Eleven games into the 2013-2014 season the Flyers found themselves having already fired their head coach and sat at a a record of 3-8. They had also only scored 20 goals as Claude Giroux and the entire offense couldn't seem to find the back of the net. The Flyers decided to try to add some offensive punch to the lineup by trading Max Talbot for Steve Downie. Things started off pretty well for Downie in his return to orange and black, but things have since tapered off a bit. How does the trade look now?
First and foremost I want to be clear that I'm a believer in judging trades in and of the context in which they were originally made. I'm not a fan of revisionist history. The ultimate result of something shouldn't make you regret a decision you've made in the past (unless you were even uncertain then). For example, the fact that Andreas Nodl never amounted to anything and is now out of the league, does not make it any less silly that he was waived as a means of "gauging interest".
At the time of the Talbot and Downie swap, the Flyers were really struggling to score goals, and they acquired a clear and obvious offensive upgrade. While Downie brought an expiring contract with him, Talbot had two years and $1.75 million remaining on his deal.
Five months later, how have they performed with their new teams?
|GP||G||A||P||P/60||TOI/G||PP TOI/G||SH TOI/G|
Perhaps to the expectation of some, Downie has found himself out of the lineup due to injury on multiple occasions since being acquired. Additionally, he's slotted into the second power play unit at times; something Talbot would never have done as a shorthanded specialist.
Surprisingly, however, Downie has not produced to the offensive level many expected. In fact, his three goals, 14 assists, and 17 points trail Talbot's seven goals, 15 assists, and 22 points. While Downie is producing more in a points per 60 minute clip, it is still not to the point many expected. In fact, of Downie's three goals with the Flyers, only one of them has come at even strength.
When he first joined the team, and then promptly missed some time due to injury, Downie found himself on the wing of Sean Couturier forming what was clearly the team's best line with Matt Read. While almost everyone was a Talbot fan, there's no denying his lack of offensive talent did hold back Couturier at times. Downie certainly doesn't have the defensive ability of Talbot, but he meshed well with Couturier and Read and really allowed them to drive play up the ice.
Since then, Downie has bounced around the lineup in addition to finding himself out of it on occasion, be it due to injury or a coach's decision. Craig Berube scratched Downie at times due to a lack of intensity. He also sometimes found himself off of the second unit power play, being replaced by Matt Read.
Downie has found himself out of the lineup recently due to a concussion but is close to returning. The question becomes where he will slot back in when he returns, if he can even get back into it.
Michael Raffl has looked like the perfect third wheel to Couturier and Read, with the speed, defensive instincts, and offensive ability to be dangerous at both ends of the ice. Vincent Lecavalier was recently "demoted" to the fourth line center spot where he has fit in well with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo. The Flyers clearly like what Rinaldo brings to the table, and Adam Hall is an invaluable penalty killer. The logical position could be on the second line replacing Tye McGinn.
One of the biggest concerns at the time of the trade was replacing Talbot's penalty killing ability. Fortunately, the Flyers don't lack for able bodied penalty killers in Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Adam Hall, Matt Read, and Michael Raffl. The unit has had one of the league's elite penalty kills.
While at one point it was fair to question whether the Flyers would look to bring Downie back after this season, I'd be willing to bet they will part ways at this point.
The Downie swap has almost certainly not paid the offensive dividends that many expected. He's fit like a glove at times but at others he's stuck out like a sore thumb. Fortunately, while Max Talbot is a fantastic role player and a fan favorite, it doesn't appear as if he's been missed. The Couturier shut down line is as potent as ever, and the penalty kill continues to excel.
If I hopped in my DeLorean, set it to October 31, 2013 and sped to 88 mph generating the 1.21 gigawatts that science says is necessary for time travel, I'd still make this trade every time. It hasn't turned out to be an obvious win by any means but that's ok. It made all the sense in the world at the time. Since then, Talbot has continued to be Talbot in Colorado and fortunately the Flyers haven't really missed him.