On September 22, I wrote an article on why the big line of Richards-Briere-Gagne wouldn’t work.
The main point of my article was simply that although I did believe that it could form one of the top lines in the league, it would hinder Philly’s best asset—depth of scoring.
Four games into the season, the Flyers are 0-3-1 and have scored 10 goals. Gagne and Richards represent seven of those goals with Carter and Hartnell combining for the other three. I’d say the depth is gone.
Now yes, I understand it’s quite early in the season, and it could be that some players are just starting slowly. However, in watching the first three games of the season one thing was very obvious—the Flyers could not put together two quality shifts.
There was no flow and no chemistry on any of the other lines. The “BRG” line looked dangerous at times, and compared to the other units they looked great—but that’s not going to win the Flyers any games.
Another reason I would love to see Mike Richards back centring Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell—like he did last season quite effectively, until Derian Hatcher almost decapitated Lupul—is that Mike Richards would be required to be far less physically than he has been thus far.
Playing with Gagne and Briere, Richards is the physical presence. When lined up with Hartnell and Lupul, Mike Richards can ease up on the physicality. The last thing Philly needs is for their captain to get injured, or simply wear himself down early in the season.
John Stevens should reserve the “BRG” line for first unit power-play duties only. Mike Knuble has been hugely ineffective with Carter and Upshall. Throw the big man back on the wing with Briere and Gagne where he was at his best.
Steve Downie would benefit from playing alongside Carter and Upshall in a more offensive role. The longer Downie is stuck on fourth line duties being an “energy” player, the better the chances he turns into your everyday agitator with very little offensive contribution to his team. Steve Downie has shown he can put the puck in the net, and Philadelphia must find a way to give him the opportunities to do so.
The only positive of the slow start is that failure breeds change. Here’s hoping Coach Stevens comes to his senses—and soon.