It has been a disappointing start to the 2013 NHL Season for the Philadelphia Flyers. We're already more than a quarter through the schedule, so it's time for an early season stock report.
They got off to a really miserable start, losing six of their first eight games. In that span of time they also lost Andrej Meszaros and Scott Hartnell to injury, and also were without Wayne Simmonds for a few games due to a concussion.
Meszaros and Hartnell are still out of the lineup and will be for at least another couple weeks. The Flyers are certainly missing their production and veteran experience on the ice.
The Flyers pulled things together a bit and have climbed their way back to a 6-7-1 record as of Wednesday, but are still facing an uphill battle with upcoming games against three teams with a few of the best records in the Eastern Conference: New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Montreal.
The loss of Meszaros really exposed the Flyers' lack of depth on the blue line. Kimmo Timonen looks old, Nicklas Grossmann is too slow, and Braydon Coburn is good but has never made that jump to being great. Luke Schenn has been solid on the defensive end, but the Flyers really need someone who can move the puck.
After them, Bruno Gervais, Kurtis Foster, and Andreas Lilja have all been exactly what they are; sub-par third line defensemen who should only be relied on as such.
But because of Meszaros' injury, these guys have all been forced to take on bigger roles than they should. And the overall lack of puck-moving ability, to go along with some bad errors in their own zone, has been the biggest downfall for the Flyers so far.
One bright spot has been the play of Ilya Bryzgalov. His numbers aren't off the charts, and he's had a couple rough stretches, but overall he has been fantastic. He kept them in a number of games, and really has just been a surprising rock between the pipes.
Offensively, there honestly isn't much to say other than that every single forward needs to step up. They currently average just 2.4 goals per game, 22nd in the league.
Claude Giroux managing just eight points in 14 games and having a plus/minus rating of -2 is flat-out unacceptable. Maybe the Flyers should have listened to me and named Max Talbot the captain, although he's had a bad start as well.
Sean Couturier has been relatively quiet so far, and fellow sophomore Brayden Schenn managed just two points in first six games, although he's elevated his play over the past two weeks.
Veterans like Danny Briere, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Talbot just aren't playing as well as the Flyers need them to right now with Hartnell out. Matt Read and Jake Voracek have done pretty well stepping up so far, but need more help.
Overall, the Flyers look to be on the upswing. Their next four games will be a huge test as to where this season is heading. I don't think they need to blow up the team at all, and even adding a big piece like Keith Yandle will probably be too expensive.
Right now, they just need to get their best players to start playing like they're capable of and hope that Meszaros and Hartnell return sooner rather than later.
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