Basically, Jeff Carter has yet to get going this season. Whether he's on wing or at center, he just looks out of focus. He had one or two decent games to start the season, where he looked determined and interested - playing a strong defensive role and taking shots, digging in the corners, etc etc - but since then he's been basically invisible.
His current line with JVR and Zherdev looks like a motley assortment with virtually no chemistry or communcation. They skate about like they're surprised to see their linemates on the ice with them. And it appears some birdie (player agent?) whispered in Carter's ear that he needs to score, so he's dropped the early-season defensive responsibility in order to grip his stick more tightly and whale away at the goal.
So the question becomes, yet again, as we argued ad nauseum over the off-season:
WHAT DO THE FLYERS DO WITH JEFF CARTER?
Is he a winger on a line with Richards? Is he a center that needs better/different wingers? Is he trade bait swinging in the breeze until Holmgren can find a willing dance partner?
It seems that the experiment of using Carter on the wing has been abandoned. He never looked quite comfortable out there, even though I felt the first couple games were his best so far. I'm sure someone will be arguing me with Corsi or other stats, but I'm just going on my gut feelings and impressions - he was playing well the first couple games, but tailed off rapidly. It can be argued that some of the ineffectiveness of Carter on the wing was due to Richie's slump; it can also be that he was still getting used to the idea of being a winger. Whatever the case, Laviolette seems to have dumped the trial run and moved Carter back to center.
Now at center, Carter has also looked not-so-hot, but at least he's back where he should be comfortable. Maybe it'll just take a few games for him to get his feet back under him - no offense to him, but he doesn't strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed and may therefore be less adaptable than some. It may also be that his wingers aren't quite what he wished for, in JVR and Zherdev. While JVR has played pretty well, it looks like he's gripping the stick a bit much as well and not just continuing to work hard every game. And Zherdev ... well, I'm not sure what to make of the guy. He has skills - no doubt - but appears to be the most selfish player with the puck I've seen in a while. Maybe it's a communication thing; maybe he's not comfortable with his linemates; maybe he's just a douche. However you look at it, the line of the three of them is underperforming, and Carter needs to get it going.
The final option for the team is dangling him as trade bait. We discussed this all summer long - and in the spirit of full disclosure I argued long and hard for him to be traded THEN. Now that the season has started, and the Flyers are struggling, the specter of trading Carter looms again. He's young, he's (relatively) experienced, he's a 40-goal scorer, he's an RFA after this season. What team wouldn't want to add that? The real question for Flyers fans is - what team is willing to give up enough to get him? There are obvious holes in the Flyers lineup right now, not least of which being a scoring winger to play on a line with anyone other than Briere. JVR is getting there, but needs seasoning. Zherdev needs to find his pace and pass the damn puck. Powe, while I love the guy's work ethic, is simply not a top-line player. Carcillo hasn't gained enough confidence from the coaches to even dress several times already. And (assuming we move Carter via trade) Giroux will return to center as soon as the opening presents itself - and with good reason, as he's brilliant there. So, ideally a good winger with 20+ goal potential, decent size, and a Flyer-like style who's willing to play here, and preferably comes with a salary about half to three-quarters of Carter's. (Why don't I ask for the moon while I'm at it , right?)
Oh - and as a PS - the newly juggled lines against Buffalo look remarkably like the lines that a certain poster here with a moderately-despised nickname proposed back in training camp ... just sayin'. :)