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Twenty game check-in: the forwards

Just about a quarter of the way through the season, we’ve compiled our thoughts in the first roundtable of the season.

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Ah, the chill of late November air. The Flyers are now 20 games into the 2018-2019 season and, with a record of 9-9-2, sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, sixth in the Metropolitan Division. Things have been... interesting(?) to say the least so it felt like the perfect time to have a roundtable discussion.

Today we will be taking a look at the Flyers’ forwards, and we will be hitting on topics like how Travis Konecny is Just The Best, how Oskar Lindblom is an absolute monster behind the net, and whether Wayne Simmonds has been good or not through this early season. Tomorrow our focus will shift to the defense and the goaltenders.

Wayne Simmonds - 20gp, 8g, 3a, 11p, 47.80% CF, 48.67% xGF

Colorado Avalanche v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Drew: Purely from a point production standpoint, I wouldn’t say he’s performed awfully. But just watching him on the ice it’s clear that Simmonds has struggled. To me at least, he looks slow to react and struggles to keep up with the faster players on his line. Not from any lack of effort, but I think Simmonds has been a bit disappointing.

Maddie: To be completely honest, I expected him to look a lot worse to start this season, coming off of All Of The Injuries, so when he looked fine and mobile, I was pleasantly surprised.

Mike: This is probably where I expected Simmonds to be here early after all that happened to the Train last season as Maddie said. While the production hasn’t been bad necessarily, Simmonds’ productions feels quite replaceable and while you can’t weight the intangibles that he brings to the table... he’s a prime trade chip if the Flyers continue to underwhelm.

Craig: I feel Wayne has had an up-and-down season. He’s had his moments (opening night, two-goal game against Florida, assist on Giroux’s goal in Arizona), but 11 points in 20 games feels like a bit of a surprise to me. I want to see him spend more time with JVR. I think that third line has an opportunity to take advantage of the level of competition they should face, so if he still is underwhelming in a month or so I’ll be disappointed.

Brad: Like Craig, 11 points was a surprise to me as well. It doesn’t feel like he’s played all that well — yet he’s on pace for 32 goals which would tie a career high. I really don’t know what to make of Simmonds’ start.

Bill R: I feel like at this stage this is what Wayne is, especially when you consider he’s played a lot of minutes on line three without JVR. He’s played four games with JVR and in those games he has three goals, so maybe if the two of them can stay healthy that will prove to be a fit. Realistically I think what we’re probably all wondering most is how long he’s going to be here.

Kyle: Honestly I can’t be all that mad at Simmonds’ production in the early going. He’s definitely underwhelming at 5-on-5 in regards to play-driving, but the goals and points are there, for now. Consistency will be the key for Wayne and of course, if the team can avoid a position where trading him will be too good to pass up.

Travis Konecny - 20gp, 5g, 5a, 10p, 57.41% CF, 55.04% xGF

Vegas Golden Knights v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Brad: Is… is Konecny a play driver? Last year that answer would be a hard no, but here we are 20 games into the regular season and he has a team best +10.01% CF relT at 5-on-5. Whichever line he’s been on has generally been the Flyers best, so despite him being on pace to score a bit less than he did last year, I think seeing him be so effective at 5-on-5 is a big positive.

Kyle: You can basically just copy and paste Brad’s words for my thoughts on TK. The points are finally starting to come, and if he continues to drive play at the rate he’s at? It should result in a huge year for our sweet boy Teeks.

Drew: It’s undeniably clear that TK can change a game in an instant (like he did against Tampa the other day). With solid numbers (been unlucky goal scoring wise) and good possession metrics, he’s clearly earned that top line spot.

Mike: Has he been unlucky? Sure, but he’s earned those A+ chances and will bury them sooner rather than later or else he’ll set a new NHL record for posts hit in a season. He’s been the Flyers’ most consistently dangerous forward and points are soon to follow.

Craig: I think Konecny has looked good this season, essentially for the reasons Brad and Drew have listed above. He’s on pace for about 40 points and 200 shots on goal, which is around what he provided last year over a full season. I think, as a whole, that top line has looked a lot better as of late, and a lot of that is due to Konecny’s creativity. Twice this season (Coyotes in Philly, Lightning game on Saturday) he’s completed a nice give-and-go play with Giroux off a zone entry. I don’t think that’s a play a majority of the players in the lineup can make.

Bill R: Konecny is one of those guys who has the speed to turn a nothing play into something special. I’ve seen the same burst that he used in the Pittsburgh series to score that fantastic breakaway goal, but I also see some legitimate chemistry with Giroux. What I don’t see is a reason to go away from that combo 5 on 5.

Sean Couturier - 20gp, 8g, 6a, 14p, 51.10% CF, 44.45% xGF

San Jose Sharks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Brad: I think it’s fair to be disappointed by Couturier’s start to the season based on what he did last year, but given that he missed so much of camp and the preseason, is his start all that surprising? The points are starting to show up, and I’m fully convinced that he’ll turn it around, but he’s been underwhelming for a first line center.

Maddie: Yeah, this is definitely one we can rationalize pretty easily, but it doesn’t really make us any less bummed.

Craig: He’s got five goals and 11 points in his last nine games. Also, According to The (My) Eye Test he’s looked better. I think he’s already turning it around. He’s also started doing all the little things we’ve become accustomed to him doing over the last few games. Like on Saturday, when he scored off the faceoff and stole the puck from Tyler Johnson in the neutral zone to start the Flyers’ fourth goal of the game. His first 11 games could have served as his training camp and preseason.

Bill R: As Craig mentioned, I think if you’re the Flyers your hope is that his first 10 or so games were all health and conditioning related, because when it comes down to it line one absolutely has to work. If the top line isn’t going the Flyers are probably a little bit better prepared to handle it than they were in the past three or four years, but it’s still a big deal. Couturier has to be productive with those minutes, especially with the penalty kill and goaltending issues.

Mike: Thankfully Coots has picked it up after a slow start or else we’d be firmly into “move G back to center” talk and that is not what this team needs right now. That said, he’s got to keep up the production in that top line center role for the Flyers to stay afloat while the special teams continue to bottom out.

Drew: Couturier being elite (yes, elite) at center is the key to the first line’s success. So far, he hasn’t quite lived up to that, but hope is he can get there and I believe he will.

Kyle: Definitely think the limited time in preseason and training camp, plus lingering effects from his injury affected him early on. He looks more like the Couturier of old which as Drew brilliantly mentioned, is an elite centerman.

Oskar Lindblom - 20gp, 4g, 6a, 10p, 50.71% CF, 58.92% xGF

Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images


Craig: What Maddie said. Also, I feel like The Swedish Stank is the only forward on the team that utilizes creating offense from below the goal line, which I knew a few of us at BSH always scream about. Maybe he can tell the other forwards about setting up passes to the slot from below the goal line or cross-ice passes for chances.

Maddie: It me, screaming about that. Inject it straight into my veins.

Kyle: Starting with the Anaheim game to kick off the California road trip, Oskar is third on the team in high danger chances for. He’s not only driving play but he’s generating high quality scoring chances to boot. Gretzky’s Office? More like Oskar’s Office imo.

Drew: He seems to have found a rhythm playing alongside Nolan Patrick. The pair have combined for some very pretty plays, and the young guns continue to fire away. Peep Maddie: Lindblom for Calder.

Mike: Agree with Drew, he’s found a nice home with Nolan and it’d be huge to have a couple young players develop together and continue the chemistry they’ve shown so far. Not sure the point production will be there for a Calder case, though, as Artemi Panarin is having a hell of a season out there in Columbus.

Brad: As Craig and Kyle have said, I think the biggest thing with Lindblom is the fact that he does something better than any Flyer since Danny Briere—set up scoring chances from behind the net. He’s surpassed my expectations so far.

Bill R: The best Oskar(s) since Bartulis. It’s not close. Thank you and goodnight.

Nolan Patrick - 17gp, 5g, 4a, 9p, 47.93% CF, 57.70% xGF

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Craig: I think Patrick is a tough forward for me to grade right now. Some games this season, I feel as though he and the second line have taken over games. Other nights, that second line is quiet and on the wrong side of the puck possession battle. Also, I think one could argue he’s been a product of Lindblom’s offensive surge. Patrick’s corsi for percentage with Lindblom on the ice is 45.1, while Lindblom’s corsi for percentage with Patrick off the ice is 60.34. That being said, I have liked his season and if he’s going to be spending most of the foreseeable future with Lindblom, it really doesn’t matter how well the two play apart.

Mike: The inconsistency with Nolan from night-to-night has been frustrating for me, especially with him being counted on as a second-line center. That said, he just turned 20 and that kind of up-and-down play is to be expected with most young players. As far as production, he’s doing the little things right and points will come especially if he stays in his current role.

Bill R: I’m really not concerned about Patrick. The first few games were a little dicey and then he got injured, which couldn’t have helped. However, the one thing I think I see from Patrick on most nights is an attempt to push back when the team needs a play. He’s still young, so I sort of expect some of the performances to be uneven, but I’m encouraged by what he’s shown after returning from injury.

Kyle: Patrick is right behind Lindblom in HDCF starting with the Ducks game, and the chemistry between those two is undeniable at this rate. They are monsters along the boards and so talented at winning puck battles, so early in their careers. If these two stay together and continue to play great hockey below the goalline (paging Bill Matz), Patrick should see a big year.

Maddie: Yeah, I just want to echo Bill and Kyle’s sentiments. He’s doing some good work. I’m not really worried about Patrick. It’s all going to come together soon enough, I feel.

Drew: Patrick has looked like the player we all hoped he would be: a playmaker at centre who is strong on the puck and can win battles. I’m certain the numbers will improve with time, but right now I’m certainly liking what I’m seeing.

Scott Laughton - 20gp, 6g, 1a, 7p, 45.57% CF, 47.68% xGF

Vegas Golden Knights v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Kelly: So he was good to start the season, right? One of the better players on the team? Did I dream that?

Drew: He’s reminding me a lot right now of 1996-97 Trent Klatt. A bottom six forward with a boost of skill is a good thing. A Very good thing.

Mike: A Trent Klatt reference in 2018? *Owen Wilson voice* Wow.

Maddie: But Drew. You seem to have forgotten. Skill on the fourth line is Actually Bad.

Brad: For all the talk about Laughton being one of the team’s most consistent players, and even one of the only bright spots at times, the numbers aren’t very pretty. While watching the games I do generally agree with that narrative, the effort is there, but that’s really making me question whether that’s entirely true or not. In the end I guess I’d say he’s been fine, but his shot metrics really need to get out of the mid-40s before I can say he’s been good.

Craig: His underlying numbers aren’t as good as they were last year, but I think he’s been doing pretty well as the team’s fourth line center. I think he was getting a lot of love earlier in the season because the entire team was a mess. Now that everything has settled down a bit, the focus hasn’t been on how a bottom-six forward has looked while measuring with The Eye Test. The line of Dale Weise-Scott Laughton-NAK is a pretty ideal fourth line to me. He provides offensive upside and strong forechecking in his limited ice time.

Bill R: I’m afraid to say anything bad about Laughton, because….ok, not, because he looks like he might murder me, but, because I actually think he’s another guy who has shown solid effort almost every night. I don’t think his metrics are ever going to be stellar, but his effort shows up in pursuit and forechecking, which is something this team was lacking early on.

Kyle: It’s hard to complain about Laughton, even with his poor underlying numbers, because of what Bill just mentioned, his effort. Sure, at the end of the day results are what matter and I think he’s a much better play driver than what we’ve seen so far, but he’s providing spark in a lineup that seems to lack energy way too often.

Dale Weise - 17gp, 1g, 5a, 6p, 51.49% CF, 62.23% xGF

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Kelly: I have nothing bad to say about Dale Weise right now and it feels weird.

Craig: I’m agreeing with Kelly, which is even weirder. I think this is how Hextall pictured Weise playing when he signed him in 2016. Which, if this was how Weise had looked over his first two seasons, I don’t think any of us would be complaining.

Bill R: Great. Now I have to agree with both of you and it feels super awkward. For all the legitimate complaints about his game in the past, Weise has looked more like the Habs version of Dale than ever before. Not great and not awful, but definitely the guy you want trying to go bar down in a critical, late game, situation. Did that happen? I still can’t believe it.

Kyle: Yeah I mean...he really hasn’t been that bad? Like actually competent at hockey and looking like the guy Hextall thought he was getting? Welcome to the Twilight Zone, folks.

Brad: I agree with all of you. Look at that, the BSH echo chamber is back in business, folks.

In all seriousness I think Weise has been a pleasant surprise? He’s been… fine? Maybe even good?

Mike: All five of you are wrong. This guy stinks and it’s only a matter of games -- er periods -- until the real Dale Weise shows up and returns as an unmitigated disaster.

Brad: Echo chamber dead.

Maddie: /single streamer falls from the ceiling

Drew: Cons: I wish he wouldn’t just dump the puck into the zone on every entry. Pros: he’s played the gritty, punctured game that he was brought in for (finally) and while he may be a few years late it’s certainly nice to see.

Jori Lehtera - 18gp, 1g, 2a, 3p, 48.79% CF, 52.88% xGF

San Jose Sharks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Brad: I find it slightly amusing that Lehtera is getting scratched now when he’s actually been passable as the fourth line center, but not for the second half of last season when he was outright bad.

Craig: Real shame he got BUMPed from the fourth LINE. (For real, it’s not. He’s bad and Laughton is a better all-around player).

Bill R: Craig with the Shaq-like dunk! It was time for Jori to sit. When he plays the best case scenario is that he’s passable. When he doesn’t play the best case scenario is that someone else will actually have a pretty good game in his place. I feel like the odds of that are much HIGHer.

Kyle: He wasn’t playing poorly before seeing Laughton take his spot as 4C, but at the end of the day it’s not like one could really justify playing Jorald over Scoot Loots, so meh.

Drew: I liked when he fought that guy when the team showed no life, but thank you Hak for sitting him.

Mike: It’s really neat that this man is glued to the press box now.

Maddie: I’m, uh… I’m not really holding my breath on that one.

Brad: Look at that, Mike getting dunked on by Hakstol just one day after writing these words. Lehtera looks to be in for Aube-Kubel on the fourth line.

Jordan Weal - 16gp, 2g, 3a, 5p, 55.74% CF, 59.94% xGF

San Jose Sharks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Craig: I feel like I see a lot of Weal hate this season. I think he’s performed as advertised, but he’s been put into higher roles than where he should probably be used. He’s one of the players on the team I notice routinely racking up takeaways in the offensive zone to extend cycles. I know five points in 16 games isn’t great, but his underlying numbers are good and IT’S JORDAN WEAL. He’s not the problem.

Bill R: I have to be honest...I sort of find myself having a very indifferent opinion of Weal. Yes he’s had decent advanced stats and I think he’s had some moments, but I don’t see a lot of the vision or space creating plays I thought he could show after his initial call up. Possessing the puck is great, but to be of maximum value we need production as well.

Kyle: I am perfectly okay with Weal’s play this season simply because he’s finally where he belongs, at center. He was so painful to watch last season on the wing, and while the points aren’t coming, he did just get James van Riemsdyk back on his line along with Simmonds, with his strong possession numbers the points SHOULD come.

Drew: He’s not been Weal-ly good or bad (I’m sorry), but as mentioned above his possession metrics are solid and he’d be sitting on a higher point total for sure with different line mates (and a healthy JVR).

Mike: He’s been fine, and he should be producing more given what his metrics look like but this has been the case with Weal before in years past.

Jakub Voracek - 20gp, 5g, 12a, 17p, 45.03% CF, 44.76% xGF

Colorado Avalanche v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Bill R: I feel like this is a trap. Are you guys just trying to get Jake to block me, because if so it worked…like two years ago. Jake is one of the players that’s been a little up and down as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen games where he’s revved it up and looked explosive, but I’ve also seen games this year where I felt like he’s been one of the prime offenders of being a little complacent until the last 10-15 mins. He has it in him to be better, but he hasn’t been bad, just a touch inconsistent.

Drew: On his night, Voracek can single handedly win the Flyers a game. But unfortunately not many nights have been his nights. That’s not to say he’s been playing poorly, as his point totals suggest otherwise, but even by just glancing at his play it’s safe to say he’s been underwhelming. It’s mostly been Patrick and Voracek carrying the 2nd line, and if Voracek played like the Jake we know every night, they’d be unstoppable.

Craig: Drew has my main takeaway about Voracek. His point production is fine and his on-ice numbers are worse than usual (although that feels a little misleading to me), but he feels like the passenger on the second line with Lindblom and Patrick. The guy can take over games and he has this season, but on the nights when Lindblom and Patrick show their lapses in consistency as younger players, it’d be nice if Voracek could step up and carry that second line.

Brad: Frustrating. I really like Jake Voracek, but man he can be frustrating. He’s so good but he just always leaves you wanting more. The on-ice numbers are bad, the points are good, the power play which he’s a key part of has been bad. I don’t know, I just want more from him.

Kyle: Think Brad hit the nail on the head with how his season has been, frustrating. He’s a great player and I think his metrics are going to improve sooner rather than later, but right now he just needs to show us more, especially for what he’s being paid.

Mike: Is it me or does it seem like Jake has been kind of sulking that he’s not on the top line. I know he’s spent time away from Claude in recent years, but I can’t remember him even not giving a crap about backchecking like this ever.

Claude Giroux - 20gp, 7g, 17a, 24p, 53.33%, 44.87% xGF

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Bill R: Early on I think the whole team looked lost, but Giroux has been pretty consistent. He’s put up 13 points in October and has 11 points so far in November, with some of them being of the clutch variety. He’s also playing on the PK more frequently, which is something I didn’t think I’d see at this stage of his career.

Drew: I think Giroux has been the best player on the team. He’s pretty much been the same Claude we’ve come to know and love, and this is a very good thing. I do worry about his legs at his age as the season progresses with his all-situations play, but hopefully my worries are put to bed.

Craig: G is still G. He has a better corsi for percentage and points-per-60 rate than he did last season. I said it above, I think the first line is starting to hit their groove as of late. With the way each individual on the top line has progressed through the season, I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon.

Mike: Boy am I glad that G is off a to super start and we don’t have to hear questions about whether or not last season was a fluke. The man is a point producing machine and given the Flyers’ special teams struggles, they need all the production that can squeeze out of their captain. Now if only he could start getting that PP1 firing on all cylinders again…

Brad: Top-20 in the league in even strength points, total points, and points per game—yeah he’s good.. As Mike pointed out, he’s done this while the power play hasn’t been clicking, so when that unit inevitably starts connecting, Giroux’s point totals should surge even higher.

Kyle: It is oh so amazing to see Claude Giroux perform at an elite, superstar level at a consistent level again. G has been amazing as Mike and Brad mentioned with the power play being the worst it’s been in years. He opens up the ice so brilliantly and creates a tremendous amount of offense by himself. He’s pretty darn good, folks.

Brad: Someone here might just need to write another “Why Claude Giroux should win the Hart Trophy” piece this season.