I'll give you a hint; it is not Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Flyers are off to their worst start since 2006-07 and everybody is looking to point a finger at someone. Before we take a look at individuals, let's look at the entire unit. Even after looking flatter than a [delicious, homemade, syrup-smothered] pancake, the Flyers had chances to win all three of their opening contests. Another slow start in the opener put the Flyers behind early and even after controlling the tempo for the final two periods, going 0-for-5 on the power-play ultimately did them in.
A bad habit started to form last season and has carried over into 2013, as the Flyers, especially during matinee games, give up the first goal and do so early. That did not change against the Sabres on Sunday as Steve Ott scored 11:07 into the opening period. The Flyers had two goals disallowed in the contest, but another poor effort on the power-play (1-for-4) and an even worse penalty killing effort doomed the Flyers, as the Sabres went 3-for-6 on their respective power-play.
Tuesday night against the Devils was a game the Flyers flat-out gave away to a New Jersey team that, in my opinion, is not as competitive as they were a season ago. That game stung the most as the Devils scored both a minute into and with under a minute left in the first period. After Ilya Kovalchuck's penalty shot goal put the Devils up by three, the Flyers did a good job in killing penalties, but again the power-play failed them. After going 0-for-6 against the Devils, the Flyers power-play ranks 28th in the NHL at 6.7%; a figure that has them in last place for all teams that have scored at least one power-play goal. The penalty kill is not much better at a 62.5% clip, which puts them just ahead of the Vancouver Canucks for the 26th spot in the league.
As many people thought, the Flyers were not going to be as strong a team as they were last season; while it may be early,this is a 48-game sprint. Teams may not be able to win the Atlantic Division in January, but you can lose it. Speaking of things we lost, it is time to see how the recently departed Flyers of yesteryear are doing for their new clubs, whether they left via free agency or trade.
Jaromir Jagr had four points in his Dallas Stars debut, although he has gone pointless in the two most recent Stars contests. The Stars offered more money than the Flyers were willing to give to the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer, and the ticket draw alone for the struggling team from Dallas was reason enough to give him $4.5 million on only a single-year commitment. We all saw what Jagr did for the Flyers on the ice last season, even through the injuries and inconsistency during the playoffs. However, maybe even more important than his 19 goals and 54 points last season, "Jags" gave the Flyers a character guy in the dressing room and a positive role model through his work ethic and unrelenting conditioning. He helped Claude Giroux mature a lot faster than even Chris Pronger would have. Would Giroux be the captain this early into his career if it was not for Jagr's year in Philadelphia?
Staying on the wing, the Flyers tried to replace the absence of Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) and Matt Carle, who signed a lucrative deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, but we will get to that soon enough. They did so by trading former second overall draft pick James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for former fifth overall choice, defenseman Luke Schenn. While Schenn leads the team with a rating of +1, he has not made a major impact defensively and is not known as an offensive-minded player, so he has yet to be a factor. Meanwhile, JvR torched the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night notching two goals and an assist, which is two more points than all the players the Flyers acquired in the offseason (Kurtis Foster has an assist). The Flyers lost some serious scoring punch this summer and have yet to make up for it on their current roster.
For as much as Bryzgalov was a scapegoat for much of last season, Carle was blamed for not being responsible with the puck in his own zone. He got the bad end of the stick here and was hung out to dry by a lot of fans. Every defenseman makes mistakes, especially in the defensive zone; it just seemed when Carle did it, Twitter blew up and Facebook crashed with complaints. The Flyers lack an exceptional puck mover and Braydon Coburn is the closest thing they have to one. That is where Carle excelled and why the Lightning signed him to a six-year, $33 million contract, a $5.5 million cap hit the Flyers did not feel comfortable matching.
Carle's two assists gives the three departed Flyers nine points on the season, which is the same number as every Flyer on the 2013 roster has... combined. A serious lack of scoring, something the club has excelled at in the past, a defense with more holes than a miniature golf course and a men's roller hockey caliber special teams unit has this team stumbling out of the gate. The looming question remains; who is to blame for this? His name has been purposely unmentioned until now, General Manager Paul Holmgren. Whether players leave via free agency or trade, it is ultimately up to Holmgren to restock the shelf. He has not done that. He did not pull the trigger on the Bobby Ryan trade at the draft, but we may never know the true story behind that. He replaced Carle with Foster and banked on the "kids," such as Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds, to breakout. So far that has not happened.
Greg Hall - GJHall35@gmail.com