Flyers Evaluating With Week Off
The Flyers' week-long break will come to an end this Thursday when they host the Rangers.
While off, the Flyers set to work on a few things. Their powerplay unit, which is 29th in the NHL needed work; the entire team went to the Philadelphia Eagles game on Sunday as a bonding experience; and they have a couple players potentially returning from injuries which will create a few decisions.
To start, the powerplay unit has been abysmal. In Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Penguins, they were able to snap an 0-for-18 drought on the man-advantage, improving their season percentage to 9.1% (3-for-33).
After personally watching the unit work through two home games this season, it's obvious they aren't playing as a unit. Guys are standing around waiting to make or receive a pass, and when the puck moves to one side of the zone, there is no flow to follow the play.
Looking at how Pittsburgh played the powerplay in that same game, there was constant movement from the defense and forwards. When Sidney Crosby would skate behind the net, a defenseman would move up and replace him, creating a textbook cycle.
If the Flyers focus on moving around in the zone more their shots from the point will go through, they will be able to finish their scoring chances and connect on the one-timers they love to set up with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and the injured Scott Hartnell.
Speaking of Hartnell, he skated during the Flyers practice on Sunday along with injured center Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier's return from a lower-body injury is very likely this Thursday.
As for Hartnell, who is pointless through five games, he is still at least a week off from returning. He was originally slated to miss 2-4 weeks with an upper-body injury.
Playing in the place of those guys are young forwards Tye McGinn and Michael Raffl.
McGinn, playing on the top line, has three goals in three games, which leads the Flyers. Raffl, who has also played in three games, is pointless but playing very well, earning the second-line minutes head coach Craig Berube has given him
Berube has expressed his pleasure in the play of the McGinn and Raffl. I would talk more about their play but I have an article on them coming up in the Press of Atlantic City and I will be sure to link to it on the Facebook/Twitter page.
Since the article was about those two, I didn't talk about another handful of Flyers who are currently healthy and holding a spot on the roster.
Kris Newbury and Jay Rosehill are the same player. Having both of them on the team - one dressed and one scratched - is a wasted roster spot.
Then there is Adam Hall. Hall may win faceoffs and is a decent penalty-killer but he doesn't do much else and is pretty useless with the puck on his stick.
As stated in my column about forward depth last week, the Flyers need to stop building a prototypical fourth line and roll with four balanced lines. If they're concerned about having that tough-guy presence on the ice, Zac Rinaldo, Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot are among a handful of the Flyers' willing combatants. And speaking of those three players, Talbot is a penalty-killer and assistant coach Ian Laperriere expressed he wants Rinaldo to learn to be a penalty-killer.
Even with waiving one of the two enforcers in Rosehill and Newbury, there is still another presence on the active roster that's tying up dead space.
Hal Gill is the only active Flyers to have not played in a single game this season. Granted it's just eight games into the season and the defense has remained fairly healthy but Gill has not been considered at all by Peter Laviolette or Berube.
Gill doesn't provide much for the defense, which has actually played better than expected. And even though the two players that resemble him the most are struggling (Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann), there is no way the Flyers will healthy-scratch one of them two in favor of a slower and older Gill.
Gill honestly never should have been signed. And once a player does get hurt, it's likely that the Flyers would just call up Oliver Lauridsen to replace him in the lineup.
Speaking of scratched defensemen, Andrej Meszaros hasn't played since October 11 against Phoenix. Erik Gustafsson has played the last three games instead. With Meszaros a healthy scratch - and an unhappy one at that - it's safe to assume the Flyers may be actively shopping him and waiting for the right offer.
Meszaros isn't a bad player by any stretch. In fact when healthy he's a top four defenseman. But trading him frees up salary, and that's money that could be spent on signing a player like Simon Gagne or acquiring a player that's on the block (Thomas Vanek rumors!).
It's amazing what a 1-7-0 start does to a franchise that's in the playoffs 75% of its existence. It'll be even more amazing if the Flyers, who are saddled with making one bad move after another, will make the right decisions to climb out of the current funk.