The up-and-down season for the Philadelphia Flyers has brought about question about the true identity of this team.
Are the Flyers the Eastern Conference runner up from last year, or are they the mediocre team we have seen thus far this season?
The Flyers currently have 14 points and are 11th in the conference.
To the Flyers' credit, they had a brutal schedule in October, but this team should be better than 5-6-4.
The poor play begins on defense, where injuries have killed the depth. Randy Jones and Ryan Parent were struck by injuries just before season. Derian Hatcher was scratched, as expected, before the season as well.
Jones is not expected to return until mid-December, while Parent is not expected to return until around January. These injuries have caused many problems on the blue line.
First of all, Kimmo Timonen has been shuffled around more than the pucks in the games on the big screen. Kimmo has not been able to sustain any chemistry with any of his defenders, and the same goes for Braydon Coburn. Neither have been able to be with the same pairings, which isn't good for a team's top two defenders.
Add in the fact that Steve Eminger was not producing and Ossi Vaananen was out for a period of time and you have a problem.
These problems have caused the team to trade for Andrew Alberts and Matt Carle.
The lone bright spot was the play of youngster Luca Sbisa. This speedy defense-man is turning out to one of the best kept secrets this season. But young Luca isn't enough to help this defense.
I lied, there is another bright spot from this mess: The poor play of the defense has caused the Flyers to make multiple defensive moves, which leaves the team with plenty of depth when Jones and Parent come back.
Now on to the offense.
The Flyers have not had a terrible time on offense this season, as they are second in the league in goals per game. Yet, the inconsistency of the lines has been a very big problem.
For the first week of the season, the first line of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Danny Briere was the only line producing for the team. But when Danny Briere went out with an injury, Richards and Gagne were moved which helped out the rest of the lines. For a week, the entire lineup was producing.
Then something just happened. Players like Joffrey Lupul, Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall, and almost everyone else (to a degree) went cold. The only bright spots or the club were Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter.
Since then, Carter and Knuble have slowed down, and the rest of the offense has not picked up the pace. Mike Richards continues his strong play, as goes Simon Gagne, but the offense just isn't impressing as a whole.
Lastly, we have the goaltending. I think we all know about this problem.
Martin Biron and Anterro Niittymaki have combined to give the Flyers the sixth worst goals-against average. Sure, the defense doesn't help, but the team is only allowing about thirty shots a game and ranks right in the middle of the league in that category.
So looking at this team, we all can see the problems facing this inconsistent group of players:
The defense isn't very deep right now, the offense is very inconsistent, and the goaltenders have given up too many goals.
What do the Flyers have planned?
Well, besides the deals they have already made, the Flyers are reportedly contending to sign Brendan Shanahan very shortly. If Shanahan is not signed, then Mats Sundin could be signed down the road. They are also reportedly interested in trading for the talented Jay Bouwmeester.
Acquiring one of these three won't help the team a ton, but they'll each give them a good boost. Shanahan will give the already strong power play a boost, Sundin will give the team a leadership boost, and Bouwmeester will give the defense a huge boost. But don't count on a deal for Bouwmeester, as the Flyers would need to give up too much.
By the end of the week, we should know if Shanahan is coming to Philadelphia.
Either way, there's a lot to be done to get this Flyers team back on track and so little time.
If we want to experience another thrilling playoff run, Paul Holmgren better pull some magic out of his hat quickly, because we don't want another 2006-07, do we?