The Philadelphia Flyers’ secondary scorers can’t buy a goal, and owner Ed Snider has called them out for it.
Hide ya’ kids. Hide ya’ wife. Well, don’t. But hide any Philadelphia Flyer not playing on the first line, as he’s not safe.
The Philadelphia Flyers are synonymous with the term rollercoaster. We’re used to drama there. Coaches get fired early in seasons, as we’ve seen in recent years with Ken Hitchcock, John Stevens and Peter Laviolette. Goalies turn in a good season here and there – right, Brian Boucher, Roman Cechmanek, Robert Esche and Ilya Bryzgalov? – only to turn into pumpkins and get run out of town. Star players get shipped out at the drop of the hat, as we’ve seen with the likes of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
But even by Flyer standards, what’s happening in Philadelphia right now is downright strange. Jakub Voracek continues to light up the scoresheet with help from linemates Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn. But the rest of the Flyers’ forward lines have produced two goals in their last nine games, eight of which the team has lost.
In a stunning twist, owner Ed Snider isn’t mincing words about the scoring drought.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been in hockey,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Even when we were an expansion team, somebody chipped in here and there.”
And it’s not like Snider held the 1967-68 Flyers in high esteem, either. Those were the teams he felt got the tar beat out of them in the pre-Broad Street Bullies era. Translation: this is bad, even by zany, kookie, wacky Philly standards.
Voracek’s 32 points place him second in NHL scoring behind Sidney Crosby, and Giroux is sixth at 27. Schenn sits at 17 points and has been a better fit than former first-liner Wayne Simmonds, who wasn’t comfortable playing his off wing, But moving back to the right side hasn’t seemed to help Simmonds, who had five goals in his first four games but has found twine three times in 19 contests since.
Michael Raffl’s six goals in 15 games were respectable, and he’s back from a lower-body injury. Coach Craig Berube even tried Raffl on the top line in Schenn’s spot last weekend. But the numbers fall off a cliff after that:
Sean Couturier: 4 goals
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: 3 goals
Matt Read: 2 goals
Vincent Lecavalier: 2 goals
R.J. Umberger: 1 goal
Chris VandeVelde: 1 goal
Oh, and here’s one more:
Steve Mason: 2 assists.
Yes, the Flyers’ starting goaltender has more assists than Umberger has goals. The same Umberger acquired for Scott Hartnell in the summer. Woof.
Let’s remove Bellemare and VandeVelde from this group for a second, because come on. That leaves Couturier, Read, Lecavalier and Umberger, whose 9 goals in a combined 85 games pro-rate to 25 more over the remaining 236 games and will yield 34 goals. The quartet’s total cap hit this season: $14,475,000. That’s $425,725.29 per goal. The same four players last year delivered 73 goals for $10,925,000, as Read and Couturier were still making less than $1 million at the end of their previous contracts. That’s $149,657.53 per goal. Almost triple the value. It’s easy to point the finger at Umberger’s and Lecavalier’s bloated veteran deals, but Read and Couturier are the ones who got big raises this season and haven’t delivered. They are just as accountable.
So what now? The team has very little wiggle room with the salary cap, and even if GM Ron Hextall finds takers for Lecavalier and Umberger, Lecavalier has a no-movement clause and Umberger has a modified no-trade clause. Snider doesn’t want to use the cap as an excuse anyway. One more piece of his rant:
“All teams are having cap problems. We’ll find a way to work around it. In the meantime, that’s not the issue. The issue is that we have pretty much the same team as last year, and we’re not performing. We’re hoping they can turn it around. We have two of the best forwards in the league, but two players can’t turn around a team. What’s going on with everybody else? What’s going on with Couturier, Read, Simmonds, and the other guys? They should be chipping in with some goals. It’s weird. I’m not going to give up on those guys. Even Lecavalier got 20 goals last year. What happened?”
Even though Snider has publicly defended Berube, let’s do the math here. If the Flyers won’t give up on their core, how can they fix the problem besides firing Berube and continuing their tradition of pre-Christmas axings?
Expect something drastic soon. Scoring depth was supposed to be the 2014-15 Flyers’ strong suit, and the organization won’t stand for the lack thereof much longer.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin