Well, here we are. Eighteen games into the season and the Flyers have hit a wall. No, I’m not talking about just Devon Dubnyk. I’m talking about the fact that the Flyers have lost 8 games this year, and of those 8 loses, 5 of them were shutouts. I mean, come on guys! You’re handing out shutouts like Oprah Winfrey hands out prizes to her audience! When does the pride kick in? Are some of them hurt? Are they not inspired enough to go out and do what they’re paid to do?
To be fair, the goaltending is not the reason behind these recent struggles. Brian Elliott has been spectacular in net these past few games, and Michael Neuvirth has been pretty solid himself when called upon. The defense isn’t even playing that bad considering the lack of experience on the blueline. What’s the most puzzling part of this team’s struggles is the fact that it’s the most veteran core that is struggling. The offense is sputtering, and needs help. FAST!
The top line continues to perform at a high level. They have 6 of the last 9 goals scored by the team, and have a combined 15 points in the last five games. The top line isn’t the issue. The fact is, the Flyers depth is lacking and looks a lot worse now than we ever imagined at the beginning of the year. Everyone was so quick to say that we had a deep team early on, even going as far as to say that our fourth line was the best in the game. Well, where’s that best fourth line at now?
Well folks, the “best fourth line in the game” has mustered a measly 0 points in the last five contests. You read that correctly. If you are still having a hard time understanding, let me break it down for you. The fourth line of the Flyers, sometimes discussed to be the best fourth line in the game right now, has scored a grand total of zero goals, and put up zero assists in the last five Flyers games. Not to mention, the most senior lineman on that league-renowned fourth line, Michael Raffl, has yet to register a single point.
From the second line down, the Flyers are not a complete team. Every line that isn’t the top line just flat out isn’t contributing. According to fans, there is a quick fix to this problem that the team is currently experiencing.
Would like to see the Flyers call up the following player at some point this season: Danick Martel
— Scott T. (@NHLFlyera) October 19, 2017
— Johan Gärtner (@JohanGartner) November 5, 2017
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) November 15, 2017
I lied, the last guy is a Flyers beat writer. Regardless, the apparent solution is only a stones throw north of Philadelphia, sitting in Lehigh Valley and leading the AHL in goals. You guessed it, Danick Martel is this season’s savior according to a few. He has 14 goals in 15 games and 19 points. Last season, he put up 20 goals and 20 assists for an even 40 points in 68 games. The kid knows the game and how to play it. He is off to a scorching start this year as well. Why not give the guy a shot?
Let me tell you why. Let’s revisit the case of Jordan Weal. Yes, Weal had a great couple games for the Flyers towards the end of last year. He had 12 points in 23 games for the orange and black, and 8 of them were goals. Not to mention, he tore up the AHL prior to his call up by posting 47 points in 43 games. Weal was in a similar position to Martel. They both were thriving in the AHL and posting great numbers.
Here is where everyone comes back down to earth. Weal’s call up is somewhat considered a success. He played well in his role with the club, and got rewarded with a spot on this years roster. So far this year after playing in 16 games, Weal has a whopping 6 points. If you think of it, he is on pace for 30-40 points. Nothing earth shattering, but somewhat solid. Martel, on the other hand, is on pace for somewhere around 80 points if he keeps up his pace. 80 points in an AHL season is pretty impressive. However, will it translate to the NHL level?
Weal’s AHL success led to his shot in the NHL, but his numbers faltered. He isn’t the 60-70 point guy now that he was back when he played for the Manchester Monarchs or the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Weal is going to be a third line winger, second liner at best. He has a nose for the puck and his offensive awareness makes him an ever-present danger when around the puck. However, the NHL is bigger, faster, stronger. He won’t be able to fly around bigger players like he did in the AHL because those bigger players can keep up with him. He is finding that out the hard way this year.
Martel is somewhat similar to Weal. Weal is five foot ten inches tall and weighs around 170 pounds. Martel is even smaller, coming in at five foot eight inches and weighing in around 165 pounds. The game is trending towards smaller, faster forwards, but there are still only a handful that are smaller than Martel. His size will be a detriment to an already smaller Flyers club.
Basically what it boils down to is the fact that when you think about it, the AHL and NHL are two completely different leagues. Look at a guy like Jori Lehtera. When in the KHL, a bigger and faster league than even the AHL, he was a point per game player. Here in the NHL, he scores a point every 2-3 games on average. The NHL is a different kind of beast, and just because Martel is having a great season with the Phantoms at the moment, doesn’t mean that if he got called up, he would continue to see the same amount of success in the big league.
All I’m saying right now is to cool down on the Martel call up talk. His time will come, just not right now. Let’s ride this out until Patrick is healthy and see what putting him back in the lineup does for the team. Let Martel continue his phenomenal year down with the Phantoms. The Flyers, at this point, aren’t in any real hurry to get these younger kids up through the pipeline. They still have veteran contracts that need to run their course, unless traded or released. They aren’t rushing to move these kids into a spot on the team. Let’s let this play out a few more games before acting rash, and see what the Flyers can do after back to back shutouts. Something like that has to light a fire under them, doesn’t it?
Mandatory Photo Credit: CTK via AP Images