The Flyers have played 14 games to this point, but if we have learned anything, it is that we know nothing. A mere seven points separate fourth place (Toronto) and last place (Washington). The team has scored less than two goals on TEN separate occasions, while compiling 19 in the other four. Claude Giroux trails Kimmo Timonen in points, and Tye McGinn has the same amount of goals. They feel like a team that is struggling, but they boast a 4-1-1 record over their last six contests. Now sitting at 6-7-1 overall, is this lack of consistency going to keep them in the “.500 club” for the foreseeable future?
Coming into this week, the flyers needed to make up some ground on their conference foes. Unfortunately they started this pursuit on the wrong foot with the Panthers, losing in a shootout that is sure to leave a sour taste in the mouth of the coaching staff after holding the Panthers off the shot chart in overtime. To their credit, the team bounced back with an overtime win versus the Hurricanes, finishing out a four-game homestand with seven of a possible eight points. But they followed this effort up with far less vigor north of the border, losing in a bad way versus the Maple Leafs before recovering again against the Jets last night. Overall, they gained five out of a possible eight points in the process.
After a certain point of mediocrity, you begin to temper expectations and expect lackluster results. Heading into the season, the Flyers had some obvious needs, but still seemed poised to improve on a 2012 campaign ultimately deemed a success. Unfortunately, many of their needs – particularly on the offensive side on the puck – have been exposed, potentially at the expense of the season if improvements don’t soon follow. The Flyers needed results this week; instead, they went 2-1-1 and continued to puzzle.
As the offense continues to flounder with no one scoring en masse, you start to wonder if it will ever come around with the current personnel. What was easily billed as a serviceable offense in the preseason currently sits near the bottom of the league in goals for per game. How can this be, and what has to be done to change?
First and foremost, they need to get and stay healthy. Still yet to be together in full, they could prove to be an interesting bunch with everyone in the mix. The lack of a primary sniper has been apparent from the get go, but it is even worse without Scott Hartnell on the ice. Even if he fails to match his output last season, his addition to the lineup will be a huge boost to the forward core. Having Wayne Simmonds back has also already paid dividends for the team.
The emergence of Tye McGinn has been a big help to the Flyers with the graduation of Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Combined with crafty veteran Mike Knuble, they suddenly have a wide variety of secondary scoring options behind their big money guys when they all decide to show up at once.
Most importantly, it starts at the top – and I’m looking at you Claude Giroux. Peter Laviolette doesn’t make it easy with his constant line juggling, but a guy many were calling the best in the world just a few short weeks ago needs to start finding the score sheet (and his teammates with those blind passes) with more consistency. I still think he could benefit from some time with Jake Voracek and would love to see him with Jake and B. Schenn, but having Simmonds back might be a good cure as well.
There is reason to believe this is more than a .500 team, and there is reason to believe this offense can turn it around. But at what point do you have to stop believing and start realizing that it just might not come together the way you thought it would?
This week, the Flyers head to the Rock for a date with the Devils on Friday before traveling to Montreal and Long Island. Sitting in first place in the conference, a win against the red hot Devils would be the perfect opportunity for the Flyers to right the ship in this hellish shortened season. A loss gives them the chance to keep doing much of the same, en route to more days of .500-level hockey.
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