After a brutal start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers have turned things around, going 21-12-5 in their past 38 games.
After scoring only 22 goals in their first 15 games, the Flyers offense has exploded, helping the team score 67 goals in their past 22 games.
The Flyers offensive stars have lived up their names and are now helping the Flyers score at almost three times the rate they were scoring at in the beginning of the season.
With the Flyers sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference and sporting a respectable record, why on earth would they want to make a big trade?
The answer is all too simple if you ask me. Offense doesn’t win you championships. Sure it’s exciting and entertaining to see you team score a bunch of goals, but it isn’t a recipe for ultimate success.
The Flyers have been scoring, but only have two wins in their last nine games.
This is a Flyers team that can maybe get into the playoffs and win a round. That is all.
Maybe if Steve Mason continues to play like “Stone Cold Steve Mason” in the post-season, the Flyers could win two rounds. That is a huge maybe.
Why is this? First, who remembers the 2012 playoffs?
The Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in a six-game series that saw both teams combine to score 56 goals.
This series proved that the Flyers have tremendous offensive talent that could possibly outscore any other team in the NHL.
How far does that really get you nowadays in the NHL? After that first-round series in 2012, the Flyers fell in five games to the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils didn’t have any big names on their roster such as the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang…the list goes on and on.
What the Devils had was good defense, balanced by a solid, not spectacular, offense attack.
The Flyers can win an offensive battle, but when it comes to a defensive tilt, the Flyers are very likely to lose.
Despite being in ninth in the East, the Flyers are still giving up on average 2.83 goals per game, which is 19th in the NHL.
That total would be even higher if it wasn’t for Steve Mason, who was resurrected his career with the Flyers.
Let’s look at the past three Stanley Cup champions. The Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, and the Boston Bruins in 2011.
All three teams had a great offense, solid goaltending, and a stellar core of defensemen.
The Flyers right now, have two of those things.
They have the offensive talent to match up with a team like Chicago. A forward group consisting of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Vincent Lecavalier, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Scott Hartnell doesn’t look too bad against a team featuring Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Brandon Saad.
If it came to just offense, the Flyers could possibly beat the Hawks in a Stanley Cup final.
The Flyers simply have an outstanding offense and that can take them far. They need defense and goaltending to get to that next level.
It appears they have the goaltending in Steve Mason, who sports a .915 save percentage and a 2.57 GAA on the season.
What they don’t have is the defense.
The Flyers currently have a defense core consisting of Mark Streit, Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossman, and Erik Gustafsson.
I’m sorry, but if you don’t see a problem with this, there isn’t much else to say.
This is not a defensive group that will get you very far in the playoffs. Those seven defensemen are a combined minus-22 this season.
It’s not just on the defensive side of things. Good teams have good defensive defensemen, as well as offensive catalysts that can help run the power play.
Take a look at the Nashville Predators, a team the Flyers recently lost to.
Shea Weber had a power-play goal and a power-play assist to go alongside an even-strength helper. His booming slap-shot put the Predators up in the third period.
Look at all the Flyers rivals and all the other good teams in the NHL. They all have at least one elite offensive weapon on the blueline.
In Washington, it’s Mike Green alongside the youngster John Carlson. Pittsburgh has Kris Letang. The Boston Bruins have the booming shot of Zdeno Chara to go with the rising stud Torey Krug.
The Ottawa Senators have Erik Karlsson, while the Montreal Candiens have P.K Subban.
Who do the Flyers have?
Kimmo Timonen can sort of be considered the main offensive kingpin on the blueline. Throw Mark Streit’s name in their too.
The problem with Timonen is he is regressing. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. The 38-year-old only has 18 points in 53 games this season, putting him on pace for 26 points this season. That would be his lowest total since the 2000-2001 campaign, when he was with the Nashville Predators.
It is very likely he retires after this season, but you can never make any guarantees. He is also a UFA at the end of this season.
This would leave Mark Streit as the lone offensive catalyst on the Flyers blueline. I like Streit, I really do.
The stats don’t lie though. He is already 36-years-old and is pace to post his worst offensive totals since his rookie season with the Montreal Canadiens in 2005-2006.
He has bounced back after a slow start, but with his age, he won’t be a top producer for much longer.
As of January 22nd, The Flyers defense has combined for 88 points this season, which is 22nd overall in the NHL.
Only the New York Rangers (75), the New York Islanders (77), the Florida Panthers (75), the Edmonton Oilers (63), the Dallas Stars (76), the Detroit Red Wings (80), the Carolina Hurricanes (75), the Washington Capitals (79), and the Buffalo Sabres (61) have gotten fewer points from their defensemen this season.
Why does this matter? Even if you have the best group of forwards in the game, good defensive teams can find a way to shut you down.
Offensive defensemen allow more options, not only on the rush, but in the offensive zone when the team is set up.
Defense is extremely crucial nowadays in the NHL, more and more big goals are being scored from defensemen.
You look at en elite cup contender like the Hawks, and you can see why the Flyers just aren’t on that level.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook combined have 79 points this season, only nine points short of the entire Flyers defense.
These two point producers aren’t just offensive threats who are liabilities in their own end, they are elite two-way defensemen who can win you championships.
Seabrook and Keith are a combined plus-43 this season. Of course we must take into account the team they are on, but it still speaks to their play.
The Flyers lack a player like this. Paul Holmgren had exactly the right idea when the offered Shea Weber to a 14-year 110-million offer sheet in the summer of 2012. Weber would have revitalized this franchise.
This doesn’t mean that the Flyers can’t still go and pursue a good solid defensemen.
I look to a guy such as Alexander Edler. Now before people get too excited, Edler has a no-trade clause, meaning he would have to waive it before the Canucks could trade him.
Though there is this obstacle, I can’t help but think that he would fit great as a Flyer.
There were rumours the Flyers were interested in Edler in 2012, but nothing ever came of it.
I don’t see why they wouldn’t still be interested.
Edler has struggled this season with only 11 points in 34 games. He is a minus-13 on the year, which is the worst rating on the team.
Now it hasn’t been announced that Mike Gillis is shopping Edler, but you get a sense that something has to change in Vancouver.
The Canucks are 3-7-3 in their last 13 games. They are averaging 2.44 goals per game, which is 22nd overall in the NHL.
That just isn’t good enough for a team with an aging core, looking to win now.
The Canucks are likely looking for a top-six forward to spark some offense.
Edler is an elite defenseman. Say what you want about his struggles this season.
He has 50 potential and isn’t far-removed from his 49 point season in 2011-2012.
Edler is inconsistent with his defensive play, but has shown signs he can be one of the best defenders in the game.
He knows how to lay the body and with his 6’3 215 pound frame, he can be a real intimidator on the blueline.
But with Edlers’ no-trade clause, the chances of him being moved aren’t too good.
What I’m trying to get as is that the Flyers should make a trade for good, solid defensemen.
It could be a promising prospect, or it could just be a top blueliner from a team needing some offense.
It doesn’t have to be Alex Edler, it can be any good defenseman who can move the puck and create offense, while providing good defensive play.
When it gets to the trade deadline, Paul Holmgren should be very active, trying to see who is selling and what they are expecting in return.
Who the return is will generate a lot of controversy.
Who do you give up for a top notch defenseman?
You sure as hell aren’t just going to be able to dump Hartnell and his contract to a team and expect an elite player in return.
The Flyers are going to have to sacrifice one of their young stars. It’s inevitable.
Which young star will it be? It really depends on the player that would be coming to Philly, but you have to expect Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, or Sean Couturier would have to be the main part of the deal.
With the season Wayne Simmonds is having, I don’t think there is any way in hell the Flyers part ways with him. He plays every game 100% and is exactly the type of player every team would die to have on the team.
It’s time to face reality. The Flyers have one of the best offensive cores in the game, but they won’t get very far with the defense they have.
Something needs to change or it will be another second-round playoff exit for the Flyers (if they even make it).
I would hate to see Schenn, Couturier, or Laughton be traded, but it has to happen.
With their top defensemen prospects still a few years away from being ready, a trade needs to be made to revamp the Flyers defense core.
Offense is great, but if the Flyers want to be a legit contender, their defense needs to improve drastically.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @BradyTrett for all the latest on the Flyers.
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