If there is one word to describe the Philadelphia Flyers season so far, it would be disappointing. A team with a star captain, young goalie, and new acquisitions over the offseason, gave the Philly fans have a lot to be excited about.
We saw Rasmus Ristolainen, a bruiser and strong defenseman known for hitting people as hard as a wrecking ball, come from a poor Buffalo team to add a new strong unit to the Flyers defense...something they badly needed since seeing Matt Niskanen retire in 2020. However, the addition of Ristolainen was not the only good move the Flyers front office made. In exchange for the 10-year Flyers veteran Jakub Voracek, the Flyers acquired Cam Atkinson, a sharp, talented, and shifty wing known for delivering the puck in the net. The Flyers made two necessary moves in these big trades, and fans around Philadelphia were ready to see what this team would bring to the ice come season time. Well, we are halfway through the season. So far, we have been delivering under expectations by miles and miles. Flyers are second to last in the Metropolitan division and 26th in the league. On January 29th, they beat the Los Angeles Kings which ended their 13-game losing streak, the longest streak in franchise history. Throughout this losing streak, we saw some of the worst hockey the Flyers have ever played. They lost six of their thirteen by two or more goals, and let up 3+ goals in twelve of their thirteen games. We can look at these stats for hours, digging deeper and deeper into what happened during these games, but the real question we need to be asking is...why are we playing so poorly?
A Flyers team that just under three years ago was the favorite to win the Stanley Cup before COVID-19 made its way to the USA, is playing the worst hockey they have played in years and years. The first reason for the failures of this team is the defensive game plan has truly not gone as planned. For the defense, we saw Philippe Meyers, Shayne Ghostisbehere, and Robert Hagg go. However, we did acquire Ristolainen as previously mentioned, Keith Yandle, and Ryan Ellis. As a Nashville Predator his entire career, Ellis is an outstanding two-way defender who can get the puck out of the zone quickly and efficiently. However, injuries have caught up to him and his 11-year long career and he has only seen the ice four times this year. Ellis has five points in his four games played which is impressive, but the fact he has not been available nearly all season, is truly what makes the difference. Beyond the injuries, Keith Yandle is yet to find efficiency all season long. Yandle has struggled to find his normal defensive playing style and is yet to prove to the organization why they picked him up in the free agency. Now, what is the result of this? One of the worst defenses in the league. As we look at the stats for 5 on 5 play, you can see where the flyers rank among all teams in the league.
● Total shot attempts against per 60 minute: 31st (61.01)
● Shots on goal against per 60 minutes: 31st (34.3)
● Expected goals against per 60 minutes: 32nd (2.80)
● Scoring chances against per 60 minutes: 31st (31.1)
● High-danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes: 32nd (13.19)
● Goals against per 60 minutes: 24th (2.65)
We have seen injuries and COVID-19 keep people out of playing, but another big issue is what has happened to Travis Konecny? The hard-hitting winger is yet to find his spark this season as well as the season prior, and the postseason the year before that. During the 2019-20 season, Travis scored 24 goals in 66 games and was nearly a point-per-game player (61 points in 66 games) in what was his best offensive year in the league. When the NHL returned to play in the bubble during the COVID-19 outbreak, he went into a complete slump. Starting with the bubble in the 2019-20 season, he has just 17 goals in his last 112 games, which includes his 8 goals in 43 games this season. When you look beyond just Travis specifically, the more concerning part of this all is he is ranked 3rd among all Flyers players in goals this year. We talk about how poorly Travis is playing, yet he is ranked third out of our entire team. That should definitely ring the warning sound in your brain.
Finally, is it time for Giroux to go? Claude Giroux has led our team as captain for eight
years, making him the longest-tenured captain in team history. Claude has 35 points in his 42
games and is just second in total points for the team by just a single point. So now we look at it, should the Flyers make a trade? At forward, Sean Couturier is probably still an untouchable,
while James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Hayes have contracts that make them difficult to trade.
Trading Konecny now would be ridiculous because his value is at an all-time low and there are enough signs that he could still bounce back. If he does, you want it to be for you and not
somebody else after you trade him too soon. Then we got to Giroux. He is an unrestricted free
agent after this season and is still playing at a high level that would be attractive to any Stanley Cup contender. It is the perfect trade situation where not even the most loyal Flyers fan could be too mad about it. As we see it right now, the team is going nowhere, he is a free agent, he can bring a good return, and he gets a chance to win. With the skills he has, it is sad to see such talent get wasted under such a bad team. To some, it seems like a no-brainer and the obvious trade, as he deserves to win. But to others, it seems ridiculous to trade him when he is still playing at a high level. That decision is up to Flyers GM, Chuck Fletcher, who eventually will have to make the crucial decision to trade Claude or not.
With the unfortunate situation, the Flyers are under right now, Flyers fans can do nothing but sit and pray that eventually, this team can find its legs again, and eventually become a cup
contender like they were just three short years ago.