The Olympics have been over for a little more than a week now, and the NHL appropriately celebrated its return to action with ... forcing everyone to watch the Buffalo Sabres? Sounds about right.
The trade deadline is Wednesday, and it's a pretty safe bet that Paul Holmgren's doing his fair share of working the phones. The team has 20 games over the next 42 days. Things are getting pretty hectic already, so I decided to answer some questions regarding everyone's concerns.
In this week's BSH mailbag, I took a look at the Schenn brothers, the trade deadline, how to fix the logjam at center (again -- jeese, Flyers), and mixing up the line combinations. Let's get to it.
Trading the Schenn brothers?
Brayden Schenn's name has popped up in almost every potential trade scenario imagined over these past few weeks. The 22-year-old center was ranked No. 3 on our Midterm Top 25 Under 25; Luke? Well.. not quite as high.
So why has everyone decided to use Brayden Schenn as this year's building block in potential trades?
From our own Charlie O'Connor:
The Flyers don't seem to know how to evaluate Schenn, either. Over the past twelve months, the front office has locked up Giroux, Couturier and even Matt Read to contract extensions, and players like Voracek and Simmonds are signed long-term as well. But Schenn is still waiting, even though his current deal expires at the end of the season. He's a restricted free agent, so the 22-year old won't be hitting the open market. But the absence of a Schenn extension when every other core Flyers forward is secured for at least next season is telling.
The Kesler talk is apparently real
•Broad Street HockeyThe Flyers apparently have some real interest in Ryan Kesler, but what would it take to get a deal done, and why would Paul Holmgren be interested in another center when he's already stockpiled them?
As you'll find out in the next question and answer, the Flyers have a pretty big logjam at center (again). The team doesn't really know what to think of his development, it seems. Schenn's on pace for the best offensive season of his career, but, as Charlie says, his underlying possession numbers have not improved along with his point totals, hinting that his improvement this season may be mostly a product of elevated on-ice shooting percentages rather than sustainable development.
Giroux, Couturier, Read, Voracek and Simmonds are all locked-in to very, very cap-friendly deals. Who does that leave? No. 10.
So why the heck would Luke Schenn be included in some of these potential deals that everyone keeps throwing around? Because they're brothers, I guess, and ever since Paul Holmgren reunited the two in 2012, people seem to think that the two have to be included in any potential trade scenario. If you don't think Paul Holmgren would split up the two for the sake of making this team better (in his own eyes), then you don't know Paul Holmgren.
But any deal that includes Brayden Schenn better net this team a damn good defenseman. I'm indifferent towards Luke. I do think both brothers could net the Flyers a bonafide top-pairing defenseman. Anything less? No thanks.
The logs are all jammed up again
How the heck are we talking about this again? Didn't we just buyout Daniel Briere to solve this same problem less than 8 months ago? Oh, right. Vincent Lecavalier. I happened to put something out last week regarding good ol' Vinny, and, not long after, he ended up scoring two goals, including an overtime game winner in Washington yesterday afternoon. Go figure.
So let's take a look at what the team is dealing with down the middle: Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier, Sean Couturier and Adam Hall are all natural centers. Brayden Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier have both moved over to wing at one point or another over their past two seasons. That's exactly how management has dealt with No. 40 this season; they've moved him to left wing, and he's looked
pretty extremely uncomfortable. Rather him than Schenn, though.
But wait... Scott Laughton, BSH's highest-rated prospect and No. 4 in our Midterm Top 25 Under 25, is tearing it up for the Oshawa Generals; there's a very good chance he'll crack the roster full-time next season, so the team would have six centers. Personally, I wouldn't like to see Laughton center the fourth line, but it's possible the team might go that route next season. You'd end up with Giroux-Schenn-Couturier-Laughton down the middle. Lecavalier would be slotted on the wing again (ugh), and Hall would be gone -- he's a 2014 UFA.
If you get rid of one of Schenn, Couturier, Lecavalier or Laughton via trade, then everything opens up again. That option seems more and more likely by the minute.
Schenn gone? Couturier has shown that he can handle second line minutes. Laughton can slot in as the third line center, and the team can go out and get a fourth line center during free agency.
Couturier gone? God forbid, but the team could roll Giroux-Lecavalier-Schenn-Laughton, with the latter taking tough comp. and penalty kill responsibilities.
There's a lot of ifs, though, and any which way you look at it, the situation's a mess. Good grief.
How we'd assemble the roster
These types of questions are always fun to answer.
Over the past couple of weeks, Philadelphia's lines have managed to settle. That's good; I've always hated the constant juggling that seems to happen over the first couple months of the season while the team irons out its kinks. It usually means there's a problem. Flyers have gotten pretty lucky on the injury front, so the only real lineup changes have been with the interchangeable parts on the fourth line and third pairing.
19-28-93 can stay put. Scott Hartnell's got 8 points in his last 10 games, and most people tend to view him as the weak link. I like him on the top line, as he's what I like to call a "support" possession player. As I advocated in my article last week, the only real fit for Vinny Lecavalier is on the second line, sheltered to all hell with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. That leaves the third and fourth lines.
Full Deadline Coverage
Full Deadline Coverage
I'm not quite sure what's been up with Steve Downie lately, but I'd move him down to the fourth line. 12-14-24 would do quite nicely at driving play at even-strength, and they'd still be able to play against top comp. 9-18-36 is what it is. Jay Rosehill doesn't need to come into the lineup, and you're still icing the 12 best forwards. Little tweaks is all.
There's a good chance Andrej Meszaros is gone by Wednesday, and I don't think the Flyers are going to do much else to alter their defensive pairings. That's enough to give Erik Gustafsson means to stick in the lineup. He's an RFA this off-season, and I'm still not sure where Philadelphia has him in their plans, but if the organization wants him to play a part on this backend in the foreseeable future, they'll have to give him some minutes and not pull the rug out from under him after every little mistake he makes.
Gustafsson and Schenn have actually looked quite good in the times they've been paired together.
So what about Nicklas Grossmann? I understand where he sits with regards to the coaching staff -- they see him as a top-four who can eat up a good amount of minutes -- and there's little to no chance Berube takes him out of the lineup for this stretch run of the season. A lot of people don't agree with it, but that's the way it is. He'll be in the lineup unless he's moved, and I'd address the problem in the off-season.
Stop it, Sean.
That's it for this week. The Flyers finish out the season with 20 games in 42 days, so there will be lots more to talk about over the coming weeks. Get ready for it.