The Flyers need to rebuild the fourth line

The fourth line needs new wingers.

We’ve heard it over and over again from pundits and fans alike, although they may not have realized they were saying it at the time. So, let’s take a look at some of the common themes we have seen this off-season in regards to the needs of the Flyers:

  • They need more heart
  • The forward crop is small and needs to get bigger
  • The team needs more grit
  • The Flyers are really missing a guy like Ian Laperriere
  • The Flyers really miss Arron Asham
  • Jody Shelley and Dan Carcillo have been unable to contribute
  • The team is missing a big body to plant in front of the net and provide some secondary scoring

Now let’s combine this with a couple more assessments:

  • The penalty-killing unit, which peaked in the ’07 season and has dropped off each year since, could use a boost
  • When the Flyers were at their best in ’10, the fourth line of Carcillo – Betts – Laperriere was very effective
  • In ’10, the fourth line not only ate up minutes, allowing the other lines to rest, but the line also provided a lot of energy for the team when it was most required
  • Although the Flyers were a better face off team in the ’11 season than they were in any season since ’04,  Betts’ production dropped this season. Granted, the drop in percentage is modest but, given his age and propensity for injuries, it may not be wise to assume he will rebound.
  • Kris Versteeg is the only forward in Philadelphia to have won a Stanley Cup championship

Due to the fact that Dan Carcillo was ineffective and Shelley was unable to play more than a handful of minutes per game, the Flyers were unable to roll four lines like they were during the 2010 season. In my opinion, this hurt the Flyers more than it seems. In order to get the team back on track, Paul Holmgren and Peter Laviolette need to find new wingers for this line.* Fortunately, they may already have one piece in-house.

In what may turn out to be an underrated acquisition, Tom Sestito could be an ideal replacement for Dan Carcillo.

At 6-foot-5 and 228 lbs., he is exactly the type of big body the Flyers need. Much like Shelley, Sestito was a fan favorite in Columbus before he was traded to Philadelphia for Michael Chaput and Greg Moore. Unlike Shelley, he can play more than 6 minutes per game. Through his use of Twitter, he’s already acquainted himself with fans in Philly. Sestito also posted 2 goals and 4 points over 9 games in Columbus this season. If that is a sign of things to come, he could be used on multiple lines and provide some secondary scoring. In limited NHL time, he’s racked up 6 fights over 13 games, proving that he can also fill the need Philly has for more grit.

I’d like to believe that Ben Holmstrom could round out that line but I’m not convinced yet and I think it would be a mistake to simply hand him a roster spot. The Flyers need another veteran who can kill penalties, provide energy, and drop the gloves. They need a leader in the locker room and someone who leads by example on the ice. In short, they need another Ian Laperriere.

The problem is, where do you find another Lappy? It’s not exactly like he’s a dime-a-dozen player. Sure, there are other guys who can play the same role but not many who do it as effectively.

The first two names that come to mind are Shawn Thornton and Mike Grier.

Grier is a free agent but Thornton is under contract with Boston for one more season. In the next tier down, I’d consider Asham, who is also a free agent, but I’m not sure he’d return to Philadelphia to play primarily on the fourth line.

The thing is, Lappy was relatively unknown to many Flyer fans because he spent all but 28 games of his career in the Western Conference prior to coming to Philadelphia. So, is there a player in Calgary, Los Angeles, or elsewhere who is about to hit free agency or could be trade bait that would be a perfect fit in orange and black? Let’s hope Homer has ear to the ground.

Who would you add to the fourth line?

*I’m unsure where Darroll Powe fits into the equation at the moment. It’s too early in the offseason to tell.

  • Andrew

    I think that a couple free agents would look good. First off Arnott if he took a little less salary would be great! Although i think Washington resigns him. Realistically I see 2 possible I would say upgrades. Handzus former flyer is coming to the end of his career and played here before. We all know how good defensively he is and a good face off guy. Might take a little less now with a smaller role. He also still has a bit of a scoring touch too.

    Another player I think would fit well and be even cheaper is Eric Belanger. From the kings organization also. When he played there he was on a line with lappy and molded himself after lappy. Hes not a fighter but great in the face off circle hes a vet and if he needed to fill in on a 3rd line he can still score and make plays.

    A couple long shots here though…I would try out Kris Draper and or John Madden….Im thinking faceoffs, vetrans and still mobile here and thats about it.

    If you want a fighter to compliment Shelly then I would go with Sestito. But the guys up there can eat more minutes up in my mind. That would keep the team refreshed and on track.

  • Andrew

    I think that a couple free agents would look good. First off Arnott if he took a little less salary would be great! Although i think Washington resigns him. Realistically I see 2 possible I would say upgrades. Handzus former flyer is coming to the end of his career and played here before. We all know how good defensively he is and a good face off guy. Might take a little less now with a smaller role. He also still has a bit of a scoring touch too.

    Another player I think would fit well and be even cheaper is Eric Belanger. From the kings organization also. When he played there he was on a line with lappy and molded himself after lappy. Hes not a fighter but great in the face off circle hes a vet and if he needed to fill in on a 3rd line he can still score and make plays.

    A couple long shots here though…I would try out Kris Draper and or John Madden….Im thinking faceoffs, vetrans and still mobile here and thats about it.

    If you want a fighter to compliment Shelly then I would go with Sestito. But the guys up there can eat more minutes up in my mind. That would keep the team refreshed and on track.

  • sunny lusch

    Man, Eric Belanger. Forgot about him…apparently so did the Capitals…but I digest…

    Strictly fourth-line veteran guys are a niche within a niche, and the only other worthwhile Laperriere-like player I found (who has not previously played for the Flyers) is Raffi Torres.

    Of course, Arron Asham is a free agent, and I’ve even heard Michal Handzus floated out there. Andrew, I like your suggestion about John Madden, though I do have some concerns that his value might be wasted at 8 minutes a night.

    I think Draper is past his expiration point, even for Philly veteran-grabbing standards.

    • Andrew

      I did throw around Raffi a bit too. I think it all depends on Powe. I think he might be a perfect 4th liner with a little scoring talent too. But if that happens I think we would stick with Shelley and Sestito on his wing and save on cap space for a goalie and another depth winger.

      I really think Matt Read is going to make the team next year and be that depth scoring touch. Which leaves even more room for an Asham or Torres!

      (with moeny to spend on a possible goalie….)

  • sunny lusch

    Man, Eric Belanger. Forgot about him…apparently so did the Capitals…but I digest…

    Strictly fourth-line veteran guys are a niche within a niche, and the only other worthwhile Laperriere-like player I found (who has not previously played for the Flyers) is Raffi Torres.

    Of course, Arron Asham is a free agent, and I’ve even heard Michal Handzus floated out there. Andrew, I like your suggestion about John Madden, though I do have some concerns that his value might be wasted at 8 minutes a night.

    I think Draper is past his expiration point, even for Philly veteran-grabbing standards.

    • Andrew

      I did throw around Raffi a bit too. I think it all depends on Powe. I think he might be a perfect 4th liner with a little scoring talent too. But if that happens I think we would stick with Shelley and Sestito on his wing and save on cap space for a goalie and another depth winger.

      I really think Matt Read is going to make the team next year and be that depth scoring touch. Which leaves even more room for an Asham or Torres!

      (with moeny to spend on a possible goalie….)

  • TH

    Sestito and Testwuide are both big guys I could see getting a shot at cracking the 4th-line next season. Holmstrom is a really solid defensive player, but he doesn’t have the body-mass yet to really assert himself. Rinaldo got a look at the end of the year and laid the body pretty effectively.

    Powe and Betts are around for another year, I would suspect. Powe plays pretty big for his size, and Betts is a bit placid for the role, but he makes up for it on special teams. If they have a guy on the wing with them who can not only take the body but also take every shift (sorry Shelley), it would make for a very effective energy line.

  • TH

    Sestito and Testwuide are both big guys I could see getting a shot at cracking the 4th-line next season. Holmstrom is a really solid defensive player, but he doesn’t have the body-mass yet to really assert himself. Rinaldo got a look at the end of the year and laid the body pretty effectively.

    Powe and Betts are around for another year, I would suspect. Powe plays pretty big for his size, and Betts is a bit placid for the role, but he makes up for it on special teams. If they have a guy on the wing with them who can not only take the body but also take every shift (sorry Shelley), it would make for a very effective energy line.