As I am writing this piece, the Philadelphia Flyers sit in third place of the Metropolitan Division. Currently in a playoff position, four points separate the orange and black from the first team on the outside looking in at the postseason picture. Although it could be viewed as a stretch to dub this Flyers team as a legit Stanley Cup contender, they most certainly have what it takes to continue playing hockey after April 7th.
At the beginning of every NHL season, it is the goal of every single franchise to make the postseason. Yes, some organizations view it as more of a realistic expectation than others. However, all teams are hopeful for a successful year of hockey.
When a team finds themselves in a position to make the playoffs, the General Manager must take the necessary actions to increase the probability of success. Sometimes, this involves deviating from a plan that has been implemented for a few years.
Flyers General Manager, Ron Hextall, has done beautiful work building this team for the future. He has been patient with his plan, acquiring an abundance of draft picks and transforming them into promising prospects. Although this has been the correct approach to take up to this point, there comes a time where a plan must take the next step in its evolution. For Hextall and the Flyers, that time is now.
Philadelphia finds themselves in a very interesting circumstance in regards to their current roster. As was mentioned before, the team has a fantastic group of prospects that look to bring a bright future to the City of Brotherly Love. At the same time, they already have a strong core of players that are currently in the prime of their careers. It is essential to allow the prospects time to develop but the golden years of the team’s current group cannot go to waste either.
If the Flyers were not in contention for a playoff spot, we might not be having this conversation. However, Philadelphia is fighting for the postseason and they must act accordingly. This means actively pursuing improvements to the current roster before and up to the point the trade deadline is upon us.
Of course, the most pressing need is between the pipes. With Brian Elliott expected to miss a substantial amount of time during the most critical part of the season, it is imperative that Flyers acquire a goalie who is at least capable of serving as a “1B” behind Michal Neuvirth. For one, Neuvirth cannot be relied on to remain healthy, and counting on Alex Lyon is simply not an intelligent move at this point.
Philadelphia is also in desperate need of an upgraded bottom-six. The top-two lines are absolute dynamite; however, production from the third and fourth line is quite limited and unpredictable. In addition, improving the third defensive pairing of Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning would not hurt either.
Identifying a team’s needs is the easy part. Providing solutions to the problem is much more difficult. Also, there must be an understanding that not all of these improvements will be made by the time the deadline passes. However, Hextall and the Flyers must try.
The sensible thing for the Flyers to do is go through all of their prospects and divide them into categories. Which of them are absolutely untouchable? Which of them are valuable to the organization but could help bring in an immediate upgrade? The same decision needs to be made in regards to draft picks. It may not be the end of the world to include a first-round pick in a trade for the right return. Still, it is unlikely that Hextall has any desire to do so.
For the most part, the Flyers fanbase has been accepting of this patient approach to rebuilding the franchise. It is not easy to sit and watch a team lose but Flyers Nation has done their best with hopes that it will lead to a promising future. Now is the time to strive for success in Philadelphia. Ron Hextall must show that he is going to begin bringing this team to the next level by being active until the trade deadline. That is not to say that he should blow up everything he’s worked so hard to achieve over these past few years. Of cours, that would be foolish. Still, there are moves that can be made that will help Philadelphia’s efforts this season without jepordizing the future of the organization.