Every January, February, and March is painful for Flyers fans like myself. It seems like after every Christmas, this team self-destruct and stumble into the playoffs. Every year they have us folk who bleed orange and black biting our nails, hoping the team holds on to a playoff spot. Every year it's the same case. The goalie is worn out and easily beaten, and the team loses its heart and drive down the stretch. This team is failing right now in a pretty volatile playoff race. The Flyers have not been consistent sine the 7 game winning streak was snapped back in December. They have only accrued 27 points in the standings in their last 26 games. The heart and chemistry and motivation the team had at the beginning of the year was pleasantly surprising and brought the team atop the standings, and now, us Flyer fans see the same self-destruction of the team and their character. It is now clear that it wasn't just the Legion of Poon that were the problem, it is something more than that.
So what's the problem?
Clearly the offense is NOT the problem, they lead the league with 193 goals for. They are however 25th in goals against, with 177. This suggests a breakdown on defense and between the pipes. Yes, the Flyers are missing captain (I'll get back to that later) and best defender Chris Pronger for what appears to be, forever. Kimmo Timonen, a consistently excellent defender, is once again the glue of the defense. It's saddening the money Ed Snider invests in guys like Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle, and Andrej Meszaros for them to not step up a bit. Last year they proved they could be the core of one of the top defenses in the league, yet this year they do not look like it at all. Countless turnovers, lazy penalties, and what seems to be lack of some awareness have plagued the defense this year. It's likely Chris Pronger will never come back, and in two years, Kimmo Timonen will probably retire. Coburn, Carle, and Meszaros will likely be the top three defensemen in that case. Based on their play this year, would that be wise for the Flyers to trust them to carry the defense? I don't think so. Yes, the Flyers have bolstered their defense with rental players Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman. Hopefully us fans see a proportionally better penalty kill. However, long-term, the team will have some trouble. I would be worried that Matt Carle tries to get a higher price tag like Leino did last year. He is not worth the at least four million-a-year he will demand. It might be wise for the Flyers to trade him for a defender that's locked up and gives more of a bang for the buck.
Goaltending has also been much worse than anticipated, both goalies have the same, underwhelming save percentage of .900. Bryzgalov, the man paid 51 million over 9 years, also has a 2.79 GAA, while Bobrovsky has a 2.99 GAA. These goalies total to $7,416,667 in cap space. Last year, Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky totaled to $2,675,000 in cap space and put up better stats in the regular season. It is clear that the overhaul this past offseason was unsuccessful. Ed Snider should be irate at this point. One, or both of these goaltenders has to be moved. No, it's not the three-headed goalie monster that haunted us last playoffs, but it's the two-headed Russian goalie monster that has underwhelmed the Flyers this season. The Flyers need to find a trading partner that needs a goalie, which they can find just up the parkway from them, the New Jersey Devils. Both of their goaltenders are at the end of their careers, and will need some relief other than from the minors. The Flyers could give them either goalie and once again hunt for their final piece. They could also find a team equally disgruntled with their goalie's performance, say Columbus with Steve Mason, and do a swap, similar to Colorado and Ottawa's trade last year.
The other problem is the leadership on the team. With the captain out, there is no one guy who the team circles around. They need to give someone the reigns to put the team back in the right direction. On paper, this team is one of the best in the league. They are missing some off-paper qualities, like heart; and with that, I leave you with this (different sport but you get the idea):