The lines in Philadelphia are being changed on a nightly basis. With the call up of Brayden Schenn, the Flyers have an excess of players who can play in the first three lines. The question is—how should we get rid of this problem while giving ice time to those who have earned it?
One option is a scratch that takes a forward out of the lineup; this requires the Flyers to waive players to get the people they need on the ice.
The other option, of course, is a trade. That is the more dramatic option and probably the less likely one for Philadelphia.
The last option is sending Couturier back to juniors.
Which option is right? Who should be traded or scratched? This slideshow will look at the 10 top-nine forwards for the Flyers and see which ones could be the odd man out.
Claude Giroux is not going anywhere. He has played great for the Flyers and is averaging over one point per game. His great vision, stick handling and shooting ability make him absolutely key for the Flyers. Not to mention, his chemistry with Jaromir Jagr has created one of the most effective lines for the Flyers in the early going. His spot is locked at the first-line center for the foreseeable future.
The other half of the amazing Jagr-Giroux duo is safe at Giroux's wing. He plays a very good puck control cycle game, which is helped by vision, good hands and a hard shot. While he has no goals, he has been a good player for the Flyers. Tonight, he tried to do a little too much in the game and lost the puck some, but I look for him to bounce back before Monday's game.
These second-line players are safe on their line. The line was the best scoring threat for the Flyers all night. Simmonds and Schenn threw the body around. All three battled for pucks in front of the net, and Briere was rewarded with a goal and an assist. Individually, the reasons they are safe from scratch or trade are:
Danny Briere scored the first goal of the game tonight on the high glove side. He has an amazing shot, gets to the net despite his size and can feed the puck well to open players. He is secure on the second line of Philadelphia, whether it be at the right-wing or center position.
Wayne Simmonds played physical, worked hard in front of the net and made good passes. He also dropped the gloves with Jackman to try and energize a Flyers team. He even coached the rest of the team about getting the puck deep, which was a problem for the Flyers in the early going.
Brayden Schenn walked away without a point despite solid play with two new linemates. He can play at center or wing. When Schenn is in the center position, his faceoffs wins are so clean that they often came back too fast for the defense. He threw the body around and drew a penalty by standing in front of the net. He is solid at controlling the puck and making the right pass to an open man. He got some good shots on net in the game as well.
Matt Read was tied for the lead in rookie scoring going in to tonight's game. He moves his feet well, works hard and can score. However, he only got one good shot on net tonight. His line didn't seem to be meshing well, and I found myself wishing that their shift would go ahead and end, so we could get the scoring threats on the ice.
Matt Read is an excellent third-line wing, and an above average second-line wing. At this point in his career, he will produce the most at third line wing with Couturier playing in the center. Also, Read works well on the power play, and the penalty kill which makes him indispensable as a player on the Flyers' roster.
For tonight's game, James van Riemsdyk was moved to the third line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek. The line was the most ineffective offensive line for the Flyers tonight. I do not believe that the ineffectiveness was a result of the play of James van Riemsdyk. He is staying on this team, but I believe a line change is in order.
The first line for the Flyers was the best one for Philadelphia in the first six games, yet they took James off the line to get more net presence with Scott Hartnell.
I think that it would be better for the line to have James back. Hartnell played decently with the first line, but there was no amazing increase in the production or quality of scoring chances for that line. If anything, there was a drop off. Go with the line that works; move him back to the first line.
Sean Couturier is an amazing player. He impresses with his ability to make passes, and create offense without sacrificing anything on defense.
Currently, he is on the fourth-line center role, which underuses his ability. Tonight, he fed Talbot in front of the net for a great scoring chance. Two nights ago, he scored a goal by going to the net and finding a rebound.
I would move him to the third-line center where he started the season. While I understand that a fourth-line job keeps him fresh for penalty killing, I think it is more important to utilize him in a way that would be good for his development. He is too good a player to be limited to a fourth line/penalty killing role player, and he earned his spot on this roster.
Scott Hartnell has a skill set. He gets to the front of the net and can battle to screen goalies.
However, I have often heard that he spends more time on the ground than on his feet. Unfortunately for him, there is a little truth in that. Hartnell plays a north-south hockey style and can work well as a screen for the second power play unit if he gets that time, but he is probably a third-line left wing at this time.
That is why many are calling for his trade. His contract is steep for a third-line player with a $4.2 million cap hit. His contract was overpaid in the Flyers' mini rebuild after the 2006-2007 season.
Hartnell is a great guy who can coach the younger players on this team, but is he worth what he is getting paid? His no-trade clause makes it hard for any trade to occur, and he is not a bad player. So, if he cannot be traded for good return, he would make my final lineup.
During the preseason, I thought this guy was great. I kept reading comments by Franklin Steele saying that he would underwhelm me during the season. Perhaps that made me look at him more closely as a player when the season started because my happiness with him dried up.
First, I will tell you what is good about this player. He has great hands that are capable of making good plays. On the power play where time and space are available, he is probably one of the best on our team at moving the puck around. He can also back check well, shoot the puck and get some goals. With all that, how could he be on the bubble?
Voracek's amazing preseason hands would try the same moves in the regular season and they would end up in turnovers. Regarding the first game he was on without Voracek, Danny Briere said, "I thought it was my best game."
With Matt Read, Danny Briere had a better game even with a losing effort. With Brayden Schenn, Briere's line was the best on the team. I would be willing to say that some of it came from Briere finding his game again if the third line didn't look like the Briere line did in the first games.
He does not play a north-south game, and he seldom makes the simple pass to move the puck around. He wants to make the pass that will set up a scoring chance, to take the puck to the middle for a shot or to deke a defender to open up space to bring the puck up ice. That is when he loses the puck. Also, he seldom uses his big frame to hit.
If you have read my articles before, you know that I thought he should have been scratched earlier in the season. Am I being overly critical for this early in the season? You bet—we have nine other guys who are playing better, and it is better for the team if players learn from the press box instead of learning on the ice.
So what options do the Flyers have?
A. Scratch Hartnell or Voracek who are probably the least deserving of ice time. This would mean having to waive Shelly (I would pick him) or Betts to get Rinaldo up, or putting Shelly on the fourth line and move Couturier up.
B. Trade Hartnell- This would be tough because of the cap hit and the NTC. However, it would provide much needed cap flexibility and could generate a potentially decent return.
C. Trade Voracek- Unlikely because we just got him. It is almost an impossibility, but then again so was trading Richards and Carter. I would package him with a late-round draft pick to help a struggling Columbus team and receive the guy we originally wanted—Johansen, whom we could sit in Adirondack until he is ready.
D. Sit on our hands- We could continue putting Couturier on the fourth line and adjust the lines around again. But if that happens I would rather see Couturier in juniors where he would get first-line minutes.
What do you think? If Couturier moves up in lines, who is scratched or traded? Do you think that the Flyers should leave him on the fourth line? Leave a comment below.