Better With Popcorn

Trade winds blowing in Philadelphia

It’s been talked about since captain Chris Pronger went down for the season in December, but now the question resonates louder than it ever has before.

Who are they going to get?

With the February 27 trade deadline quickly approaching, rumors have been swirling as to what the Philadelphia Flyers plan to do to make their promising team a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

As each day ends and a new one begins, the anticipation to what will be done becomes more palpable.

Prior to Saturday afternoons’ disappointing 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, social media sites began buzzing with speculation about possible trades as information slowly leaked out about some interesting individuals who were in attendance to take in the game.

Most notably, the Montreal Canadiens.

Montreal has had a presence at most of the recent Flyers games over the past two weeks.

For Saturday’s game, the Canadiens sent out the most important representative of them all, general manager Pierre Gauthier.

It’s unknown whether he came to Philadelphia to watch the game or meet with the team, but it’s fairly uncommon for a team’s general manager to attend a game in person just to watch a game. This is especially true when his team is playing later that night.

Considering that Montreal’s 36-year old defensemen, Hal Gill has come up quite frequently as a possible player of interest for the Flyers, this kind of development is something to take note of (for more, read George Prax's take on Gill's status in Montreal).

To be fair, it has been reported by other sources that Gauthier has spent time scouting other teams to try and improve the Canadiens.

However, Gauthier wasn’t the only general manager in the building.

Scott Howson of the Columbus Blue Jackets was also in attendance with two other Blue Jackets representatives.

The Blue Jackets had sent out a representative to Wells Fargo Center earlier this week as well.

Adam Kimelman of tweeted after the game that Howson confirmed that he and Flyers general manager, Paul Holmgren met for an extended period of time on Saturday.

"We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active," Howson said to Kimelman.

While it’s still unclear as to why the two teams were in the building, one thing is crystal.

The Flyers need to add a defenseman.

Following the team’s second 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers in six days, it is clear that they need support. Philadelphia continues to struggle to clear the front of the net.

"Our goal is to win the cup and we have some things to work on,” Claude Giroux said after Saturday’s loss. “We need to do a better job in front of our goalie."

Before the team thinks about winning the cup, they need to concentrate on getting out of the Eastern Conference, which appears as though it will be quite the challenge.

They have lost all five games against the Rangers this season and have failed to score more than two goals against them in their last seven consecutive meetings. New York on the other hand has had little trouble with them, scoring a combined total of 28 goals over that seven game span.

Not to mention that the Rangers aren’t the only team the Flyers have to worry about.

The Boston Bruins are another formidable opponent in the East and they have scored five or more goals against the Flyers in their two most recent meetings.

Philadelphia has proven that they are one of the better teams in the conference. However, they haven’t proven that they are good enough to beat the two best teams in it.

If the team wants to contend with the Bruins and Rangers, they need to make some kind of addition/additions.

It appears as though they are beginning to explore what it will take to do that.


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John Saquella's picture

Good stuff, Matt...what it will take to compete with Boston and New York isn't obtainable in a trade. The current guys need to step it up and play better. I'm all for adding a cheap veteran to stabilize things, but Hal Gill isn't putting this team over the top, unless everyone starts rowing in the same direction.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

You're absolutely right, John. It's not a simple one-stop fixes all situation.

As you had said earlier, the problems aren't just within the six man d-group; the team's forwards are blowing just as many coverages in the defensive zone.

The analogy of rowing in the same direction is very accurate. There are times where they run around like chickens with their head cut off.

Certainly need to stabilize the team's defensive philosophy

George Prax's picture

To give you guys a little bit of perspective, Gauthier frequently goes on scouting trips. He tends to be as far away from the media in Montreal as much as he can on a day-to-day basis. The dude is still the team's head scout, somehow. So it's not THAT odd to see him scouting personally, but this close to the deadline it was definitely not without reason.

As for Gill, I'm going to be the guy's number one supporter here. He's old, he's not that fast, but he's solid. He seldom makes mistakes, he doesn't take penalties, and he's one of the best penalty killers and shot blockers in the league. The only player in the league who plays more PK time than him is Beauchemin, and the Habs have the #1 PK in the league because of him. While he alone can't solve all the Flyers woes, I'm looking at the stats here and the Flyers are 19th in the PK column. It wouldn't be out of this world to imagine Gill pushing that up to the top 10 with a good partner.

I actually hate to see him go and I kind of hope he'd come back for a year, but considering he's basically the only viable defenseman on the market right now, he has to be traded. And Philly seems like the perfect fit.

More on Gill: For the Habs To Part Ways With Hal Gill | Montreal Canadiens | The Checking Line