This Roster is Broken: Thoughts after Flames 6, Flyers 5

Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher is only in his second week on the job and one thing has likely become abundantly clear to him – he needs to break up the way his team is constructed.

Quite simply, the Flyers are broken.

Repeated and excessive inconsistency is a fundamental flaw that likely has more to do with the makeup of the roster and how those pieces fit together than the systems they are playing.

That’s not to absolve the coaching staff for the sins of their players, or their former general manager. No, they need to own the fact that they can’t find a way to maximize what potential there is on the roster.

But these players need to take ownership for themselves. They can’t be fragile. They can’t “play scared” as Jake Voracek said after a recent game. They can’t crack under pressure. They can’t lose track of their fundamentals and have it blow up on them game after game after game.

There was no reason the Flyers should have lost to Calgary Wednesday, and yet they did, 6-5 in overtime, allowing two goals in the final 1:08 of regulation and the game-winner in the first minute of the extra session.

The frustration for fans is understandable. The Flyers are a team who is equally adept at overcoming a two-goal deficit as it is blowing a two-goal lead.

There is skill and talent on this team; it just doesn’t mesh. Maybe it’s because despite that skill, this team is not collectively smart.

How so?

I’ll explain after the jump:

The third period

Here’s where the microcosm of the Flyers construct for 2018-19 was on display. The Flyers entered the period up a goal at 4-3. They had played pretty well over the first two periods. The first period they got off to a quick start, but then got a little sluggish in the second half of it. Still, they were able to enter the first intermission trailing only 1-0.

However, in the second period, the Flyers took off. They were able to really open the game up and use their skill to their advantage. They got behind 2-1 after giving up a shorthanded goal, but then scored on the power play for the first time in almost a month and added two more quick scores to go up 4-2.

Calgary got one back, but the Flyers are a good team – usually – when taking a lead into the third period. They were 9-1-1 in such instances heading into last night.

But that’s when the dumbness cloud started hanging over them. The Flyers took four minor penalties in the third period that led to shorthanded situations. When you have the worst penalty kill in the league, that’s not ideal, but when three of those four penalties are flat out stupid and unnecessary, then that has a negative impact on your team.

Wayne Simmonds took a post-whistle punch at a Flame and ended up in the box. Scott Laughtin clearly grabbed James Neal’s jersey to try and do a roller derby-esque whip around. Not good. Shayne Gostisbehere slashed a stick out of an opponent’s hands in frustration.

And there were more that could have been called that weren’t.

The abundance of bad plays where these players are thinking as individuals in the moment and not for the greater good of the team is indicative of a team that is fractured.

To their credit though, the Flyers did a nice job of killing off all four penalties. The much-maligned penalty kill was good. It was aggressive. It actually finished plus-one as Sean Couturier, back in the lineup after missing the last two games, scored his second goal of the night shorthanded:

The PK really didn’t allow Calgary a lot of room to operate, and when the Flames did get chances, goalie Anthony Stolarz was there to make a big stop.

But those little victories were Pyrrhic because it allowed Calgary to get a lot of offensive momentum and it also tired out the Flyers’ best players while rooting many others to the bench for an extended period of time in the third period.

So, in the final minutes of the game, tired players are being used and Hakstol is forced to go to other players probably not expected to play in these situations.

And not to mention, Calgary pulls their goalie, going into a six-on-five situation. But, rather than play like they did when they were killing penalties earlier in the period – aggressive, pressuring the puck, forcing Calgary to make decisions earlier that it would like – the Flyers sat back and let the Flames take the game to them.

No Bueno.

First, there was the fourth goal:

The Flyers couldn’t get a clear here, but it’s notable that Voracek, who had fresh legs in the third because he doesn’t kill penalties, is on the ice and doesn’t get the clear or the blocked shot. Not that the goal is his fault, but you probably want a more defensive minded forward on the ice at this point.

Couturier is out there, almost because he has to be – he played 26 minutes in the game. And take note that Raffl is out there as well – actually he puts a big hit on Rasmus Andersson seconds before Andersson scores the goal.

Raffl too has to be a bit spent considering all of his ice time in on the PK.

But notice too how there is no challenging the puck. The Flyers are just trying to take away passing and shooting lanes. That’s too conservative in this instance – especially up by two goals. You can afford to force the action more there, and they didn’t.

Then comes the tying goal:

(video courtesy Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic)

In this goal, the playrs on the ice for the Flyers are Claude Giroux, Dale Weise, Couturier, Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald.

Remember, Raffl had just come off and Couturier stays on. Weise may seem like an odd choice here, but considering the options, there aren’t many guys who are left to use on the bench who you would want in this defensive role.

Wayne Simmonds is maybe the only other choice, but you aren’t going to go to Travis Konecny here, nor Nolan Patrick, nor James van Riemsdyk. None are defensive-minded.

The only other options are Phil Varone and Oskar Lindblom, and they had barely played at all. A lot of fans would have screamed for Lindblom, but the reality is Lindblom is barely hanging on to his spot in the lineup. He struggled mightily in a larger role this season. Used in limited action against the opposition’s depth forwards he’s proving serviceable, but dragging him on the ice cold in a key defensive spot is not fair to Lindblom nor is it a good decision coaching-wise.

So the only choice here is between Wiese and Simmonds. Hakstol chose Weise, and likely because his all around game – from a pressure and defensive mindset has been better than Simmonds lately.

Now, everyone on Twitter is all over Weise and MacDonald for this goal. But really, is it their fault?

Go back and watch it again but look for these things:

  1. Weise pressures the puck up ice initially. That’s his job and then he gets back to get into defensive position. He is the high man taking away the shot from the point and does that well.
  2. MacDonald is the right defenseman and he’s in his position until he realizes that Provorov has drifted a little too high in the left circle. Once he does this, MacDonald immediately goes to the net to mark Johnny Gaudreau who has now gotten behind Provorov.
  3. Seeing an opening because of this, Sean Monahan heads to the net, creating a 2-on-1 down low for the Flames.
  4. When it comes to coverage, this is Giroux’s man now, not MacDonald’s because MacDonald went to Gaudreau to cover for Provorov. He makes a flailing attempt to block the pass to Monahan, but he’s gliding a little too much and not quite where he needs to be.

So, the question is, should Provy be playing a zone here, or should he be closer to his net to mark Gaudreau? Should MacDonald stay with Monahan and leave Gaudreau open, or is the right move to rotate to the open man at the side of the net? Should Giroux take away the slot? Or is that perhaps Couturier’s responsibility since he is kind of floating out higher in the slot as well?

In short, there are multiple breakdowns and a lack of communication here. You can’t pin this goal on MacDonald and Weise. Sorry. I know they are Twitter targets, but it’s not their fault this goal went in.

I’m not defending MacDonald. I have in the past, but this season he’s not been good when he’s been in the lineup. He really has regressed, and i’m not sure if this was related to trying to come back too quickly from an injury or what, but he’s been below his level – which is that usually of a 5-6 defenseman.

But in this instance, you can’t blame him. You can’t blame Weise – who has played very well this season and isn’t deserving of criticism. And you can’t blame the coach for having them on the ice. There were other breakdowns on this goal that are far more important than the constant false narrative that Hakstol only trusts bad veteran players.

The Overtime

This was a kick in the teeth, too.

Hakstol is getting criticized for starting OT with Couturier, Konecny and Provorov rather than Giroux, Voracek and Gostisbehere, but can you blame him?

Calgary is a one-line team. And if they’re going to put Gaudreau and Monahan on the ice for the first shift in OT, who do you want out there against them? The answer is Couturier every time. It’s not even a question. And which defenseman do you want out there against them? It’s Provorov. Even with his struggles he’s your best guy.

The strategy is sound. Get through the first shift with your best two-way forward and best two-way defenseman against their most dangerous guys and you’ve now created a serious mismatch for yourself to get your best players on the ice.

This doesn’t happen often on the road, so when Hakstol sees that, he has to like his odds.

The problem is, Provorov doesn’t score on his chance and after a lost board battle on the wall is left chasing the play.

Konecny does cover and gets back as the lone “defender” but after a failed poke check, he takes himself out of the play and starts to think about breaking out the other way. Watch the replay and see what Konecny does:

TK has to stay with a man. Couturier does his job in taking Monahan out of the play and continues to box him out. I’m not sure what Provorov is thinking either. OT is a man-to-man defense in the NHL and with Provy skating to the same guy Couturier is covering and TK starting to skate away from the play in hopes of getting a breakaway, it basically leaves Gaudreau and Mark Giordano in a 2-on-none. Stolarz stops the first two shots, but if you don’t defend players, eventually they’re going to score.

In Closing

The problem with the Flyers right now, aside from their crappy special teams, is not measurable statistically. The Flyers play good stretches of games. Dominant in fact. They were the better team for half the game against Winnipeg Sunday and still lost 7-1.

The problem is, these players don’t stick with their gameplan. They don’t stick with their system. They try to freelance too much and get too cute. They don’t handle pressure well. They don’t respond to adversity well. They are fragile. They are broken.

Chuck Fletcher will make changes – and soon.

From what I’m hearing, I believe one trade could happen in the next week – and it could be a big one.

The Flyers want to add a goalie. They want to add a defenseman. They want to add a forward. They want to change the culture of this locker room right now.

I think the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs are prime trade partners for the Flyers right now. Don’t be surprised if something happens in a deal with one of those two teams before the Flyers return to the Wells Fargo Center next week.

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17 Responses

  1. A lot of the problems with this roster seem to be the development of the younger players.

    Say what you want, but this coach absolutely sucks and his staff needs to go with him.

  2. 2 Questions for you Anthony:
    1) This is probably when you could have used Hextall, the Kings are selling. Jonathan Quick would look great in orange and black. Yes he has 4 years on his deal after this one. Hart wont cost anything the first couple years, Quick could be an overpriced backup in years 3 and 4. What would it take?
    2) Ek says Quenneville is waiting until after the holidays to return to coaching. I’d put his coming here in Jan as a 97% certainty. Hak must know he’s a dead man walking. Should we put him out of his misery now and go interim or hold your nose until New year’s?

  3. So it is bad coaching. But for some reason, we are not allowed to say that. Because we are married to the stiff who has been coaching an NHL team for 3 and a half seasons and hasn’t won a playoff series yet, hasn’t even forced a game 7.

    Maybe we can blame the ticket brokers and Ron Hextall for blowing a 2- goal lead with 1 minute to go.

    Great job by Coots and Provorov in OT again. At least the Flames took more than 9 seconds to score.

  4. “They were the better team for half the game against Winnipeg Sunday and still lost 7-1.”

    Are you fucking high?

    1. The moron that wrote that nonsense, also thinks the Flyers have been elite for generations.
      His name is Flipper.

    2. There’s over 60 minutes of commercials/intermission in a hockey telecast. Unless you like weird accents and snowmobiles I’d say Ant’s spot on that the Flyers were better over half that telecast.

      Thx,

      Jay!

  5. So you are saying they want a forward…a defenseman… a goalie… Any other positions they looking to add?

  6. It has long been clear to everyone that a head coach change must be made. You cannot fire or trade all the players. The penalty kill is horrific yet Ian Laperierre is inexplicably still on the job.
    A true management change should have started with Dave Scott who did nothing and said nothing until it was way too late. This guy is a terrible leader. If you watched Holmgren during the press conference, you saw a guy who cannot communicate. I feel sorry for the new GM as he has nothing but inept “leaders” above him.
    Comcast has ruined this team.

  7. Please don’t trade with the Maple Leafs. The GM is smarter, the analytical research is better. Please for the love of Markelle Fultz for Tatum and a first just hang up the phone when Toronto calls.

  8. They were the better team in a game they lost 7-1. For half the game they were the better team. Attention NHL: games must now end and be official after one and half periods of play

  9. Hakstol is brutal hex should have got rid of him . hex was building what Toronto has now. and who runs this team some of the players. to long of shifts at times poor defensive zone coverage from the captain on down sorry but get rid of the older core players get quenville in to build what hex started the older guys aren’t leaders seen last year in playoffs

  10. They are mentally broken, not so much physically and talent-wise. The coaching has been terrible and star talent has gone backward. Now with the mediocre Minnesota mafia running the show I can’t want to see how Fletcher misreads it all and pisses away anything of worth that Hextall stockpiled.

  11. “But, since Flyers beat writers are the journalistic equivalent of parrots listening to the Lamb Chops theme song in an echo chamber, we’ll just go ahead and credit the Flyers’ PR staff.”

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