Let’s not sugarcoat it. The Flyers’ defense was absolutely horrific in both losses to the Boston Bruins.
This is no surprise to any reader. We all observed how ineffective they were at moving the puck, the in-zone turnovers, and the lack of coverage at all situations. This and more was all so incredibly and blatantly evident especially in Saturday’s 6-1 loss, and even the calm and reserved Carter Hart was left frustrated.
Sums up the start to this season. pic.twitter.com/e3qS8RASmM— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 24, 2021
The only defensemen who didn’t stand out in a negative way were Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, and even they didn’t have a particularly good game on Saturday.
It’s abundantly clear that changes need to happen stylistically, as well as an increase in the execution of plays that can only be attributed to increase in focus and preparation. Tactics wise, there is an interesting thread on twitter from the Czech duo Andy and Rono that explores the idea that maybe changes in style the coaching staff have implemented may no be working and need to change. Others argue that it’s not style, but execution. Either way, something needs to give.
There have also been calls for changes in personnel to reinvigorate this currently languid lineup, primarily on the blue line. Mark Friedman has already drawn into the lineup to replace the injured Phil Myers, but Erik Gustafsson and Robert Hagg have been horrific from a statistical (average CF% of 43.62% at 5-on-5) and eye test perspective. Shayne Gostisbehere is now available (whether or not he is game ready is another question) and could easily draw in for Gustafsson as he plays a similar style of hockey. However, could there be another replacement?
The Flyers as an organization clearly have an affinity for Egor Zamula. Heck, I really love Zamula’s game. He looked very good at the 2019-20 World Junior Championships, and had a fantastic last two WHL seasons. Yet, he hasn’t yet played a professional game, either in the AHL or NHL. The AHL season hasn’t started, and sending Zamula to play in a different league is both time consuming and can potentially complicate his availability in North America. So, truly how ready could Zamula be?
Egor Zamula. pic.twitter.com/IH24pi96ov— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) January 10, 2021
I don’t think anybody knows the answer, but what we do know is that the 2nd and 3rd pairs looked and played at an AHL level on Saturday. Zamula is clearly AHL ready, as that is the level he currently sits at, so he theoretically couldn’t do much worse. Chuck Fletcher has said that Zamula needs AHL time, but with that league set to kick off on the 5th of February, it could be worth giving Zamula some sort of shot in the NHL, as there aren’t many other options outside of the players already in the NHL. Of course, one worries that a poor performance could set back Zamula and affect his confidence, but for an already shaken Flyers team, time is of the essence in a shortened season where losing streaks make an even greater impact.
Could Zamula possibly do a worse job than any of the bottom four did on Saturday? Yes. But he could also play better.
Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick