Sigh, the Flyers. I could probably end this right here and have summed up the feelings of thousands of Flyers fans. There have been a few bright spots in this otherwise dim, dreary season for our Flyers. It’s hard to put your finger on just one thing that is wrong with this season, but to be honest there’s only a couple of things going right, so naturally they are easy to point out. I wanted to really see if we should have seen this coming, so I looked at the top 4 performing Flyers so far this season and compared the stretch of the last 10 games (February 18-March 9) to a couple of stretches of 10 games from last season. Due to the shortened season, I compared these last 10 games (games 17-26 of the 2012-13 season) to the last 10 games of the 2011-12 season, a 10 game stretch from February18-March 10 2012, and games 17-26 of 2011-12 where applicable. I also wanted to look at a few players that have been underperforming and other notable tidbits that might illustrate why we are where we are right now.
One of those bright spots has been (much to my personal surprise) the giant step forward that Jakub Voracek has taken this season. Last season it seemed like any time he touched the puck, he’d skate up the wing, try to make a move and turn the puck over. This season has been a different story altogether. Over the last 10 games, Voracek has taken 38 shots and amassed 9 goals, 9 assists. He has scored 5 power play goals in that time. If we look at his last 10 games from last season he took 32 shots and had 4 goals and 6 assists. When looking at the same stretch of time last season (February 18-March 15*) he took 14 shots and had 3 goals and 1 assist. From November 14-December 7, 2011 (games 17-26 that he played) he took 20 shots, and had 1 goal and 6 assists. He is also third on the team in takeaways. His playing time has increased from last season (and rightfully so) and Voracek is shooting the puck more and reaping the goals. If you don’t shoot, you can’t score, right?
Second on the team in scoring is Claude Giroux and since he’s not leading the team in every category, some whispers are that he’s underperforming. Unfortunately, the expectation for him to dominate games has been set and anything less is a bit of a disappointment for most fans. While he is still one of the scoring leaders, he has seemingly not had the “swagger” and confidence that allowed him to dominate last season. In the last 10 games, Claude has 35 shots, 4 goals and 10 assists. He has 1 power play goal and a total of 3 power play goals this season. In the last 10 games of 2011-12, he had 36 shots, 2 goals and 9 assists. From February 18-March 10, 2012 he had 36 shots, 2 goals and 10 assists. Finally in games 17-26 that he played, he had 30 shots, 7 goals and 10 assists. While Claude isn’t on the scoring pace that he was last season that resulted in 93 points in 77 games and he’s not dominating in games, he is still putting up valuable numbers. However, we all know that G can be better and G knows that he can be better. We should also consider that he was the top scorer on his line last season, while this season he is playing on a line with team leading scorer, Voracek. One very surprising statistic that I want to point out for Giroux is his 6 takeaways. Yes, you read that correctly. Six. The same number of takaways that players like Bruno Gervais (in 3 less games) and Tye McGinn (in 10 less games) have. For a player that has been one of the top 2 in takeaways for the last 4 seasons, this is a big deal in my opinion.
Wayne Simmonds is currently 3rd on the team in scoring. He has 19 points in 23 games so far this season. In the last 10 games, he has taken 24 shots and scored 6 goals and 5 assists including 3 power play goals and 3 game winning goals. Of note, the last 2 losses he has taken 0 shots and scored 0 points. Last season from February 18-March 10, he took 26 shots had 2 goals and 3 assists. In games 17-26 of last season he took 22 shots and had 2 goals and in the final 10 games of last season he took 26 shots and had 6 goals and 1 assist. He also had a total of 11 goals in 2011-12. In his most flattering 10 game stretch last season he took 20 shots for 9 goals and had 3 assists. So we can see that “the WayneTrain” has some streaky tendencies, but he’s been one of the better players of late.
Fourth in scoring is sophomore, Brayden Schenn. In the last 10 games, he has 19 shots, 3 goals and 5 assists. In the last 10 games of 2011-12, he had 20 shots, 3goals and 3 assists and from February 18-March 10, 2012, he has 17 shots 1 goal and 1 assist. He has 19 points in 25 games this season, while he had just 18 points in 54 games last season he has more than doubled his production in less than half the number of games, so he has improved this season though possibly not as much as fans expected and hoped. It should be noted, that Brayden is second on the team in takeaways with 12 in 25 games played. Last year he had 11 in 54 games so credit to him for the improvement, it has been noticeable.
My feelings about Danny Briere have been pretty much the same as my feelings on this whole terrible season so far – disappointment at its worst. Even though Briere is 6th on the team in scoring, Mr Playoffs is just plain underperforming even for a players as streaky as he tends to be. I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve had with people on Briere’s streakiness for people to tell me I was crazy and he is one of the most consistent performers. Two years ago, I held the unpopular opinion that the Flyers should have moved him before his scoring hit the cliff and started falling off. This year his name keeps popping up in conversations about possible amnesty candidates. In the last 10 games, he has taken 22 shots for 2 goals and 6 assists. If we shift that 10 game span back a game (February 16-March 7), we can add a goal to the total. That has been his most prolific stretch of games so far this season. Last season, from February 18-March 10 he had 22 shots, 0 goals and 4 assists. He was a bit better in games 17-26 where he had 27 shots for 4 goals and 6 assists. Since he had a bit of an off year last year, I went back to 2010-11 and he had 29 shots,1 goal and 4 assists from February 18-March 10, 2011. In his most prolific scoring stretch of 2010-11 he took 31 shots and had 8 goals and 7 assists. His most prolific stretch last season saw 21 shots, 3 goals and 10 assists. Briere’s scoring pace has consistently declined every year and this year is no exception.
When you think of Sean Couturier, does sophomore slump come to mind? In his last 10 games he just has 2 assists and 23 shots. From February 18-March 10, 2012, he had 9 shots and 1 goal and in the last 10 games of 2011-12, he had 18 shots, 1 goal and 1 assist. He just isn’t a prolific scorer in the NHL – yet. He’s still just 20 years old. In his final season of juniors he took 223 shots, scored 36 goals and had 96 points in just 58 games. He was taking right around 4 shots per game. He also had 9 power play goals and 4 short-handed tallies. Unfortunately, it’s hard to translate that kind of scoring to the NHL. He has shown glimpses of his offensive potential, but is a prized 2 way player. He is leading the team with 16 takeaways this season and was second only to GIroux with takeaways last season. His offensive game will come eventually, however he is noticeably not as confident lately and whether cause or effect, his playtime was slashed to around only 10 minutes each of the last 2 games.
I would like to also mention a noteworthy player from the last 10 games has been Zac Rinaldo, who has taken 9 shots and has 3 goals and an assist in that span. While he’s not making a run at any scoring titles, this is above expectation and certainly he has been playing at a level above his baseline. What Rinaldo is most often praised for is his hitting. He has 95 hits in 22 games. He leads the team in hits per game with 4.3.
Other noteworthy items to mention:
Luke Schenn leads the team in hits with 103 hits in 26 games. That’s 4 per game.
Niklas Grossmann leads the team in blocked shots with 76. He is blocking just under 3 shots per game.
Braydon Coburn leads the team in giveaways. Players are credited with giveaways when their actions result in a loss of possession to the opposing team. Coburn has 29. To help put this in perspective, Matt Carle held the giveaway title last season with 55 in 82 games. He also leads the team in minor penalties taken and shares a team worst +/- of -10 with Bruno Gervais.
The 4 forwards with the worst +/- on the team are Couturier (-8), Briere (-8), Giroux (-7) and Voracek (-5). Rusty Fedotenko has the best +/- at +5.