When Jake Voracek left last night’s game versus the New Jersey Devils in the second period with an upper-body injury, the Flyers were faced with the disastrous notion of losing a star before the season even started. With Wayne Simmonds also sidelined due to the flu, the team is suddenly forced to dress Mike Raffl, Adam Hall, Jay Rosehill, and Chris VandeVelde to round out the offense. They acknowledged after the game that Voracek’s injury is only minor, but if a few forwards were to go down does that type of lineup give you confidence?
The offense hasn’t exactly gotten off to a hot start, and last night was no different. Entering their first game action in days, the team looked sluggish from the outset. They managed just four shots in the first, and ultimately rebounded to finish with 23. Their lone goal came on the power play compliments of Kimmo Timonen, giving them a grand total of eleven scored thru their first five games played in the preseason. It’s too early to read into things, but could these be the signs of early issues for the Flyers?
It’s obvious that the forwards still need time to gel, but an injury to any of the Flyers top nine attackers could present massive problems. They rely heavily on their skilled forwards to do a lot of the grunt work on the penalty kill and in the defensive zone. Putting a guy like VandeVelde or Raffl against a team’s top players could be lethal to their chances of success if one of those guys was forced into such a role.
With the organization’s recent failed courting of Dan Cleary, they appear to be looking to add to their depth up front. This can also potentially be accomplished by trading a defensemen, of which they have a plethora. This would seem to be the easiest way to fix the problem while maintaining cap stability, but they would have to find a dance partner willing to make an early move.
The problem is made even more complicated by the contract status of Scott Laughton, seemingly the team’s most dynamic internal option. If the rookie center doesn’t make the team, he will be sent back to juniors to conserve a year of his eligibility. Calling him back at any point means losing value in his rookie contract, something the Flyers will desperately need once Matt Read and Claude Giroux get their well-earned bumps in pay next season.
Unfortunately for Laughton there doesn’t appear to be much room left down the middle, making his immediate future in Philadelphia a little murky. While he definitely brings some quickness and grit to the equation, you have to wonder if he will get enough ice time to make it worth it for both the player and the organization. Sending him back guarantees more first line minutes and another year of learning, and it might be hard to pass up if they see him wasting away at the end of the bench.
For now, the Flyers are relatively healthy as they prepare for the final two games of the preseason. Lets just hope it stays that way, or the team could be forced to make some tough decisions down the line.
What do you think – do the Flyers have enough depth up front?
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