Five Questions 2013 Preseason: Who Will Fill The Gap at Third-Line Left Wing?

Michael Raffl is one of several contenders who could fill the Flyers’ gap at third-line wing. (Photo courtesy of Philly.com)

Flyers Faithful is pleased to have Dave Isaac from the Courier-Post, Matt Brigidi from SB Nation, David Strehle from The Fourth Period, Anthony Mingioni from Center Ice Philly, and our very own Steve Jacot participate in the current iteration of Five Questions. This is the first of a five-part series focusing on the 2013-2014 preseason. (Please keep in mind that these questions were answered last week, so some of our questions may already have been resolved by the team.)

With the news that Dan Cleary will not be joining the Flyers, how should they handle the gap at third-line left wing?

Dave Isaac: They should, and it looks like they will, let some of their young players compete for the job. The early candidates appear to be Tye McGinn, Michael Raffl and a potential position change for Scott Laughton. While taking Laughton away from his natural center position would get him into the Flyers’ plans quicker, I’m not sure if it’s the right move. It’s easy to suggest that it’s a good idea considering the other centers on the team and the duration of their contracts after this year (Claude Giroux – 8 years, Vinny Lecavalier – 4 years and Sean Couturier – 2 years), but if the team liked his development they’d be having him take a step or two backward by learning a new position.

Without having seen much of Raffl, I’d be surprised if he were able to assimilate to a smaller rink and comprehend Peter Laviolette’s system quickly enough to start the year with the team. That’s why I think McGinn will end up the man for the job. He’s got 18 games under his belt and has the toughness and grittiness that last year’s third liners, Couturier and Matt Read, don’t necessarily have.

Matt Brigidi: If we’re operating under the assumption that Couturier and Read are cemented on the third line, I’ve always like Max Talbot or Zac Rinaldo paired with Couturier (in terms of Read, he plays well everywhere). In my mind, the question comes down to who do you want on the fourth line.

If Laughton draws 4C responsibility, you could put Adam Hall, Rinaldo or Talbot on his wings and plug the extra guy (Rinaldo or Talbot) on the third line. I think moving Laughton to wing isn’t necessary all things considered, but the Flyers have never been too concerned with moving a center to wing.

Apparently, Michael Raffl is still a viable candidate to earn a spot on the team, as well, so it will be interested to see how he factors into all this.

Regardless, the third line likely won’t remain the third line for long because Laviolette will eventually change his lines and will certainly change them up on the fly during games.

So, put Giroux on the third line wing and make Hal Gill captain.

David Strehle: The moment it became evident that Cleary clearly would not be coming to Philadelphia, everyone’s attention immediately shifted to if when the Flyers would be bringing Simon Gagne back for another year. As much as Gagne meant to the Flyers during his time here, not sure he’s the right fit for the team now. Besides, the Flyers already have another able-bodied vet on the roster to fill the spot in Max Talbot if that’s the route they choose to take.

Add in the fact there is a wealth of young forwards who are on the cusp of taking that next step towards making the NHL, and I believe it’s time for youth to be served.

Michael Raffl is another youngster who is a candidate to stick as the opening night third line left winger. It looks like Peter Laviolette wants to use Scott Laughton exclusively at center so if he ends up making the team, it will be as the fourth line pivot. If Laviolette wants to maximize the potential for secondary scoring — which was a big problem last season — Laughton may be a better option over Adam Hall. While Hall is stellar defensively and in the faceoff circle, Laughton possesses much more offensive upside.

If Laviolette needs additional grit and a perpetual-motion machine on the third line, he could opt to move Zac Rinaldo up to the third line left wing spot to go with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, and go with Talbot on the left side and Jay Rosehill on the right of Laughton on the fourth. If Raffl makes the roster as the third line LW and Laughton as the fourth line center, either Hall or Rosehill would likely be waived. If either Laughton or Raffl is sent down, Hall or Rosehill could then be carried as the 13th forward.

Anthony Mingioni: The team appears poised to handle the gap in-house. As of the Flyers’ September 18 roster cut-down, the competition appears to be between Austrian import Michael Raffl, 2011 first round pick Scott Laughton, and free agent signee Chris VandeVelde for the final spot. Forward Max Talbot likely will be in the mix for the third line role as well.

In my opinion, that’s how it always should have been. Cleary is a responsible, hard-nosed player who would’ve fit nicely alongside Sean Couturier as the latter continues his development as an  NHL player. But the rumored potential cost (in terms of reported contract length and player  opportunity) wasn’t worth it. In many ways Cleary did the Flyers a favor by changing his mind  and staying with the Red Wings.

Steve Jacot: I know everyone’s got mixed opinions on Simon Gagne, but I think he’s a good guy for a third line winger at this point in his career. He’s still smart with the puck, can play both ways, and can occasionally put one in the back of the net. It seems obvious, however, that the team isn’t interested in bringing Gags back. Tye McGinn seemed like the obvious in-house option. Really, it looks like the job is Michael Raffl’s to lose. He’s been pretty good throughout the preseason so far and could work with Couturier and Read.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Flyers did something odd, like keep Scott Laughton for the fourth-line center and move Max Talbot to third-line wing. It’s not the move that I would make, but I also don’t make these decisions.

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Dave Isaac

Matt Brigidi

David Strehle

Anthony Mingioni

Steve Jacot