NHL: Ranking the Philadelphia Flyers' Biggest Problems in the 2013-14 Season

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IOctober 31, 2013

NHL: Ranking the Philadelphia Flyers' Biggest Problems in the 2013-14 Season

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    The Philadelphia Flyers are off to a tough start in the 2013-14 NHL season. After 11 games, the Flyers are just 3-8-0 and languishing in last place in the new Metropolitan Division. Few people expected the Flyers to be playing this badly. We will analyze the top five reasons why the Flyers are struggling so much this season.

    Most people pointed to goaltending as the biggest question mark on the Flyers roster before the season started. Yet the play of starter Steve Mason has been at least adequate and at times better than that. Needless to say, while goaltending is not a strength, it not one of the top five reasons the team is off to such a slow start.

    Feel free to mention any reasons you feel belong on this list. As always, please back up your choices with evidence.

5. Adjusting to a New Coach

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    The change from Peter Laviolette to Craig Berube is a small factor in the Flyers' slow start. The Flyers made the move after only three games, which came as a bit of a surprise to many fans and experts alike.

    Berube was an assistant coach under Laviolette, so it's not like the team is unfamiliar with their new head coach and what he expects from them. Still, any time a new man is at the helm, there are changes in the system and what the coach is emphasizing. 

    Still, this is only a minor issue and should not be a factor for very long going forward. 

4. Injuries

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    It's hardly the biggest reason for the Flyers' slow start, but injuries have played a role. 

    Vincent Lecavalier missed three games with a lower-body injury, while Scott Hartnell suffered an upper-body injury and sat out a total of four games. 

    That's a lot of firepower missing from the lineup, even if the players in question aren't producing when they're in the rotation. 

    The lack of these two players in the lineup certainly doesn't help the top lines develop chemistry, especially considering Lecavalier is new to the team and needs to get used to a new system and new teammates.

3. Failures on the Power Play

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    The Flyers power play has struggled this season, and this is a big part of the team's slow offensive start. 

    Philadelphia is 25th in the NHL with five goals in 43 chances with the extra attacker. That is a paltry 11.6 percent success rate. The Flyers have also given up one shorthanded goal.

    On paper, there is plenty of talent on the Flyers power play. Newly acquired players like Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit were supposed to help the team's success rate.

    Last season, without those two new weapons, the Flyers finished third in the league with a 21.6 percent success rate. 

    Clearly, the Flyers need to work on this aspect of their attack. They failed to make the postseason last year despite their successful play with the man-advantage. Without a major improvement, the Flyers will struggle to contend for a playoff spot. 

2. Team Defense

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    Team defense was considered a weakness for the Flyers last year when the club finished 22nd in the NHL goals allowed. 

    Since Chris Pronger was lost to a potentially career-ending injury in 2011-12, the Flyers defense has lacked a shutdown defenseman with a strong physical presence. 

    Early in the season, the team continues to search for improvement on the blue line. 

    The only major addition GM Paul Holmgren made on the blue line during the offseason was to trade for Mark Streit, who is known more for his offensive prowess and puck-moving skills than his defensive play. 

    It's not just the six defensemen on the ice who are part of the problem. The Flyers need to learn how to play better team defense, and that includes the forwards backchecking and picking up their men as the puck heads back into the defensive zone. 

1. Lack of Goal Scoring

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    Entering this season, the Flyers offense was considered a strength. Yet after 11 games, the team has scored just 20 goals, fewer than two goals per game. Regardless of how well the goalies play, it's tough to win too many games with this lack of offensive production. 

    In fact, the Flyers scored two goals or less in each of their first nine games this season, one shy of the dubious record set by the 1940 New York Americans.

    There is plenty of blame to go around. The only player on the Philadelphia roster with more than three goals is Vincent Lecavalier with five.

    Many of the forwards the Flyers are relying on to score goals just haven't gotten the job done. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Scott Hartnell all have yet to score a goal this season. Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds have only one each.

    Coach Craig Berube has shuffled his lines around, but it has yet to produce the desired results up and down the rotation. Expect the juggling to continue until some lines show some chemistry and consistent production.

    You would think there is too much talent on this roster for this slump to continue indefinitely. But the longer it lasts, the deeper the hole the Flyers are digging will be and the more difficult it will be for them to rally and contend for a playoff spot.