Last year the Philadelphia Flyers ended a excellent season losing in the conference championship series to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was a surprise that they were even there after being the second worst team in the NHL just one season earlier.
Now coming off their tremendous performance last season the Flyers once again find themselves at the bottom of the NHL totem pole. They are off to a terrible starting losing every game so far this season, 3 of which were in overtime and one in a shootout.
Obviously Philly fans aren't too focused on the Flyers yet with the Phillies playing in the World Series, but once that is over fans will turn attention to hockey and realize that right now the Flyers are in some trouble.
But the real question right now is how can the Flyers be this bad?
Right now the defense is terrible.
There is nothing they can do right out on the ice to help the goalies out. They are letting teams skate right in the zone with no pressure and letting guys post up out in front of the net and just wait for a shot to deflect in.
The reason for all this is that defensemen for the Flyers are just not that good. They have one line of solid defending then the other lines are out there on a hold your breath basis just hoping they get the job done.
Koburn and Timonen are both good defense men and shut down teams very well and play the blue line great on the power play. People forget how important of a role that is but its up to these defense men to keep the puck in the offensive zone on a power play, and other than these two the rest are just not doing that right now.
How to fix it:
The way to possibly fix the defensive issues for the Flyers is mix up Koburn and Timonen. Instead of having them playing on the same line have each of them play with someone different so at least one of them can be on the ice most of the time.
This will make the other defensemen look better out there having one of these guys with them. Also when a team comes into the offensive zone they need to do a better job of pressuring them up top and not letting them skate right in.
Letting players sit out in front of the net is also unacceptable. They need to get other defensemen in there who can get those big guys out of the middle. That was something Hatcher was always good for, but it's looking like he won't be making any kind of return any time soon.
This defense also has to stop allowing so many shots on goal. In 3 of the 6 games this season they have allowed over 30 shots on goal and 28, 27, and 27 in the other three.
Of course one thing that is never surprising about the Flyers is their inability to convert power play opportunities into power play goals and that is holding true this season. The Flyers have only scored five times on 31 chances. Two games this season they had over five power plays and did not come away with a man advantage goal one time.
They are being shoved around by these bigger and faster teams and they aren't holding the puck long enough in the offensive zone long enough to do anything. Anytime the offense gets into going past the other team's blue line they either have to do something quick or sure enough you see the puck getting knocked back out to center ice.
It's not even that they aren't scoring goals, because they have at least 2 goals in every game this season, it's that they are turning the puck over far too often. Richards is proving to be a good choice at captain for now as he is tied for the team lead in goals.
Simon Gagne also seems to be back after missing almost the entire last season with concussions. He is the only Flyer right now to be in the positives with the +/- ranking. He also has 4 goals on the season.
How to Fix it:
The Flyers need to be more productive on the power play. There is no excuse for having so many chances and doing nothing with them. If they are going to start winning some games they have to start keeping the puck in the offensive zone longer and make more chances to get goals.
Also the 3rd and 4th line need to start being more productive. In those two lines, not one play has recorded a goal this season. Its all about the first and second lines right now and if the Flyers look to make this season into anything they have to get a good showing out of the entire team, not just the first half.
In the playoffs last Martin Biron was a wall. His goals against average was the lowest in the playoffs and he saved the Flyers in plenty of games. This season it's a completely different story so far.
In the 4 games that he has played in he has allowed 15 goals and is GAA is 5.00. He has not really done much at all for the team to call him their for sure starter as of now.
Antero Nittymaki has been playing right now like a backup goalie can be expected to play, but if Biron doesn't get it going he could be a possible full time starter soon.
How to fix it:
Of course not all of the goals are in the fault of the goalie, but he still is expected to stop them. The defense in front of Biron has been playing bad, but on 96 shots faced for Biron that's not acceptable to allow 15 goals.
The defense has to put some support for Biron though and keep the defenders away from the net for the goalies to start being successful again.
It's not time to press the panic button yet for the Flyers, but if these struggles continue don't be surprised to see plenty of Philly fans going crazy and wanting change soon.