I do, of course. I mean, who doesn’t? Any dedicated fan is going to have input on how to improve his/her favorite team.
It goes without saying, though, that any Armchair GM is merely expressing an opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. And what better way to end a long week than by doing just that?
When it comes to the makeup of the roster that comprises the current Philadelphia Flyers team, two things need to be taken into consideration:
- Not unlike the basement-dwelling 2007 Flyers, this team has a solid core of promising young stars that are starting to realize their potential but are not even close to playing to their full capacity.
- GM, Paul Holmgren, stated as much recently when he said he did not plan to trade away any of these assets. He said the same about the core of the 2007 team and stuck to his word for quite a while.
There is no need to trade away Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Jake Voracek, or any of these other burgeoning players. This team is not built to make an immediate run for the Cup. Like many Cup contenders before it, it is built for the long haul. Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and the Flyers — among other teams — all went through growing pains before making it to the Finals in recent years. We just need the patience to realize that and sit through it.
SIDEBAR: St. Louis will the next team to see the painstaking efforts pay off, in my humble opinion.
So, how do you make a team that is struggling to handily beat any team not named the New York Islanders and has already used up all its cap space into a contender?
That is certainly not an easy or short process by any means, especially since the cap is set to go down next season and the Flyers need to shed salary somewhere. This season is what it is. Any moves that get made need to be done so in preparation for next season.
Right off the bat, the cap issue makes the Kimmo Timonen re-signing curious. Sure, he is vital to the defense. He brings so much to the table that the table is barely strong enough to support all of it. However, he is also about to turn 38 and said he’s fairly certain that next season will be his last. Will he be the difference between winning and losing the Cup before next season ends?
That is debatable. On the other hand, what is not debatable is how he can help his two proteges, Erik Gustafsson and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Flyers need smart, strong skating, puck moving defensemen and, as far as their defensive prospects go, Gus and Ghost are the cream of the crop.
Now that Gus is healthy, he finally got the nod to return to Philly to play for the Flyers this season. Considering the team’s limited flexibility to make any moves and that the Flyers project to be a playoff bubble team at best, it is imperative that the smart Swede gets plenty of time to develop on the blue line. Rather than wait for a strong wind to blow through and push Kurtis Foster around the ice, the Flyers need to give Gus the time and space to come into his own and learn from Kimmo, the Finnish God of Defense.
Ghost, on the other hand, may only have the opportunity to play a handful of games with Timonen — if any at all — before Kimmo retires. So, he will not benefit as much from Timonen’s presence. Keeping Kimmo around for another season increases the odds that he could mentor the prospect on the ice, since it is unlikely he will be able to do so off the ice. Much like Sami Kapanen before him, Timonen will probably return home to play for his own team for a few more years upon retiring.
At best, this buys the Flyers two strong three/four defenders who can play in all situations and help the transition game. It’s far from a solution but it is both a start and an area where the team needs to improve.
The Flyers do still need to shed salary and an unpopular move might be necessary: trading Braydon Coburn. (Go ahead and roll your eyes.)
Beak has a ton of upside. Like James van Riemsdyk, though, seeing him play at his full potential happen about as frequently as Halley’s Comet is visible.
Coburn still has a ton of value, though. He plays big minutes in all situations, is a fast skater for his size and can have a strong shot. He also has a reasonable salary for everything that he does. He also has a modified no trade clause but that should not be a big deal because there would be plenty of suitors for Coburn and he could easily land in a spot where he would be happy and the team could get a decent haul in return for him.
How does that help the defense, though? Technically, it does not help them. However, there are a few veteran free agents who will likely be available in the offseason to help the Flyers on a short contract. First off, Lubomir Visnovsky finally showed up kicking and screaming for what will likely be his brief stint in Long Island. Through his first four games, he has already picked up four points and is averaging nearly 22 minutes per game. Visnovsky would be a huge asset to the powerplay and would bring along additional veteran leadership alongside the slightly older Kimmo Timonen. Beyond that, Mark Streit, Ryan Whitney and Rob Scuderi could be potential targets that fit this mold and would be cheaper than Coburn.
Whitney could probably be acquired via trade for very little at any point this season. Although he has a long injury history and is not off to a good start this season, he has the ability to put up some pretty big numbers from the blue line.
The next step would be to hope that Andrej Meszaros can get healthy enough by the trade deadline that some team would be willing to take a chance on him. As awesome as Meszaros was during his first year in Philadelphia, injuries really hampered him since then. With only one year left on his contract, he should be tradable without taking salary back in return to help the team stay under the cap.
There is not too much else that can be done to revamp the blue line this season or next without doing something drastic and “drastic” often involves overpaying and regretting the decision in the long run.
In the meantime, let Luke Schenn continue to come fit in as a Flyer and see how the season plays out. If it plays out poorly, the Flyers could end up with Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Pulock or if they’re really lucky/really bad, Seth Jones. Or, maybe they could trade up to get him. An addition like Jones could be just what the Flyers need to get the defense in order.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the defense plays out like this. Here is an idea of what the D could look like coming into next season:
Timonen – Visnovsky/Streit
Schenn – Jones
Gustafsson – Grossmann
Not too shabby, if I must say so myself.
Goaltending is a simple fix. All the team needs is a reliable backup who can come in cold about 20 games per season. That should not be too hard to find. So…
Who cares? It doesn’t matter anyway.
As for the offense, the solution is even simpler: do not trade any of the valuable young players. Matt Read? No. Couturier? No. Schenn? No. Claude Giroux? Really? Come on now. Scott Laughton could be a viable option in the NHL next season. Swapping him in for Ruslan Fedotenko alongside Sean Couturier would help form a solid shutdown third line.
There are only two moves worth making on offense. The first move would be to replace the loss of Jaromir Jagr. It still stings. The Flyers desperately need a guy like him. If he would come back next season at a reasonable cost, that would be perfect. If Jarome Iginla felt like taking a pay cut to sign in Philly, that would be fine by me too. Or, if the Flyers could convince Manny Malhotra not to retire so he could play in Philly next season, I’d be OK with that as well (not that he is in the same category as these other players). Hey, how about Teemu Selanne? Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any of these moves would actually happen. Jagr is the most probable but, if he is still playing strong, Dallas has more than enough cap space to outbid Philly. Still, the Flyers need to find someone who can help in this area. Overlooking his importance to swing for the fences in the Weber/Suter/Parise sweepstakes was the biggest oversight of the offseason for Paul Holmgren.
The other move worth making may seem odd at first glance. The Flyers should trade pending restricted free agent Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo has come a long way and really matured and refined his game into being the prototypical modern pest; someone who can goad other players into penalties, stick up for his teammates, and even show some offensive flair. Still, he has a bad reputation that is heightened by the flying P he wears on his chest. Additionally, Tom Sestito could make a strong case to compete for his spot.
As long as Rinaldo remains a Flyer, he will be a marked man. It would help both him and the team to send him somewhere where he could get a fresh start and escape his reputation as well as the outdated but undying reputation of the Bullies.
There are a lot of questions about Philly’s offense. If the Flyers got a guy like Jagr, where would he fit in the lineup? If Laughton is ready to play in the NHL next season, whose place would he take? What about Nick Cousins? Marcel Noebels? Is Tye McGinn a permanent fixture in Philly? If so, what does that mean for Wayne Simmonds or Scott Hartnell? Will the Flyers try to deal a high-priced forward like Hartnell or Briere to get under the cap, even though these players have no trade clauses? What will be the identity of the offense? It is hard to predict exactly what four lines will look like next season before that final question is answered.