The gauntlet of opponents the Flyers have faced over the last 10 days was supposed to provide some answers about what type of team they really were. Instead, a series of sporadic efforts has left both the organization and its followers with many of the same questions they faced a week ago. Some speak of playoffs, while others speak of prospects. With the trade deadline looming and the end of the season shortly thereafter, is there any way to truly categorize this team as a buyer, seller, or even something in between?
After the nightmare on Broadway, the Flyers played host to Pittsburgh with hopes of turning it around. All was well after the first, as they stepped into the locker room with a 4-1 lead. Unfortunately, what happened when they returned the ice for the remaining 40 minutes of play can simply be described as horrific. Less than a minute into the third period, the Flyers were on their way to blowing a three-goal lead for the first time in nearly 20 years.
What followed was just as bad; a pathetic effort in Boston that resulted in a shutout loss and an unacceptably low 23 shots. They finally broke through at home versus Buffalo, using special teams to break the losing streak, but even that didn’t come easily. Through it all, the team has covered the spectrum from good to poor with their level of play, leaving many to wonder what the right move is going forward.
Are the wheels coming off? That is to say, is a serious rebuild necessary? With the roster being so young, this can only mean swapping out the kids for a different set of kids. Not only is this a bit ridiculous, but where do they even begin? Because I kind of like this mix of young forwards, and they just did that a few summers ago.
Is it pretty much as it seems: a borderline playoff club that’s STILL missing some pieces just to make it to the postseason? If that’s the case, it might be better to ship what little veteran assets the organization has to other teams in search of draft picks and prospects. Even then, where can they begin to fill the gaping holes in defensive depth?
Suppose they don’t trade anyone away: would you be willing to throw in the towel and chalk this mess of a season up to growing pains, starting over again next fall with pretty much the same team intact? With a young mix of players, it isn’t entirely out of the question. However, this leaves the organization with free agency as its primary source of talent over the summer, which has never fared well for the Flyers.
Perhaps they are just underperforming and in need of a kick-start to turn things around. Maybe the team seeks out another Gagne-level spark to ignite their game, but surely it would come at a premium as the deadline nears. Still very much in the hunt for the playoffs (albeit with their work cut out for them), they have proven capable of dominating the best in the East for stretches of individual games. With the right acquisition, could the team find their groove?
A valid case can be made for each one of these situations, which is currently happening on Flyers-centric newsfeeds as we speak.
I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle of those scenarios, leaving the Flyers out of the conversation for the Stanley Cup this season as they currently stand. In that case, they should look to deal some of their veteran players, possibly even packaging them with some younger guys to receive premium returns.
The type of long-term solution on defense the Flyers are looking for will not come at a small cost, as proven just this past summer with the acquisition of Luke Schenn. The situation is eerily similar to 2009, when the Flyers used the massive offensive depth and a few prospects to trade for Chris Pronger.
The plans will become more evident as the season rolls on, continuing tonight in New Jersey. After traveling to Newark, the two teams will then head back to Philadelphia for another matchup on Friday. From there, the Flyers head to Tampa before an absurd six-day break, giving management plenty of time to reassess the team with what would be just 18 games remaining on the schedule.
What do you think: should the Flyers be buyers, sellers, or somewhere in between?
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