Flyers on Standby
It’s been a less than stellar October for the Philadelphia Flyers. With four wins in their first ten games and one of the worst offences in the league, the Flyers seem destined to crash land at the bottom of the 2015/16 season standings. Lets look at some of the reasons Philadelphia has failed to take off.
1 – Bad (Really Bad) Contracts
Lecavalier was a star; a Stanley Cup winner in 2004, NHL goal leader in 2006/07 and well respected leader on the ice. However, as surgery and general wear and tear took its toll, Lecavalier’s production dropped and his then team – the Tampa Bay Lighting – bought out his contract and his $7 million cap hit.
Despite this, the Flyers offered him a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. Sadly for the Flyers he has only managed 57 points in over 130 games for the team, most of those in his first season with the club. Lecavalier now spends most of his time in the press box, or occasionally, on the 4th line. Hardly acceptable for a player costing $4.5 million a season.
Added to this conundrum are the hyper inflated salaries of current third liners R.J. Umberger ($4.6 million per) and Sam Gagner ($4.8 million per) which means Philadephia is spending 20% of their cap space on three forwards that can’t consistenly crack the top two lines. Dig even deeper and you’ll find a $5 million per season defenseman Andrew Macdonald buried in the minors, an act of desperation which only affords the Flyers around 950k of cap relief. Altogether a horrendous collection of contracts that handicaps the Flyers significantly for the next few years.
2 – Top Lines Misfiring
Jakub Voracek has had a miserable month in October, just 3 points and 0 goals for the Czech star who racked up 81 points last season. Its not like he’s not getting chances either, he sent 44 shots on net last month and still couldn’t get one past the goalie.
He’s not the only one unable to cash in on opportunities. Wayne Simmonds, the Flyers leading goal scorer last season, only lit the lamp once in October and looked invisible on the ice for large stretches of the Flyers opening few games. If the Flyers are going to compete in the upcoming months they’ll also need serious contributions from Matt Read, Michael Raffl and of course Claude Giroux – all of whom have combined for a disappointing 5 goals in the first 10 games.
3 – Below Average Special Teams
Last season the Flyers were deadly on the powerplay, scoring on over 22% of their chances. They relied on the man advantage for just under 30% of their total goal production making it a pivotal factor in their offensive output. Fast forward to October this season and the powerplay conversion rate stands at 12.5%, a significant reduction and a worry for a team struggling to score full stop.
A lot of this obviously links back to the misfiring forwards highlighted above and the general inability to finish off scoring chances. No player on the Flyers had more than 2 points on the powerplay during October, staggering when you consider Claude Giroux on his own had 37 powerplay points last season.
On the other hand, a poor showing in the penalty kill column is no surprise for the Flyers. 4th worst at being a man down in 2014/15 the Flyers have picked straight where they left off last season, posting a less then impressive PK% of 76.2 in October. Perhaps the most worrying trend is that the Flyers are no strangers to the penalty box with 126 PIMS in their first 10 games. Something which they’ll need to tighten up on if they want to limit powerplay goals against.
Its not all doom and gloom in Philadelphia. Michael Neuvirth and Steve Mason have impressed in net whilst Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto have continued to perform well on the back end for the Flyers. With their past credentials, many feel it’s only a matter of time before Giroux, Voracek and Simmonds find the back net on a regular basis.
Although this may be true, the Flyers need these players to fire on all cylinders for the rest of the season if they are to stand a chance of getting into the postseason. Tied down by salary cap issues the Flyers are going to need to find a way to win with the players they have. Those bad off ice decisions will likely be haunting them for many years to come.
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