NOTE: I wrote 95% of this article before today's news that the Flyers recalled Oliver Lauridsen. Thank you, the Flyers, for making me look stupid for publishing now and/or smart for suggesting it. But in any event, here's an article.
So the Flyers aren't good right now. They aren't making the playoffs this season unless they win literally almost every remaining game on their schedule, which isn't something that they've given us reason to believe they're capable of.
We've been saying for a couple of weeks now that the most important thing in this final month is not the end results of any of these games. Seeing what young, future pieces on this team can do is the best possible thing that can come out of these weeks, and losing games is hardly the worst thing in the world. But we figured we'd take that a step further and make a few specific recommendations.
None of these things are going to actually happen, because Peter Laviolette and Paul Holmgren have their own jobs and lives to care about and neither of them will ever want to look like they're throwing in the towel here...but I'm not either of them, so I feel less reservation about it.
1. Stop healthy-scratching Tye McGinn.
Question: if you, as a coach, had a winger that you were willing to put on your top line with one of the best centers and one of the best wingers in the NHL, you probably think he's one of your team's 12 best forwards, right?
So if you've got that winger, and he's 22 years old and potentially a guy that this team could use for the next several years, why would you go from playing him on your top line one game to putting him in the press box the next?
Basically everyone, from Travis to other fans to mainstream media Flyers writers like Sam Carchidi, mentioned last night how silly it is that Tye McGinn wasn't in the Flyers' game against the Islanders. I know that Mike Knuble, McGinn's replacement, scored last night, and made it look darn good in the process. But does it matter anymore? Much as we all love him, Knuble's been scratched a lot lately for a reason, and it's really hard to imagine he's a long-term part of this team's plans.
McGinn's done a very impressive job of controlling play in his time here, and in his recent quasi-conditioning stint in Adirondack following his injury for a broken face he put up 11 points in seven games. He's shown he's got offensive ability. Whether you're really trying to win games or not, he should be in the lineup.
2. Give some NHL test-run time to the organization's young, soon-expiring defensemen.
What do we know about Andreas Lilja, Kurtis Foster and Bruno Gervais? Well, they're all roughly sixth-defenseman-quality players in the NHL. We also pretty much know that Lilja and Foster won't be Flyers next year, and Gervais' contract likely won't be picked up after its second year expires next year.
Now what do we know about Brandon Manning, Oliver Lauridsen and Blake Kessel? Well, pretty much nothing. They're all young guys currently in the minors, on either the Adirondack Phantoms or, in Kessel's case, the ECHL's Trenton Titans. All of their entry-level contracts will expire after this season as well, and with the exception of a one-week stint last year for Manning, we've never seen any of them in the NHL before. Sure, there's probably a reason for that, but that's not really the point.
The Flyers' defense is currently being ravaged by injuries to Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros. Asking Kessel to make the jump from ECHL to NHL is probably not fair, but why not consider bringing up Manning or Lauridsen to take on some of their ice time? We'll get to see how they can hold their own up here, even if it's against sheltered competition. What's the worst thing that could happen? They stink? Gosh, that'd be a shame having to watch a bad Flyers defense. Wonder what that'd be like.
No need to rush Coburn or Grossmann back from any injuries if they're serious. They're both here for the next three years and there's nothing urgent going on right now that they need to be back for. Give the kids some reps and see if any of them may be worthy of bringing back next year.
(There's also Danny Syvret: Offensive Dynamo, who is probably more likely to get a call-up than any of those guys. But he's got another year on his deal after this one so I didn't mention him in this exercise.)
3. When the Flyers gain control of the puck in overtime, pull the goalie.
Alright, fine: this one has nothing to do with the future of the team, has absolutely zero chance of happening and really is more for entertainment purposes than anything else. But bear with me. As you may or may not know (by Rule 84.2 of the NHL Rulebook), if a team pulls its goaltender in overtime and allows a goal into the empty net, that team gets zero points instead of the standard one for an OT loss.
Obviously, the Flyers are going to keep trying to win games, and until they're mathematically eliminated they'll keep talking about winning as many games as they can. And even when they're eliminated, they'll keep talking about giving their all to win games. As they should -- they're professional athletes. But let's be honest: they need something like 26 points, out of a possible 30, the rest of the way. One loser point does very little for them -- they need two. So why not just risk that one to get two?
Get control of the puck in the offensive zone and bring Ilya Bryzgalov over to the bench, creating a 5-on-4 situation. The Flyers do have one of the best power plays in the NHL this year -- in essence, you're putting the game in that unit's hands, improving your chances of scoring a goal before the shootout, and if they fail they're hardly setting the team back in the long run.
Who knows if it'd work -- and yes, Peter Laviolette would be fired before his post-game press conference if it backfired -- but damn if it wouldn't be entertaining. And man, this season needs something entertaining to happen soon.