: 12 points in Matt Carle’s first 10 games – two assists in his last 13 games.

Not sure why the production has dropped recently but I think this season has showed you who the real Matt Carle is. A top-four defenseman with great puck moving ability and tremendous offensive upside, Carle and Pronger will get back on track offensively sooner rather than later. Carle has done a good job of cutting down on his turnovers, but still finds himself making some bad ones.

CARTER: Prior to Atlanta, Jeff Carter has recorded at least a point in each of his last three games – but has just two goals in his last eight games. After24 games last year, Carter had 16 goals – this year, nine.

I think Carter should officially be moved to Mike Richards’ right-wing. They’ve played together for their whole life and this gives a change for Claude Giroux to move into the second line center position, his natural position. Carter is a pure sniper best suited for the RW. My only fault with Carter – I want more effort.

COBURN: Braydon Coburn has been the whipping boy for his defensive play this season, but is on pace to set a new career high in goals (9).

Coburn needs to get in and out of his cuts and spots defensively a little quicker or he will continue to look like a pylon. He was the eighth overall pick and showed promise his rookie season (career high in points) but after this year is an RFA and could be signed by another squad depending his salary request.

COTE: Riley Cote has appeared in just nine games this year and has one fighting major and hasn’t won a fight since February, 2009.

If Cote is going to play, he needs to drop the gloves more. He has seven points in 149 NHL games and obviously isn’t making an impact with his scoring ability.

EMERY: On a per-dollar basis, Emery has been one of the better free-agent signings in the NHL this summer as a $1.5 million bargain following his season in Russia. Emery is 11-6-1 with a 2.57 GAA and .910 save percentage in 19 starts this season.

Ray-Ray has been good, what I expected. But, therein lies the problem. The questions will come after this season is over. Although I think Emery has left his immature ways, if he gets re-signed, look out!

GAGNE: Before being injury Gagne had five points in 10 games. He just has recently starting staking with his team.

Word on the street is that Gagne looked good in practice, I was unable to see it, but also, I don’t really care what I’ve heard in regards to Simon – glass – Gagne. He’s hurt entirely too much, and the front office missed their chance to ship him for talent in return. He can’t stay healthy, and unlike Briere, most of the time when Gagne plays, he is often quiet and missed.

GIROUX: Claude has eight points in his last eight games, is sixth on the team in scoring and is a solid plus-6.

Giroux has eyes in the back of his head and hands like McNamara/Troy. The scariest part is that Giroux hasn’t even come into-his-own. He tries moves and dangles in practice that I have yet to see in the game, and once G-man gets steady top-six minutes; look out. Giroux will lead the Flyers in points at the end of the year, very soon. (Thanks to Billy Heller for the Nip/Tuck reference).

HARTNELL: Leads the team in power-play goals with six and is on pace to set a career-high in points.

Number 19 Rick MacLe – I mean Scott Hartnell has been one of the most solid forwards all season; I think Hartnell will start to get more respect through-out the NHL as a legit power forward. Hartnell should have a designated spot on the top-line in Philly for a long time. Hartnell-Richards-Carter is the perfect mix of power forward, play-maker and sniper.

LAPERRIERE: 48 fighting majors since the beginning of the 2007 season, is among the leaders in blocked shots with 20.

An absolute warrior, in the first period of the Flyers game vs. Buffalo, Laperriere blocked a Pominville slap-shop from the point with his face. He lost SEVEN teeth, got 75 stitches. Guy Lanzi, the team's oral surgeon, said this of the injury "I don't rate them," Lanzi said, "but this is as bad as I can remember.” And Ian was back playing in the third period and didn’t miss a game.
What can you say about this guy? An awesome signing, an awesome team guy he does anything in his power to help the team win.

PARENT: Hard to believe the 19th overall pick in 2003 is entering his 71st career NHL game and still hasn’t recorded a goal.

Despite that fact, there is still a lot I like about Ryan Parent. He isn’t being rushed, he plays with an edge every game and he isn’t counted-on to do too much…yet. I think out of every player, Parent brings the most consistent physical edge night-in and night-out. He averages just fewer than 20 shifts per game and a tad over 13 minutes of ice time and in the near future I believe Parent will be matched-up against the likes of Malkin, Ovechkin and Kovalchuk without any question. He will be a shutdown top-4 defenseman sooner rather than later.

POWE: The pride of Princeton finds himself in a little bit of tough luck and is currently on the IR. Before the injury Darroll Powe recorded six goals in his first 19 games and was on pace for 25-plus.

Darroll Powe has wheels. I think he is the more underrated Flyer on the team in terms of scoring ability and flat-out speed. Keep in mind this is a player who recorded just 11 points and the same amount of goals, six, in over 60 games played last year…talk about a break-out season.

PRONGER: After starting the season with 17 points in the Flyers’ first 16 games of the season and helping the Flyers get out of the gate to a 10-5-1 record, Chris Pronger has just one measly assist in the Flyers last eight games (3-5 record).

I expected more defensively from Pronger. No big hits, no real attitude, he is kind of living on reputation in Philly. He needs to get a jump in his step and be more local (like he was after Saturday’s loss).

PYORALA: The 28-year old rookie from Oulu, Finland has been one of the best bargains for the Flyers this season. At a salary cap of $500,000, Mika can line-up at any forward position, does a great job in the corners, has offensive upside and great defensive awareness.

What I do not like is Mika Pyorala playing the center position. The Flyers have been bad in the faceoff circle for many years and Pyorala isn’t helping in that regard. This season he has 58 face-offs won and 83 face-offs lost, that’s just a 41.1% winning percentage and that doesn’t cut it. Keep Mika on the wing, and the Flyers are fine.

RICHARDS: Like Coburn, captain Mike Richards is on pace to set a career-high in goals.

I’d like to see Richards speak up a little more and get off his high-horse with the media. As captain he needs to put the team in front of himself. Richards is the Captain of this team and that will not be taken from him. He is young, and every captain goes through these growing pains. These situations that are going on make or break a captain’s legacy, especially in Philadelphia.
Richards is the captain and Chris Pronger isn’t going to bail out anyone or be named captain so its Richie’s team; Richie’s responsibility. Pronger is there for help and guidance, use him.
On the ice, Richards has made too many turnovers in the offensive zone by trying to do too much. Also, I think Richards could drop the gloves a bit more to set a tone for his team. He has only five fighting majors over the last two seasons.

TIMONEN: Kimmo Timonen is plus-9 in the Flyers 13 wins, and a minues-11 in their 11 losses.

That stat shows you how important his play is to this team. When Kimmo is on, the Flyers are on. Although I think his speed has declined the last year, he remains one of the best calming influences on the point in the NHL.

van RIEMSDYK: John Tavares leads all rookies in points with 21. Tavares has played six more games than JVR and only has two more points. van Riemsdyk has 19 points in 21 games and has produced more with less. Tavares averages six more minutes of ice time and five more shifts per game.

JVR could be the most impressive forward thus far. All-around great player is proving why he was the second overall pick behind Patty Kane. Second line of JVR-Giroux-Briere is where I would match him.
If you’re still reading, thanks – please go on, we’re almost through.

With all of this said, I obviously think the Flyers have what it takes to be winners. Besides a coaching change, the team on the ice can do some more things to help themselves get to the ultimate goal.
I think the team needs more of a heavy-hitter on the blue line. Coburn, Timonen and Carle are good defensemen, but at this time the Flyers need something else. I think someone who comes to the rink and strikes fear in the opponent goes a long way in winning and sending a message to your own team and the visitors. Chris Pronger used to be this feared defensemen, but he no longer steps up at the blue-line and punished an opposing teams forward. Your defensive zone should be sacred ice, and you should have to earn the right to play in it. Too many teams gain the Flyers blue line with no questions asked. Also, when there is a big hit, it fires your team up to play.

The leaders of this team, more specifically Jeff Carter and Mike Richards lead the way for the Flyers, and in more ways than one.
I popped in the DVD of game-six of the 2004 Eastern Conference Final vs. Tampa Bay and after watching – all I can say is wow. The intensity in the crowd, the intensity on the ice and the ‘can’t lose’ attitude of the players was so amazing and so evident to see while watching. They all looked so fast and would not be beaten…and I got to thinking… That roster was compiled with some really OLD players. I’m not going to sit here and name them, but the fact that a bunch of 32+ year old men looked that fast compared to the Flyers of the past two seasons made me sick.

Coaching can only do so much, watching Richards and Carter play night after night, I beg the question – Do they even care about winning? Just watch some shifts and answer that yourself. Because to me, I seen these 24 year olds float around the ice entirely too much and take too many plays off. They look flat out ugly – and when you’re a quiet leader and lead by example, like Carter and Richards do, you need to at least act like you’re putting for 110% effort every game and every shift.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Flyers fan. Think to yourself; when was the last time you saw a Flyer carry the puck into the offensive zone with a purpose. Have they ever had a look in their eye like ‘you’re not getting this puck from me’? How about a Flyer put on a move or dangle around someone? I don’t even need a pretty goal, but a Flyer highlight on a ‘Top-10’ is long overdue.
You know what we see, possession out of our defensive zone and the puck dumped in from the red-line on a miserable ‘dump-and-chase’ attempt that never works. The opposing D always beat the Flyers to the puck and quickly move it out of trouble. Let’s get some balls and gain the zone itself without dumping and chasing. I know the coaching gets a lot of the blame and he should, but as for the players on the ice, I need to see more.

2,512 words later I hope some of you Flyers fans agree with me.

Coming soon I will have my interview with Flyers’ goaltender of the future Joacim Eriksson, a new Flyers Fan Reacts blog and a story titled ‘Why I think John Stevens Is No Longer the Answer in Philly.’ Also, I will be the Flyers guest on WIFI 1460 AM Sports Talk Radio Friday at 5:30 p.m.

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