Paul Holmgren is fond of saying how much he “likes” his roster.
He’ll say it three or four times a season.
And then go out and make a couple of changes.
You can always “like” something else better out there. Given the Flyers' multitude of problems this season, it would be foolish to assume the roster will remain the same, regardless of how much he “likes” it.
To do so would only doom the franchise to another non-playoff season.
“We need a few changes on the back end,” one source said recently, referring to the Flyers' blue line.
The Flyers’ defense will change. Even Holmgren alluded to that.
“We’re always looking to get better on the back end,” he said of the blue line. He also mentioned getting “bigger,” which was interpreted to mean bigger up front, perhaps at center where the Flyers are a trifle small right now.
“I still like our team,” Holmgren said. “When we are healthy, we’re a good team. We had a lot of unhealthy players this year. I think we will be better next year. We will look around and makes ourselves better. Let’s see what we can come up with.”
Holmgren gave full support behind coach Peter Laviolette’s “attack” system even though the club’s five-on-five play was horrific until the final 15 games of the season.
“We didn’t perform to the level we needed to perform,” he said. “Not any individual or system. We just didn’t get the job done.”
Scoring off the rush was a problem the entire season at even strength (see story). The Flyers had just 83 goals playing five-on-five.
At times, the Flyers looked slow at even strength. By season’s end, however, they were just as quick, if not quicker, than the opposition despite a depleted lineup. No one really can figure out why that happened.
“There were times this year I would agree,” Holmgren said when told the club seemed slow at even strength.
“Other times, especially in the last little stretch, we looked faster than other times in the year. Some of that is understanding how we play defensively. There is a little bit of a catch-up.
“We had a tough time in our zone a lot this year. When you have tough time in your own zone, you don’t get the puck up into the forward’s hands. Maybe you don’t get opportunity to attack on the rush with speed.”
With the problems the club had on the back end and injuries up front, the defensive schemes attempted to slow things down to prevent goals off transition, and that affected five-on-five rushes.
The Flyers lost a ton of everything when they didn’t re-sign Jaromir Jagr. Not the least of which was someone trusted –- a future Hall of Famer –- who had a profound impact on their younger players. One reason for the sophomore slumps of Brayden Schenn and in particular, Sean Couturier, was not having Jagr around. Look what Jagr did for Jakub Voracek (see story).
“Probably not as good as they had hoped or we would [have hoped],” Holmgren said of both players’ slumps.
“We didn’t have Jagr, so why even talk about it. We didn’t have a chance to get him. Lots of guys didn’t have the years we wanted them to have or they wanted to have. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Holmgren said he was very happy with the Flyers’ compete level at the end of the season and the almost instant transformation of Steve Mason as a competitive goalie again, one who should lend stability to what was a non-rotation this year with Ilya Bryzgalov being worked into the ground.
He also said that prospect Nick Cousins will need more seasoning to work on his defensive game and won’t be NHL-ready for a while.
Scott Laughton? He’s expected to challenge for a spot next fall.
“He dominated at his level, at times, and that is encouraging,” Holmgren said.