Given the uninspired performance the Flyers gave last night in Denver, it’s time for John Stevens to shake things up. And despite what all Flyers fans might be thinking right now, if they’ve noticed that even the Islanders are higher in the standings than we are, I’m not talking martinis.
I understand why Stevens originally shifted Briere to the wing. On paper, it works. You have this fabulous all-star top line with Briere, Richards and Gagne. Then you follow that with the Carter line. Jeff Carter just looks like he’s on the verge of a huge break out.
Then that third line with Lupul and Hartnell gives you a true scoring threat with speed and grit. Throw Metropolit in, and it doubles as a checking line. Finally, the Black and Blue line of Asham, Downie, and Cote should give a gigantic shot of energy to the whole mix.
Clearly, that hasn’t worked. I didn’t know this was possible, but Briere is more invisible as a winger than he ever was as a center. And Metropolit can’t seem to match the speed of Lupul and Hartnell, which makes it difficult for either winger to develop a rhythm they can carry into the power play.
So I propose some line changes:
Reunite Knuble and Gagne with Richards as the centerman. That gives the top line a guy who battles for that spot at the crease while Richards and Gagne can work around the perimeter and through the center, where they are more comfortable.
Lupul and Briere had great natural chemistry when they played together briefly last season. All three players are fast, and the size and physicality of Lupul and Hartnell balance out Briere’s diminuitive defense-free style.
Upshall has speed and aim, Downie has grit, and Carter has the size, strength and ability to outshine anyone on the ice. I’m a little concerned about the defense consciousness of this line, but it’s the only one that scares me.
As for the fourth liners, you’d be hard-pressed to find a grittier group. Metropolit is a fantastic depth defensive forward, and Asham and Cote are two of the hardest workers on this squad.
UPDATE: On the Fly!—the official blog of the Flyers PR department—has confirmed as of 7:37 pm EST that John Stevens mixed up the lines in practice today. The lines are actually very similar to last year’s:
Knuble - Briere - Gagne
Downie - Richards - Hartnell
Upshall - Carter - Lupul
Asham - Metropolit - Cote