Writing about the Philadelphia Flyers is almost impossible this year for me. I could list you a complete sheet of all the dismal stats that show how pathetic this team is this year. To cut it short, this team has greatly underachieved thus far this season.
Believe me, I know there is not enough talent on this team to win the Eastern Conference; and they should not have been expected to win the division. It certainly doesn't hurt for them to compete, though. The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers each have their own pitfalls, even though they were preseason front-runners for the division. It certainly could have been done. However, they have buried themselves into too deep of a hole, and will have to settle for a playoff spot.
Oh, by the way, the Flyers have a 6.9% chance of earning one of those 8 beloved playoff spots. They sit at 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-15-1 record. Their 28 games is the most played in the league, which means other teams ahead and behind them in the standings will have a few more games to add points and bury the Flyers even further in the standings.
With 20 games remaining, 11 at home (8-4-1) and 9 on the road (4-11-0), the team will look to get 25-30 points, well below their current pace, in order to make the playoffs (Around 12-15 wins). Given the myriad of issues surrounding this hockey club, it is easy to surmise where the 6.9% playoff chance was gathered. At this rate, the season is almost lost. Hell, the team is sure playing like it after giving up the first goal every night. The players stick their tails between their legs, let up another goal or two in the first period and bow out, address the local beat writers, pledging to play "every game like a playoff game," and "sticking to the game plan." They talk of the 2010 playoff run and declare that is impossible that they, too, can overcome the odds and make a good run down the stretch (just to MAKE the playoffs this time!). I'm sorry, but no, it's not possible with the current team and attitude on the ice. This team is missing a household pairing in Pronger-Carle from that team, as well as the ability to face adversity and commitment to a system that works.
Given this season is practically a lost cause, where do they go from here?
The Philadelphia Flyers' struggles are due to their systematic impatience. They have drained their farm team and draft picks to bring in current production to lead to current success (Pronger, Versteeg). Impatience is the same reason James vanRiemsdyk is out the door with 14 goals, and Jeff Carter with 17 this year.
Given what I just said, some of my follow-ups may seem hypocritical, but they all have a point, so here we go:
1. Fire Peter Laviolette
If the team is to be patient, why fire the coach for one losing season? The answer is, to wipe a clean slate, and start a new era. It is also evident the team is in need of a new system to play under. Laviolette cannot take this current team any further with his style of coaching.
2. Trade or Buy Out Daniel Briere
Danny has been a fan favorite since his arrival in the 2007 offseason. He is known as Mr. Playoff, when his scoring ability comes to life. However, in the regular season he has been a liability defensively, and lacks the same offensive punch fans are used to seeing from him in April and May. Not to mention, the Flyers won't likely be making the playoffs this year. Those skills of his will be going to waste. Of course, trade is the favored choice when it comes to Briere's departure as the Flyers will get a return. If they use a compliance buyout on him this offseason, though, the team will gain $6.5 million in cap space.
3. Draft Smart, Draft Defenders
The Flyers usually draft well. It's safe to say they don't need any more centers, though. Drafting the best player with your first round pick is a really good and safe option. If it happens to be a defender, the front office should go for it. They do however, need to invest some of their subsequent picks in defenders. You shouldn't expect to find a Chris Pronger type player who can play tomorrow being drafted by the Flyers. They can draft the guy who spends a few years playing in college or juniors, then works his way through the AHL, ready to make an impact in 4-6 years with the Flyers. It would certainly help the Phantoms' record as well.
4. Try to get Matt Carle back.
I know some fans don't like Matt Carle and feel he was overpaid this past offseason by the Lightning. However, he is the puck-moving defender the Flyers need right now. One example I can think of immediately is Game 4 of the 2010 playoff series vs. the Bruins. His great passing resulted in an assist on all 4 goals in the Flyers' first win of the series, the start of the comeback. I'm not saying he's responsible for the team's comeback, but he was very important. He didn't play as well without Chris Pronger, but, Chris Pronger makes everyone look better.
5. Move an under-achieving defender.
Braydon Coburn cannot handle being a top pair defender, after being arguably the best on the corps last season. Andrej Meszaros has fought the injury bug the last two seasons. Both have cap hits exceeding $4 million; room which could be used to bring in a younger defender. Meszaros does not have a limited No-Trade Clause like Coburn.
6. Don't waste time and money on the big free agent splash forward.
The Flyers brass will need to be looking this offseason for the right players, not the best players. With patience and hard work, this will turn into a Stanley Cup team. Look at the most recent winners and they have the same formula.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot ahead of them; 20 more games and a long offseason if they don't pick it up. Ed Snider & Co. need to give this team the best shot to win long-term.