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Are the Flyers buyers or sellers?

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We’re still waiting on answers around here.

Heather Barry / SB Nation

With a split in this week’s series against Boston, the Flyers remain five points behind the Bruins (who have two games in hand) for the last playoff spot in the East, and are tied with the Rangers by points (though the Rangers have the tiebreaker). The Flyers had a real chance to nearly close the gap completely this week, and they let that slip away from them. Sure, their chances of getting back into that last playoff spot are alive, but the question of just what this team is remains. And with the trade deadline looming on Monday, the Flyers are in a race to figure that out.

If the Flyers had come out and won last night’s game pretty handily, it likely would have made that decision, whether to trust the team and go all in this year or sell off pieces for assets to improve the team next year, quite a bit easier. We could look at them and say “there are still some holes here, to be sure, but the team seems to be improving, and that may well be worth betting on.” We saw some positive flashes from them in each of the last three games, and the biggest bit of good news comes in the fact that Carter Hart really looks to be getting closer to old form, which has been a massive boost for the team (and will be down the stretch).

But with the Flyers putting up a period like they did in last night’s third, where silly mistakes burned them and they let off the gas significantly (they only generated four shots across the whole of the period, after putting up 38 in the first two), effectively killing their chances of tying this one all on their own, they seemed to take another step back, or at the very least failed to make another full step forward, as it were, and further complicated the takeaways. Flashes of improvement are a positive in a vacuum, certainly, but they’re also hardly a decisive turn, either.

The team’s needs haven’t really changed either, but the potential for at least some internal fixes don’t all seem so far away. Secondary scoring has been an issue, but we’re seeing players like Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom looking like they’re getting going again, at least in flashes. A recent call-up like Tanner Laczynski brought a nice bit of stability in his first couple of games. The goaltending situation remains a bit tenuous, but as we said, Hart rebounding well and making some improvements is huge.

The defense remains, well, a bit of a disaster, but the need for that to be addressed hasn’t changed. The Flyers have shown glimpses that the existing pieces can be proactive and improve the team as much as they can within their own capacity, but it hasn’t been a complete effort, and it hasn’t been with consistency, which likely leaves management wondering if that’s enough to justify spending assets to make further additions and fixes.

The answer hasn’t drawn any nearer, but a pessimist (or indeed, perhaps just a realist) might say that the inconsistency is an answer in and of itself. The fact that they keep backsliding and making these same kinds of lapses, fall into traps of letting off the gas, making poor decisions, and taking themselves out of games immediately after doing some really positive things, all of this history may well show that they can’t be trusted to put it all together again in a meaningful way in this last run of games. If there’s one thing that’s going to be needed, it’s consistency, and this is something that’s been decidedly thin throughout the whole of the season. And that’s not something you can buy at the deadline.

The Flyers are the masters of their own destiny, but their time is running out. They have just three games left between now and Monday’s deadline, and that’s a short window to convince the management group that they’re worth betting on to pull things together down the stretch. With every one step forward, two steps back kind of performance or group of performances, they muddy the waters and perhaps pull themselves further away from “buyer” territory. These next three games are going to be massive, there’s really no overstating that, but if they look anything like these last three, the Flyers may find themselves falling just a hair short once again.