What Needs to Happen to Right the Ship for the Flyers

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Minnesota twice, followed by Winnipeg. The Flames, the Canucks, and Islanders twice. The damn Penguins and now the Sharks. That’s nine games right there. Nine games in which the Flyers have lost, all in a row. Two shutouts, back to back against the Minnesota Wild and multiple blown leads later, and we have a team that is 8-10-7. Sure, some of them are overtime losses which resulted in a point for the Flyers. Let’s be honest though, when is that ever good enough?

When is this team going to be good enough? When will they start playing up to their potential? Is this a coaching issue, or is this a player issue? How many question marks, exactly, are surrounding this team right now? The forwards, the defensemen, the goalies, they just are not good enough right now. Let’s be honest as well, don’t even get me started about the coaching.

This isn’t an article in which I’m going to spew facts at you and back up my points with statistics. This is purely opinion, so get ready, because I have a lot to say about this team right now.

Being a Flyers fan right now is almost like having a son that you’re disappointed in. You admit that he’s your son, but you aren’t shouting it from the top of a mountain. He’s the kid that goes in for the half inning that is mandatory in Little League. He’s the kid that goes in to draw a foul in basketball because he’s tall and lanky, you can get him the ball down in the post, but he doesn’t do anything with it so he just stands there until the other team hacks him. Am I getting my point across?

This team has reached a crucial point in their season right now. As shown by the Sharks Flyers broadcast, fans aren’t coming out like they normally do. The fans don’t want to support this team because they have become stagnant. Nothing proactive is being done to try and rectify the fact that this team is winless for most of the month of November. Things need to be done immediately, and there’s only one person that can make that happen.

Ron Hextall, I’m looking at you (or typing). Fans are frustrated, hell, fans are angry. Nothing is being done about the fact that the team you oversee is not playing at a level that they should be. You need to do something. Your first step should be a sit down “chat” with Dave Hakstol. Let me lay the foundation for this discussion between you two:

“Listen Dave, you’re fired.”

It’s as simple as that. Dave Hakstol isn’t the guy for this job. Trust me, I tried to give this guy the benefit of the doubt at every turn. I was optimistic when they hired him because he was a college coach and was used to coaching kids. This team is full of kids right now and they aren’t doing anything. It’s time for a change behind the bench, and that should come in the form of a new face making decisions in the locker room.

Step two is a two part step. Part one, deal a defenseman named Brandon Manning or Radko Gudas. I know, we all want Andrew MacDonald out of Philadelphia, but realistically that isn’t going to happen now that Ivan Provorov has proven that he can play at such a high level with A-Mac by his side. They won’t risk hindering Provorov’s development by trading away Andrew MacDonald. The Flyers’ best bet is finding a suitor for Manning or Gudas. Both can be serviceable third pairing defensemen, and there are a few teams out there who could use a player like that. Edmonton comes to mind when thinking about a team that needs those kinds of services. Once they ship either Gudas or Manning out, it is on to part two of the second step.

We all know what that part is. Samuel Morin. You know, the guy who was snubbed at the beginning of the year for a spot on the blue line, not called up because of a nagging injury, then finally brought up for two games, and sent back down just like that. Samuel Morin sitting in the minors right now is like having a bulldozer sitting in your garage while you can’t figure out how to break through the wall you have in your yard. Why you have a wall in your yard is beyond me, but you get my point. He is a big, strong, physical defenseman and is exactly what the Flyers are missing right now. The Flyers have absolutely no one right now who is capable of planting himself next to either Elliott or Neuvirth and clearing the crease so they have a clear path of sight for the puck. What’s the harm in giving Morin a long look at the pro level, especially at this point?

The final step in turning this team around is jumbling those forward lines, once again. Given Hextall takes my advice, which I would totally expect him to… if a new coach were to come in after the San Jose game, he would have a few days to evaluate what he came into, and he would have time to put together four lines that made sense to him, and hopefully to us fans.

There is, however, a catch 22 here. The top line has been firing on all cylinders this season. Sean Couturier has found his offensive game and is on pace for a Selke-worthy outing. However, the other three lines have looked dismal. Would splitting those top three forwards up help those other three lines? Sharing the wealth could end up paying dividends if done the right way. Giroux and Couturier would probably stay on that top line. Voracek would likely be relegated to the second line. To replace Voracek, they likely would bring up someone like Weal or Konecny. Both had previous success playing on the top line, so both would be somewhat suitable replacements for Voracek. The second line should consist of Voracek, Patrick, and Martel. Martel is the kind of player that isn’t afraid to take the shot, a player that the Flyers seem to be lacking as of late. Voracek is a great shot, but is also a great passer, and Patrick really has the awareness to be able to open plays up and dictate what happens. This line could be lethal if given the opportunity to succeed.

The third line would end up being Simmonds, Filppula, and whoever isn’t on the the top line between Weal and Konecny. This is the gritty line. Simmonds likes to post up in front of the opposing goalie, and Flippula is a set up guy. You have Weal or Konecny who can get the puck into the lanes and make things happen. Then that leaves you with Raffl, Laughton, and Lehtera for the fourth line. I really like what I’ve been seeing out of Lehtera lately, especially compared to Weise. Lehtera shows up to play, even if it doesn’t seem like it when you look at his stat lines. Lehtera may not even stay in the lineup. Maybe the new coach likes Leier and brings him back up. Maybe there’s someone down with the Phantoms that strikes his interest and he brings them up. It remains to be seen.

After the loss to San Jose, the Flyers don’t need to panic necessarily. It’s nothing that should raise any alarms, we knew they were bad. They aren’t fooling anyone by losing these games. However, they are fooling us right now into thinking that they aren’t a team that can compete. In reality, this team can compete, and yes, it’s still very early into the season. I could look back on this article in April and say, “Wow, the Flyers won the metro division, what in the world was I thinking writing this article?” I hope that I think just that. However, the way things are going right now aren’t exactly indicative of what to expect.

As fans, we expect better. Always. What we need to understand right now is that we aren’t in this to compete this year. This could end up being the year where we get these kids adjusted to the speed of the NHL, and potentially get a new head coach adjusted to the day in and day out rigmarole of his new job. I’m not going to say this is a rebuild, because we already have the pieces, we’re just waiting for them to get better. This right here is a waiting game. Dave Hakstol is not good at this waiting game because every decision he is making seems to be counterproductive. It’s time to turn to a new page in this story, as corny as it may sound. It’s time for a fresh start, and that time needs to be now.

 

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