Sorry for no Fly By this morning. Geoff and I were away from the computer, and Ben has one of those important real-life jobs.
Tim Panaccio of CSN has a great breakdown of breakup day, which took place at the Skate Zone in Voorhees this afternoon. The lengthy story discusses everything surrounding the Flyers, and it attacks things from the perspective of GM Paul Holmgren, who gave a state of the team press conference today as well.
After the jump, we'll break down Tim's article as we try to figure out what the organization will do next.
The big question, of course, is goaltending. Michael Leighton may be here, or he may not. Holmgren was non-committal on that issue today, saying that there's plenty to evaluate. That's true, and let's hope that the Flyers take the time they need to take to ensure they make the right decision.
Gut feeling? Given the Flyers don’t have a first or second-round pick at the upcoming NHL draft in Los Angeles, they will strongly consider trading for a goalie. A less likely option is signing one in free agency, given the options are overly expensive and many of the goalies available are aging.
Much may hinder on whether Leighton’s agent, Mike Liut, asks for $2 million or more in salary on a re-signing. There’s enough to suggest that goalie coach Jeff Reese would like a full season to work with Leighton, who came here last December.
There are a few options at goaltender via free agency that wouldn't break the bank -- Chris Mason and Dan Ellis come to mind, if they're allowed to get to July 1 by their clubs. But it does seem that a trade is more likely. It's always tough to speculate on a trade, but we've been doing it for months around these parts.
We won't get into specific speculation on that just yet, but to me, the news today that the Flyers are taking the time to think about the goaltending situation can be looked at in two ways.
- The good way: they aren't letting the success of the playoffs cloud their decision making, thinking that Michael Leighton is the answer.
- The bad way: they're still thinking that Michael Leighton can be the answer.
Overall, Panaccio says that "goaltending remains the top offseason priority for the Flyers," and that's obviously welcome news.
One more bit from Panotch on goaltending. He's saying that Johan Backlund signed a two-year contract with the Flyers. There were questions on whether he would re-sign, feeling as though he didn't have a chance in the organization. Maybe riding the bench for such a successful playoff run changed his mind, or maybe there were never even issues at all.
THE THIRD PAIRING
The quotes from Holmgren today regarding the third defensive pairing are troubling.
And although the Flyers lacked for adequate NHL-ready depth on defense in the playoffs, Holmgren said he doesn’t feel the need to upgrade there in free agency. The third pair could improve.
Holmgren said the answers are right here.
"Our guys need opportunities to play," he said, later referring to young Ryan Parent, who the club hasn’t given up on. "Our coaches did a good job of playing their best players in the playoffs. … Do we need to find a guy? I think we have those guys."
That's Paul Holmgren essentially saying that he's not going to go out and grab another defenseman. He thinks that Ryan Parent, Lukas Krajicek, Danny Syvret and Oskars Bartulis are solutions on the third D pairing. I disagree, and I think the playoffs proved that they aren't.
I'm fine with Krajicek. He's mobile, he's big, and he's a good depth defender. I like Bartulis as a seventh defenseman too. It's true that Ryan Parent was injured for a big chunk of the regular season and that he didn't see much playing time because of it, but he had plenty of opportunities to redeem himself in these playoffs. There's a reason he only played three minutes a night (if that) in the playoffs.
THE CENTER POSITION
Having a ton of good centermen is a great thing, but when you have five guys that play the position naturally, and most of those guys are less-effective if not downright terrible when playing a different forward position, that good problem turns into a bad one. It means you're getting less out of your players than you should be.
We saw it first hand in these playoffs. Jeff Carter struggled at wing. Claude Giroux has struggled at wing this season. It's just not a good situation for the Flyers to be in.
"I think we have four good centers, five with Blair Betts," Holmgren said. "It’s a nice problem to have in my opinion."
"That’s something we have to discuss," Holmgren said, adding he wants this team stacked on defense and stacked down the middle.
Said Briere: "Everyone knows I feel more comfortable in the middle." Briere added he would do whatever benefits the team most, even going back to wing.
Here's how I see it -- if you can grab another scoring winger to play on the third line, you can essentially keep the lines the same as they were last season. You have Richards at center on your top line, Briere at center on your second line (still need a name for that combo, by the way) and you keep Giroux at center on the third line.
As JVR continues to get better, he'll make Giroux a move effective player. Arron Asham has nice hands, but I think we can agree that he's wasting Giroux's talents a bit -- or, you could say that Asham looked better than he actually is because of Giroux's talents. (Panaccio said at the end of his article that it looks like the Flyers won't re-sign Asham anyway.) If you put a winger with some touch on that wing, though, you make Giroux a much better player and you improve the production from that line.
But ah, then yes, you're missing where Carter goes. When I break it down, he seems like the odd man out in the middle. It's tough to say that about a 40 goal scorer, but he's the only one of the bunch without a no trade clause, and you're not getting rid of Giroux, Briere or your captain anyway. They could use Carter to acquire a goalie, and they could pick up that winger via free agency.
It's not as easy as all of this, considering guys like Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo are free agents. But I disagree with Holmgren that having five centers is a good problem to have. Again, it's wasting talent, in my opinion.
Thanks to Tim Panaccio of CSN for the solid reporting on this story. It makes our job as people who analyze the news of the team much easier. In fact, we wouldn't be able to do it without work of the journalists covering the team.