What Ever Happened to
With the addition of two marquee defensman, and one of the top three players in hockey, the Flyers were the early favorite to win the Stanley Cup this season, but injuries, poor special teams, and lack of a Captain has tarnished that early vision of successWhen the Flyers introduced their new lineup for the 2005-06 season, many people believed they were hands down the favorites to win the cup this year, at minimum representing the Eastern Conference. At the Quarter mark of the season, the Flyers look shaky on the Penalty kill, and injuries have played a critical role in their recent slide.
Offensively, the team is just fine. Defensively, the team is solid (when Therien is not on the ice, but thats a different topic). If anyone watched the most recent game against the Devils, the defense looked strong and able to play the game that is the new NHL….but then the penalty killing team comes onto the ice. As of today, the Flyers are 2 percentage points below the 29th ranked team in terms of penalty kill. Penalty kill has been a strong point of the fFyers in past years, and a staple of Hitch***** coaching. This year, the PK has flat out stunk, and has cost the Flyers more than their share of games.
Hitch***** blames the poor effort on injuries, specifying in particular Kapanen and Primeau. While Sami Kapanen has returned to the team after more than two months off due to an injury, and has shown he can help on the PK. Primeau, however, remains on the shelf indefinitely (if forever). This is a major problem. The team is without their best defensive center, and captain. If you watch the team, especially now with Forsberg injured, the team looks lost and leaderless. It shows how much Forsberg means to the team, especialy watching a lifeless powerplay without their playmaker on the ice, opening up the game for the other four players on the ice.
Is it time to hand over the Captain’s C to another player? Who knows? Gagne has been on record saying he was offered, but did not want to accept the role out of respect for Primeau, but the team needs a leader. Hatcher was captain in Dallas, he could be an effective leader. Other than him, the team is mostly younger players, and veterans who are not leader types. I say its a toss between Gagne, Fosberg, and Hatcher.
What does this mean for the rest of the season? To be honest, I think things will get better before they get worse. The team stresses the injury to Forsberg is minor, in fact he is expected to play Saturday against Nashville, and with the majority of the regulars in the lineup the penalty kill should start to improve. Watching the devils game with two consecutive 5 on 3 PKs was hard to watch, but they pulled though miraculously. The bottom line is the special teams must improve is the Flyers want to compete in the Playoffs next year.
On a positive note, I am very surprised with the performance of the younger players on the team. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were expected to perform, and they have done very well up to this point. However, the other younger kids; the play of Umberger, Sharp, and most recently Ben Eager, has been very surprising. This can only show the future of the team, which is looking very good, I think.