Are the Flyers just not good enough?

Are the Flyers just not good enough?
February 18, 2013, 9:00 am
Share This Post

Maybe it’s time to ask this question: Are the Flyers, as currently constructed, good enough to get it done?
 
A not-so-sweet 16 games into the season, Peter Laviolette’s club is floundering badly in the Atlantic Division and in danger of not making the playoffs.
 
Forget how close the Flyers are to a playoff berth. They’ve been within a couple points of a berth for weeks now and have not gained on anyone.
 
Their lethargic performance in Montreal was one of surrender -- not compete. That’s not Flyers hockey, and it’s not going to cut it with hardcore hockey fans who expect better.
 
Today, the club has a rare Monday matinee against the Islanders, who beat the Devils, 5-1, on the night the Flyers lost 5-3 in Newark. In other words, this won’t be a “gimme” win on the Island.
 
After this game, the Flyers finish up their season-long, six-game road trip in Pittsburgh on Wednesday against a Penguins squad that leads the Eastern Conference with 22 points. Mired deep in the pack with only 13 points, the Flyers are nine behind the Penguins.
 
“It’s a 48-game season,” backup goalie Brian Boucher said after Saturday’s appalling 4-1 loss in Montreal. “Teams that get behind early are scraping and clawing to get back in the thick of things.
 
“You want to be patient, but at the same time, you want to get wins because they are important. Right now, with the talent in this room, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be winning.”
 
Fans are looking for somewhere to place the blame, but to be fair, this roster just doesn’t match up to what the Flyers had a year ago. General manager Paul Holmgren’s offseason plan was woefully short on contingencies if things didn’t work out -- which they didn't.
 
The Flyers' defense, for example, is bigger, but it’s far less mobile and simply not imposing. Too many times, the defense is chasing the play, skating forward because it’s not quick enough to skate backwards and stay with the play.
 
When the Flyers lost out on Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Shea Weber, and allowed Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr to walk, they had no reliable Plan C.

With Scott Hartnell’s foot injury and injuries to Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds, the top line has been patchwork all season. There is no adequate replacement for Jagr or Hartnell to create space for Claude Giroux. Throughout the roster, there is no scoring help, either. Many of the veterans and even second–year Flyers, such as Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, have fallen way short of bridging the gaps in scoring.

Yet the overall lack of urgency to compete is what has everyone concerned.
 
“Even [Friday in New Jersey], we’re in the game, a goal down or whatever, but it’s like the game just keeps slipping away from us,” Mike Knuble said.

"We have a hard time mustering the tying goal or the goal that gets us back in the game. They get on top of us and it becomes very easy for teams to close the game out on us. We didn’t generate enough quality chances in the third period in the last couple games.
 
“The scores just kinda stay the same and we play out the game. And when the game is on the line, we have a hard time mustering goals and even generating chances in the third period.”
 
Kimmo Timonen says the Flyers need a major “attitude” adjustment. He said they are no longer “feared” on the road.

Think about that. The past two seasons, the Flyers were among the very best road teams in the NHL. This year? They’re 2-8 –- 28th worst in the league and unacceptable for a club that has always prided itself of representing the Orange and Black.
 
It’s almost as bad as their overall record of 6-9-1.
 
“That is unacceptable for this team, unacceptable from the last player all the way up to our top guys in the room,” said Knuble, a veteran of 16 NHL seasons.
 
“Nobody is happy about it. The league is not going to wait around [for us]. You don’t have time to practice. If you’re way out of it, you don’t have time to play your way out of it. In an [82-game] schedule you can take your time and play your way through it.
 
“But the urgency has got to be extremely important. We’re a third of the way through. You've got 60 possible points left, and if you play well, you get 43 or 44. Other teams will win their share of games, making it harder and harder to climb your way up the ladder.”
 
The Flyers need to finish this road trip at 3-3. Yeah, that’s .500, but at this point, coach Peter Laviolette will settle for it.
 
The long stretch away from home afforded the Flyers the opportunity to gain ground in the East. Instead, they’ve fallen further down the standings.
 
“It’s the will to win,” Knuble said. “When you are down a goal, and generating offense line after line and generating chances to win the game.
 
“It hasn’t been there enough for us. It will come. It has to. We don’t have a choice.”

Not if the Flyers want to make the playoffs. 

More Team Talk