Broad Street Hockey has been very gracious to Flyers Faithful, linking to many of our stories since we joined the hockey blogging ranks this season. We greatly respect their opinions, as they are one of the top Flyer-centric hockey sites around. So, when we realized Andreas Nodl was a heated topic for Geoff Detweiler, it piqued our interest.
We asked Geoff if he would care to share his thoughts on Nodl, the trade deadline, and more. He agreed to do so and provided some really great insights and perspective into these topics. Please read on as Geoff took the time to thoroughly answer our questions.
1. What role does Andreas Nodl serve on this team? On his line? Will any players will be available at the trade deadline who could fill the same role but be considered an “upgrade”?
This is a loaded question. On this year’s team, Nodl’s role is Mike Richards’ winger. Since being put on Richards’ wing on November 6th, Nodl has played 35 of 39 games with Mike Richards. During that time, five different players spent at least a full game on the other side.
The only four games Nodl was not alongside Richards included two non-consecutive games against Montreal and a two game stretch where Peter Laviolette split up the Hartnell – Briere – Leino line. In other words, so long as the LBH line is together, Nodl is Richards’ winger.
As such, the Richards/Nodl line is being deployed against the opposition’s best line night in and night out. In the process, they are receiving the majority of defensive zone assignments.
If playing against first-line competition while starting in your own zone isn’t proof of Nodl being a “shutdown winger”, then I don’t know what is. People can complain about his dwindling offensive production, but if Laviolette is using him against the Stamkos’, Crosby’s, and Backstrom’s of the League and putting him 180 feet away from the goal, why do people care about his point totals? He’s not being asked to score, he’s being asked to stop the opposition’s best night in and night out. And he’s doing that.
As far as players available at the trade deadline who can fill the same role while being considered an upgrade, well that again depends on a few things.
One, who do you give up in order to acquire this player? Two, does the chemistry between the new acquisition and Richards equal the chemistry between Richards and Nodl? Three, what does that mean for Nodl in 11-12?
People can talk about bringing in a scoring winger, but if you bring in a scoring winger and slot him next to JVR and Richards, you are changing the entire makeup of the team. You no longer have a line that can face Stamkos – Lecavalier – St. Louis for 13+ minutes a night. So who faces them? Zherdev – Carter – Giroux, most likely. At which point, is the offensive upgrade on Richards’ wing worth the drop in offensive production from Carter’s line?
Are there players who fill Nodl’s current role out there who are better at it? Certainly.
Some guy playing in Tampa Bay seems to be a perfect fit for Richards’ wing. Are any other players available at the trade deadline? I’m not sure. Bring me a name, and we’ll discuss it.
The only name I’ve heard that even can be argued is Chris Clark. But I’m not convinced he’s better than Nodl. He’s certainly not better offensively. And the players likely to be named as possible upgrades are either on teams that are trying to make the playoffs and thus not on the trading block, or ones that are older and possibly not actually better. If there is an upgrade available in Nodl’s role, I’d love to hear it.
2. In recent years, the Flyers have primarily added complementary players that had a big impact (i.e. Prospal, Leino) on the team. Should we expect another move like that or is this the year they make a big splash and acquire a big name like Vokoun? Or, are we already looking at the playoff roster?
This is a really tough question. I think everyone can agree that the Flyers won’t go out and acquire a big name defenseman unless there’s a serious injury. I also don’t see them getting any big name forwards, if only due to the lack of big name forwards likely to be available. So if a move is made, I would only expect it to be a depth forward (Mark Cullen FLA, P.A. Parenteau NYI, Chris Higgins FLA, Mike Grier BUF, etc.) who sits as the 13th/14th forward. Again, barring injury.
Where it gets interesting is in goal. Many people talk like the Flyers would want to acquire Ray Emery, Tomas Vokoun, or J.S. Giguere. Giguere should be avoided like the smelly kid in class. He just isn’t an upgrade and he’s certainly not worth the cost. Emery is a guy I’d love to give a tryout contract to, but only if the team manages to get rid of Michael Leighton. They just don’t have room for him in the AHL otherwise.
Vokoun is a guy I love. If you are talking about the best goaltender since the lockout, Vokoun’s name has to come up in the top 5, if not the top 3. Maybe some of that is due to a liberal definition of “shots” in Florida, but Vokoun makes any team an instant threat to win night in and night out.
Is he needed? Probably not. But if the team sees an injury on defense or goal, or even if one of the two goalies starts to slip, I think the Vokoun rumors will heat up. He immediately makes up for any hole on defense and is a better player than any of the defensemen likely to be available at the deadline.
Should they get Vokoun? If they need to, if they can afford to (which almost certainly means shedding some more NHL salary, depending on the date of acquisition), and if they don’t give up crucial pieces. Dan Carcillo + Marc-Andre Bourdon + 3rd round pick probably isn’t enough, but I’d probably make that trade. And I love hoarding draft picks and prospects.
So is this the playoff roster? Quite possibly, but probably not. The team will probably try to make a trade, even if it’s for an AHL player with previous NHL experience.
3. What about this team makes you think that they will win the Stanley Cup this season? What makes you think they won’t?
I’m always told I’m a negative, pessimistic person. So let’s get the negative out of the way first.
They won’t win because they have been riding very good luck so far. They have stayed almost completely healthy up front, without seeing any player go down for more than a couple of games. Can they replace a fourth-line player or handle a short-term injury? Certainly. They can even sustain an injury to a lesser top-9 player (Zherdev, Hartnell, Nodl) despite having to change their game plan. But if a Carter, Richards, or Giroux goes down, I think they are significantly weakened. Does it mean they won’t win the Cup? No, but it means their odds have dwindled considerably.
Further, they’re currently winning in large part due to the Briere line destroying third-line competition. Without that great luxury of playing match-ups (despite Laviolette claiming he doesn’t) and getting the first line out against inferior competition, their effectiveness goes down.
Think back to Dave Bolland shutting down the trio of Gagne – Richards – Carter last year, but swap in Briere’s line. Can Carter and Richards lead the team to victory? Sure. But it will be a lot closer than the season has gone so far and it is far from a guarantee. Especially if you have an injury causing the matchup disparity to go away. Oh, and there’s this also the thing of Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Tampa Bay. Very good teams in their own right.
But why can they win the Stanley Cup this season?
Clearly if the things above don’t happen. If the team stays healthy – or even just the Briere line, Carter, Giroux, and Richards – they will continue to have three deep lines, with distinct and versatile roles that are never going to be outmatched.
On the road, if the Penguins want to keep Crosby away from Richards, Carter/Giroux can shift into the shutdown role and do an equally good job. If Washington wants to keep Ovechkin and Semin away from Richards, the same thing. You still have the Briere line there to match up against bottom-six forwards, and they’ll win that battle more times than not.
Further, the team has defensive depth that extends beyond Pronger, Timonen, and Meszaros.
Braydon Coburn has quietly had himself a fantastic season, and Matt Carle continues to fly under the radar. We saw it earlier in the year when Pronger missed a couple of weeks – when Meszaros got all the attention – but those two had to step up and continue their great play, which they did.
Having Matt Walker in the playoffs (without his cap hit!) gives the team another Sean O’Donnell type player who can fill in and eat minutes responsibly. The Flyers can win because they have the ability to shut other teams down in a variety of ways, and they have depth that can handle some injuries.
4. Finally, it’s likely Nikolay Zherdev will not be a Flyer after this season. Are there any other players who may not return?
Ah, finally an easy question. First, I don’t see Joonas Lehtivuori coming back to the Phantoms, so I guess you can say he won’t be returning, even if he stays under contract through next year. I don’t see Dan Carcillo coming back. I also don’t see Sean O`Donnell coming back.
If I had to put $500 on two players the Flyers will not re-sign, it would be those two every time. I also don’t see Brian Boucher coming back, but that could easily change if the Flyers do the smart (and difficult) thing of dumping Michael Leighton off on another team. Only if Leighton is gone do I see Boucher back. The last player from the NHL roster I can see not returning is Oskars Bartulis. The organization clearly isn’t high on him, even though he is a more than capable 7th defenseman and an average-to-above-average #6.
Clearly, the team can make another salary dump in the off season (Scott Hartnell? Matt Carle?) but I don’t see that happening, especially if they win the Cup.
Yes, this means I think Ville Leino returns. I think he’s worth around $2.5-$2.75 million (maybe even getting $3-$3.5 million on the open market), but the numbers being floated keep saying $2.3 million. If he signs for that much, I think the Flyers got another steal. It’s clear he likes it here and most likely wants to stay, so the Flyers will likely find a way to re-sign him at a below-market price.
Oh, and Matt Clackson and Garrett Klotz are most certainly not returning.