The trade deadline has come and gone. After following the constant rumors, scrolling furiously through Twitter and staying glued to TV coverage, were left with nothing to report. No moves to analyze or critique. As we let out a collective sigh and interesting fact came to light. The last time the Flyers made no moves at the deadline was the 2009-2010 season. That year the orange and black marched to the Stanley Cup Finals, eventually losing in 6 games to the Chicago Blackhawks.
At the 63 game mark, the 2010 team was sitting at a record of 33-26- 4 and in a tight race for the elusive 8th playoff spot. Sitting at 29-23-11 (seriously those damn OTL’s are killing us) just three points out of the final wild-card spot, also known as 8th place. The 09-10 edition scrapped their way into a playoff spot, can version 2016 achieve the same? There’s another question that might pick at some people, might this roster actually be better than the team that made a run in 2010?
The Big Guys
Then: Mike Richards was the toast of the town and hailed as the next great Flyer, on his way to scoring 31 goals and amassing 61 points. Jeff Carter potted 33 goals, Danny Briere had a solid season of 53 points and Claude Giroux had put a solid 47 in his first full season. Chris Pronger threw down a 55 point season while providing plenty of grit on the back end. Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle provided 39 and 35 points respectively on a defensive core that included Braydon Coburn and no Andrew MacDonald.
Now: Claude Giroux is an elite talent with 54 points through 60 games. In the last 5 years, nobody has more points than Claude Giroux (Team Canada management, wake up!). Jake Voracek is cruising along with 48 points in a down year, despite being out with an injury. Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn have 23 and 21 goals each, taking the lead in that department, as well as supplying toughness at the top of the lineup. Shayne Gostisbehere is a rookie revelation with 35 points in only 45 games with the team so far. Mark Streit is the next closest defenseman at 17 points.
The Support Staff
Then: Scott Hartnell was a solid performer as was Simon Gagne, both of whom eclipsed 40 points. James Van Riemsdyk teased with a 15 goal 35 points season, and the Flyers got solid contributions from bottom tier forwards Aaron Asham, Ian Laperriere and Dan Carcillo, all of whom scored at least 20 points each (I know right?) Villie Lenio would go on to provide playoff magic and Lukas Krajicek (one of my favorite “what the hell happened to him” guys) was a stabilizing force on the back end for the push.
Now: Sean Couturier is going to play in the World Cup this summer, but still mystifies fans with inconsistent offense, despite being a defensive stalwart. Matt Read and Michael Raffle have been sub par offensively, and young guns like Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton have looked good at times, but aren’t yet productive NHL players. The 4th line of Bellemare, Vandevelde, and White does its job night in and night out and is tough to play against. The defense is a patchwork of guys who won’t be here in a year or two apart from maybe Del Zotto, Manning and Gudas, the Flyers new resident banger.
Then: Ray Emery had a decent start to the season but lasted only 29 games before getting injured. Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher picked up the slack the rest of the season. Leighton went 16-5-2, and Boucher was 9-18-3, though was the shootout hero in the final game of the season.
Now: Steve Mason came in as the starter and promptly played poorly and got injured. With a 13-15-7 record, he’s lost his starting spot to Michael Neuvirth as of late who has gone 16-8-4 this season. He is also 6th in the league in save percentage.
The Flyers have suffered from injuries to impact players this season. With Michael Del Zotto out and a battered core, the Flyers are losing their grip on the wild card spot. Despite having a better defense and more consistent forwards, 09-10 team outside of Pronger doesn’t have the same kind of talent that the current team does. The issues all season have been consistency, especially in secondary scoring. Brayden Schenn has been a streaky player for a lot of his career, but ever since his brother was traded, he’s found his game. players like Sam Gagner, Matt Read, and Michael Raffl haven’t put up enough points to win games. It also doesn’t help that the Flyers have given up one goal leads with seconds left in the game, a result of more withdrawn defensive play. Playing defensively to keep a win can only work when you’re not icing Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz for the final minute.
With injuries to some of the Flyers top players, the surrounding talent has been forced to find their games.
With a little consistency, this team could easily surpass the regular season marks set in 09-10 and is better suited for a playoff push thanks to better goaltending. But could the late season push by the supporting staff be too little too late?