The Philadelphia Flyers have gotten off to one of the worst starts in team history this season, losing seven of their first eight games.
Peter Laviolette was replaced as head coach by Craig Berube, who has done nothing to energize a struggling offense. The team looks out of sync at every position, however, and there are a lot of things that need to improve dramatically.
Here is a look back at these first eight games with grades for the offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, coaching and a few specific players.
The Flyers have been historically bad on offense. They have failed to score more than two goals per game in their first eight contests (1.38 GPG) and only have 11 total goals on the season.
Only two players on the roster have more than one goal. The lines have been shuffled a decent amount so far, but none have really clicked and produced.
The Flyers lack creativity and flow and do not appear confident with the puck. Their passing has been off and they aren’t finishing the good opportunities they do create.
There is no way around it: The offense has been abysmal on all fronts.
The defense has been somewhat average this season. Although the defensive unit in particular is not a strong one, it has performed pretty well given the offensive woes.
People do have to understand that defense is a team concept, though, and there are a lot of factors that influence a team’s defensive performance.
The major problem facing the Flyers’ defensive unit—aside from being too slow and taking penalties, which I’ll get to soon—is its ineptitude in transition. Philly does not bring the puck up out of its own zone well and is slow in joining the rush as well as making good passes to contribute offensively.
Ray Emery has not been very good, and it is not surprising that he has only played in two games.
Steve Mason is another story.
He looks like the clear starter right now and has really played admirably despite his 1-5 record. Mason has a solid 2.37 goals-against average and a very good .923 save percentage. He stands tall in the net, but has looked very athletic and confident while making some really impressive stops.
The 25-year-old is also aggressive with the puck, which can sometimes help out his defensemen.
The power play has been horrendous so far this season, as the team has scored just three measly goals on the man advantage.
The Flyers haven’t been able to set up often enough to create consistent chances and have just not generated good enough shots to score.
Mark Streit is known as a quality power-play quarterback, yet he has just two assists with the man advantage. Kimmo Timonen is also a good point man, but has no PP points. Same goes for Jakub Voracek.
The penalty kill has been okay thus far and Craig Berube will continue to work diligently to make it a strength of the team.
The real discussion that needs to be had here is not in regards to the penalty kill itself, but the fact that the Flyers are on the kill so often.
They have taken the most minor penalties per game in the entire league and seem to really lack discipline. Their lack of quickness leads to some holding calls, but they also simply commit some really boneheaded penalties.
Zac Rinaldo somehow has four minor penalties in just 70 shifts, while defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Nicklas Grossmann and Braydon Coburn have 13 minors between them.
A coach can only do so much and it is somewhat difficult to grade coaching—especially with such a small sample size.
Peter Laviolette was replaced just three games into the season by his assistant Craig Berube. He has gone 1-4 in his first five games as the main guy behind the bench and I am skeptical about his long-term prospects as head coach.
I'm just not sure how well he'll be able to invigorate the offense and get the players to be more creative and confident with the puck. Only time will tell on this one.
Sean Couturier has actually played decently despite putting up just two assists so far this season. He is fifth in average ice time per game for forwards and has been good in his own end in addition to his penalty-killing duties.
Luke Schenn has been really poor thus far, averaging a defense-low 15:15 of ice time and tallying only one assist. The d-man with the second-least TOI plays over three more minutes per game than Schenn does, which is indicative of his dismal performance.
Erik Gustafsson did not start the first few games of the season, but has played in the Flyers' last three and looked really good while doing it. He is averaging over 20 minutes of ice time and has notched one goal and one assist.
Like Gustafsson, Tye McGinn did not start in the Flyers’ opening games, but has been very good since joining the big club. He leads the team with three goals, has been a big body and provided a good source of energy for the team.
Brayden Schenn has been the best of all the youngsters with a team-leading five points (two goals and three assists). He is also averaging the fourth-most minutes per game among all Philadelphia forwards.
Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are supposed to be the best players on the team. They each have three assists this season and no goals between them.
There is no nice way to put it: They have been horrendous, embarrassing and two of the major reasons the Flyers are in this enormous hole.
It is simply unacceptable to have two immensely talented players and leaders like Giroux and Voracek combine for just six points in eight games.