Grading Hak & Hex: Mrazek trade, Lindblom recall, lineup swaps

Updated: February 20, 2018 at 1:48 pm by Wes Herrmann

It’s the most eventful grading of general manager Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol as the team made its first in-season deal this year and recalled top prospect Oskar Lindblom. Those plus in-game adjustments are in the lineup for this week’s review.

Flyers Acquire Mrazek for Conditional 3rd and 4th Round Picks

Hextall took a gamble when Brian Elliott went down with an injury. According to The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James, the Red Wings had offered Mrazek to the Flyers for a third round pick over the weekend.

I’m sure, in an effort to lower that price, Hextall balked and didn’t change his goalie situation. The gamble was that Michal Neuvirth wouldn’t falter or get injured himself. The latter, unsurprisingly, came true.

But I don’t blame Hextall for waiting. He probably could have gotten Mrazek for less than a third-round pick if he waited until the Monday deadline and Neuvirth looked good against the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets last week.

In the end, Hextall didn’t lose much anyways in the deal. In my mind, Mrazek was the second-best goalie speculated to be available among Robin Lehner (the first), Chad Johnson, Aaron Dell, Antti Niemi and Calvin Pickard.

However, the conditions on the picks are important:

Essentially, the picks are performance-based. If the Flyers don’t give up a third this year, it would mean things went bad with Mrazek in net. But giving up a second because Philly made it past the second round and Mrazek had more than half the wins is a reasonable deal.

Also, the Red Wings only get the third round pick in 2019 if the Czech netminder re-signs. Mrazek would have to earn that contract and force the Flyers to move Neuvirth, which would certainly mean he impressed over the next couple months.

And that is a possibility. Mrazek has the talent to compete with Neuvirth and given Neuvirth’s injury history, Hextall may want to consider moving forward with a different netminder. Mrazek gives them that choice more than Johnson, Pickard or Niemi ever would.

Detroit also retained half of Mrazek’s salary, bringing his costly $4 million cap hit down to $2 million. The Flyers could have handled the extra change, but getting any bit of cap relief is always a positive.

With hindsight 20/20, Hextall should have accepted the first rumoured trade offer. Even though he didn’t, he came away unscathed and the team better off for it.

Oskar Lindblom Recalled

I did not see this one coming. Even though Lindblom deserved a chance with the Flyers, I thought his time wouldn’t come until next season.

Logically, Flyers Twitter speculated that a deal was on the way. The Mrazek trade did come after the recall, but it was later that the beat writers speculated/confirmed that it was actually an injury that forced the Lindblom recall.

Flyers fans got the unfortunate news Monday that Wayne Simmonds is the injured player. Jordan Weal moves up to the second line and Lindblom will take his place with Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl.

Fortunately, Hextall had the sense to recall Lindblom instead of a veteran like Colin McDonald or Matt Read. The Swede has 34 points in 54 games — and that’s after a slow start to the year.

If Lindblom can come in and contribute, the Flyers may have picked up a deadline acquisition within the organization. Don’t be surprised at all if that’s the case.

Fourth Line Gets Third-Line Minutes vs. CBJ

Although Hakstol now has all of his underperforming veteran forwards on the fourth line, he will still treat the trio like his third line from time to time. Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets was an example of that.

Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal, the team’s third line in name, all played under 10:07 throughout the whole game and no more than 4:01 in the third.

The fourth line had no issue finding playing time, though. Filppula skated more than 17 minutes and Weise and Lehtera were above 12 minutes. In the third, Lehtera and Filppula both played over five minutes.

It is worth noting that Filppula sees minutes on the power play (He kills penalties too, but there were no kills Friday). Still, that doesn’t explain the extra minutes for Lehtera and Weise.

What does is the simple fact that Hakstol trusts his fourth line with protecting leads. We saw him do something similar last week when he flipped Nolan Patrick with Filppula against the Montreal Canadiens.

The issue with effectively switching the two lines is that the fourth doesn’t bring any offensive pressure and only slightly more of a defensive presence than the third.

Against the Blue Jackets, it seemed pretty clear that scoring on Sergei Bobrovsky was not going to be simple. By the third, Hakstol seemed content with trying to preserve the 1-0 lead.

The team did get some chances, but if the third line played a minute more, there would have been more chances and possibly even a goal. Fans have lamented Hakstol’s personality of playing it safe and Friday was a showcase of that.

But he could have still gotten his way by just switching Weal with one of the fourth liners. Laughton and Raffl are fine in their own zone and can pot in a goal here and there. Moving Weise or Lehtera would help shore up any defensive issues from Weal and kept some offense flowing.

The Flyers ended up winning the game, but gave up a late goal and let Columbus earn a point. Playing the third line more wouldn’t have guaranteed that doesn’t happen, but would have helped Philly’s odds more.

Weal, Voracek Swap Spots vs. NYR

Of late, Hakstol has been making a lot of in-game adjustments. Sunday was another case of that with the coach moving Jordan Weal up to the second line and Jake Voracek to the third in the third period. Voracek also moved to his natural right wing position.

The second line did get pinned in its own zone a couple times Sunday, but did score the fourth goal of the game. My guess was this a ploy to try and get some offense going for Voracek. He’s better on the right wing and Weal can help – not as much as the Czech – but still enough to make an impact.

The Flyers ended up getting some offense, but none of the goals were scored by middle-six players. Hakstol didn’t say if the switch is permanent and there was no Flyers practice Monday to determine for sure, but personally, I would go back to the usual lineup.

Voracek is still dangerous on the left wing and the second line gives the Flyers a potent top six. Moving Voracek dilutes the second line greatly. It’s a good second option in a pinch, but shouldn’t be done permanently.

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