Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

050913-schenn-simmonds-rinaldo.jpg

Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

Note: This is the second installment of a series looking at the Flyers' offense. For Part I, click here.

The Flyers' defense got much of the attention, but the team's offense struggled in 2013, as well. What follows is an examination of the second group of Flyers forwards - and while most took steps back, not all did.

Keep in mind: some players such as Jason Akeson, Ben Holmstrom and Eric Wellwood didn’t play enough games to warrant review.
 
Also, pending free agents like Ruslan Fedotenko, Simon Gagne and Adam Hall were evaluated previously (see story).
 
Matt Read
Age: 26
Games played: 42
Stats: 11 goals, 13 assists
Plus/minus: plus-1
Average ice time: 18:01
Cap hit: $900,000 (last year)
 
Were it not for a rib cage injury that held him back in February, Read might have had better numbers than he did a year ago over a full 82-game slate.
 
He’s another guy that other clubs want to talk about when it comes to trades. Like Couturier, retains that value moving ahead. What hurts him here is UFA status next season when the Flyers have a number of players to re-sign.
 
Zac Rinaldo
Age: 22
Games played: 32
Stats: three goals, two assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 8:22
Cap hit: $750,000 (next two years)
 
For a guy who averages a little over eight minutes a night, Rinaldo packs quite a punch. Consider that he was second on the team in hits with 143 - better than four per game.
 
Coach Peter Laviolette loves the energy Rinaldo brings and the fact he is not afraid to fight. Rinaldo actually took his game to a new level this season in that he learned – quite effectively – how to draw penalties.
 
Coaches say they want to give him work on the penalty kill, but that has yet to happen for two seasons now. Maybe it needs to happen next fall.
 
Jay Rosehill
Age: 27
Games played: 11
Stats: one goal, no assists
Plus/minus: minus-4
Average ice time: 6:47
Cap hit: $675,000 (next two years)
 
No matter how you slice ‘n dice it, the Flyers needed a heavyweight enforcer. They had no healthy enforcer with genuine NHL experience in their system once Tommy Sestito was claimed off waivers by Vancouver.
 
Rosehill is young and gets a chance to grow in the role while also offering some offense, though not a ton. Like many heavies, he’s a pleasant chap off the ice, too.

Brayden Schenn
Age: 21
Games played: 47
Stats: eight goals, 18 assists
Plus/minus: minus-8
Ice time: 15:31
Cap hit: $3.11 million (final year)
 
Schenn took steps backwards in 2013. It remains to be seen whether he can ever really be an effective centerman as opposed to playing on the wing.
 
Though he’s moved throughout the lineup these past two seasons, Wayne Simmonds has been a near constant on his line. Like his brother, Luke, you see a development curve. He needs to improve defensively.
 
When the Flyers traded for his brother, it gave Schenn a certain amount of protection he would not be dealt if other clubs came calling. After this season, however, no forwards other than Giroux and Jakub Voracek, remain untouchable this summer.
         
Wayne Simmonds
Age: 24
Games played: 45
Stats: 15 goals, 17 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 15:38
Cap hit: $3.975 million over the next six years
 
The man with the skinny lamb-chop legs, is a tough hombre in front of the net and might have surpassed his career goal output (28) if this had been a full 82-game season.
 
He’s been linked to Schenn most of his time here with a rotating winger on the other side. He's willing to engage and play through pain. He’s a fun player to watch but needs to cut back on penalty minutes – had 82 this season.
 
Max Talbot
Age: 29
Games played: 35
Stats: five goals, five assists
Plus/minus: plus-2
Average ice time: 15:25
Cap hit: $1.75 million the next three years
 
When he slumped badly at the start – 21 games without a goal – Talbot's crutch was that scoring wasn’t his thing but strong defensive play and penalty killing were. While that may be true, the Flyers expect more and need offense from Talbot next season.
 
Talbot had 19 goals in 2011-12 and should have gotten 9 or 10 this season. He missed the final 13 games with a broken left leg. He needs to think of himself differently: like, remember Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2009 against Detroit?
 
Jakub Voracek
Age: 23
Games played: 48
Stats: 22 goals, 24 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 17:14
Cap hit: $4.25 million next three years
 
Voracek was Jaromir Jagr’s prized student who simply blossomed on a bad team coming out of the lockout. He led the Flyers in goals and was second only to Giroux in shots (129). He won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.
 
And there’s the difference: shots. A year ago, all Voracek did was look to pass the puck, constantly passing up scoring opportunities. The coaches drilled into his head that he had to think "shot" before passing, and survey the ice. His chemistry with Claude Giroux is undeniable.
 
The Flyers think they have untapped the potential Voracek had in him. Every indication is that there is more yet to be gained, but not at the expense of defense.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.