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Nick Cousins scratched because, sure, why the hell not at this point?

Dave Hakstol, what are you doing?

Philadelphia Flyers v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Imagine you’re an NHL head coach, and you have four players who can fill three spots in your lineup ahead of a big, must-win game. You’re running the numbers, looking at what each player has brought to your team all season long.

Here’s how it shapes up:

Four players: which do you put in your lineup?

Player G A PTS Pts / Gm Shots Corsi % Corsi% Rel
Player G A PTS Pts / Gm Shots Corsi % Corsi% Rel
Player A 3 3 6 0.09 77 46.4 -6.3
Player B 6 6 12 0.18 59 46.9 -5.5
Player C 6 10 16 0.28 95 52.1 1.6
Player D 4 1 5 0.11 40 49.7 -2.4
via Hockey Reference

There’s likely not a world in which you sit Player C on this list, right? He leads this group of four in every category, and that’s without the context that Player C has played in nine fewer games than Players A and B.

As you may be able to tell, Player C is Nick Cousins, who will be a healthy scratch tonight as the Flyers host the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game that their playoff lives depend on. Player A is Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Player B is Chris VandeVelde and Player D is Roman Lyubimov.

I understand that this is a simplistic way of looking at this issue at hand, and that it’s going to take about eight seconds after I hit the publish button on this post for somebody to hop in the comments and say that Bellemare, VandeVelde and Lyubimov bring some sort of other element to the lineup that warrants their inclusion.

Maybe it’s Bellemare’s “heart” or VandeVelde’s “penalty killing ability” that earn them their spot in the lineup. Sure, whatever, I guess those things are true. But the numbers show it: these elements of their games do not drive play, they don’t lead to scoring chances, and they don’t lead to pucks in the back of the opponent’s net. In the case of CVV’s penalty killing role, it’s so vital to team success that they rank 22nd in the league on the PK. Amazing stuff there. Definitely can’t mess with that!

Cousins is the most skilled of these four players, and the most effective player in terms of both the numbers and his actual skill to the naked eye. It’s a must-win game for the Flyers tonight, and just as he’s done all season, Dave Hakstol has continued with some truly mind-boggling personnel decisions at the bottom of his lineup.

Win or lose tonight, the Flyers are likely not going to the playoffs. They’re a mediocre team that’s faced some bad luck for a lot of the year and it’s going to cost them once 82 games are played and the final points are tallied.

But repeated coaching decisions like this one — while small and relatively inconsequential on an individual basis — have me more frustrated than just about anything else with this team this season, purely because of how avoidable they are. Hakstol has made a bad situation worse all year with these sorts of calls, and with a team that -- despite everything else — is only five points out of a playoff spot, I wonder just how much it actually has cost them.