Flyers May Add a Piece for Cup Run
The goal for the Philadelphia Flyers this season has been rather simple; Win the Stanley Cup. After last season's disappointing finish only two victories from the ultimate prize, the team has put itself in an excellent spot to hoist the crowned jewel of hockey. However, Flyers fans know that the trade deadline is nearing, and General Manager Paul Holmgren seems allergic to standing pat around this time of the season.
So, how do you go about improving the best team in hockey? There's no sure-fire need that the team will try to address, but there is an upgrade that seems to be the best bet. Obviously, the top six defensemen need no upgrade. One could make an excellent cast that no team in the NHL boasts better defensive depth than the Flyers.
Usually around this time of the year, it's the goalie position that is of the most speculation when the Orange and Black are mentioned. This year seems to be the exception to the rule. Brian Boucher has posted a .916 save percentage while rookie Sergei Bobrovsky is hovering around the same territory with a .920 percentage. Both have proved their stability over the course of the first 50 games.
Not only have they both done substantially well, the only real option on the market for trade would be J.S. Giguere, who doesn't really seem like he would be worth the trade at all. If the Flyers learned anything from their playoff run last year and subsequent loss to Antti Niemi it should be that a serviceable goalie with an outstanding defense is enough to hoist the cup on the back end. With 'Bob' or 'Boosh', the defense will help them enormously come playoff time, and because of that, an upgrade in net is not necessary.
There is only one position should be upgraded by the team by the trade deadline, and previous attempts by the team should make that quite clear. Whether it be through the tryout of Bill Guerin in training camp or putting their name in the hat for Jamie Langenbrunner, the Flyers seem sure to try for an experienced winger. Erik Cole has been the name that seems to keep popping up among Flyers' beat writers, and the fit makes sense for sure. Head Coach Peter Laviolette coached Cole in Carolina, and his knowledge of Lavy's aggressive system would make the transition easy on both parties.
Many may wonder why the Flyers would need another forward, as they are the NHL's highest scoring team. The team's 174 goals through 50 games is not only best in the league, but eight goals better than the next best, Detroit. It would seem to be absurd to assume that the team needed another scorer. But, let's take a look at the top three lines for the team when healthy:
James van Riemsdyk - Mike Richards - Andreas Nodl
Ville Leino - Daniel Briere - Scott Hartnell
Nikolay Zherdev - Jeff Carter/Claude Giroux - Carter/Giroux
The only possible weak link in the top three lines would be Nodl. Nodl's a fantastic defensive player, despite his play dropping off of late and he's on pace for 18 goals this season. But, because he's obviously the least talented forward in the top nine. Would a team that has the only goal of winning the Stanley Cup want Nodl on their captain's line in the playoffs? And, although Zherdev has had his share of healthy scratches this season, he has been excellent as of late since being put on the line with Carter and Giroux. If Cole were to replace Nodl, that would be about as good of a top nine that a team could field heading into the playoffs.
There is the problem of what would happen on the last line and with the healthy scratches if someone like Cole were signed. Quite simply, the last line will always have Blair Betts centering Darroll Powe and the third spot would be up for grabs. The team could send 7th defenseman Oskars Bartulis Adirondack and have the final forward position on the fourth line come down to Nodl, Jody Shelley and Daniel Carcillo. Or, if the team can find a taker for Carcillo (despite their impressive record with him in the lineup compared to when he's scratched), then they could keep Bartulis on the roster.
It will be interesting to see what the Flyers do at the deadline, whether they vie for someone like Cole, or another veteran forward to add to the mix. The goal of winning the Stanley Cup is clear, and no one is more aware of that than Holmgren and Owner Ed Snider. If there's a move to be made to help the team achieve their ultimate goal without 'messing up a good thing', they won't hesitate to make a deal.