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.