With the regular season winding down and the Flyers sinking quickly, Ken Hitchcock, Bob Clarke, and company had better do something to get this thing righted, and fast.
Since returning from the Olympic break, the orange and black have not been playing well at all. Their offense has seemingly disappeared and their defense has been appalling to say the least. While they did play well in a shootout loss to New Jersey, it was a mistake that cost them the win. Goalie Robert Esche played the puck behind the net, and passed in front of an empty goal to Victor Kozlov, who backhanded the puck into an empty net. Without that mistake, the Flyers win the game, 1-0, instead of falling in a shootout.
The very next night against the Rangers, the Flyers looked as though they were a pee wee club, constantly giving the puck away in their defensive third, which turned into goal after goal after goal. It was, quite possibly, the saddest display I have ever seen. Outside of a kiddies game that is. All of this occurred after the team failed to capitalize on numerous first period power plays. The end result was a 6-1 whitewashing by the team they are chasing for tops in the Atlantic Division.
Then we have the loss to the Islanders Saturday night, in which the team was beaten by their special teams or lack thereof, once again. This time falling on a two-man disadvantage in the third period.
The lack of solid special teams play has been killing the Flyers all season long and it is really starting to catch up to them now. The team can't score on power plays and it certainly can't stop the opposition on penalty kills. Call it a lack of experience or whatever you want, the fact of the matter is without improving their special teams, the Flyers will go nowhere this season. Just like in seasons past, they will pump up our expectations only to fall late in the season.
Clarke needs to make a move this week prior to the trade deadline, or a few moves, to get this thing going again. The loss of Keith Primeau for the season due to concussion issues is a huge loss for the club. Primeau's leadership on and off the ice proved huge during the last playoff run, when the captain strapped the team on his shoulders and carried them to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
He will have to be replaced, and thanks to a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Primeau's salary doesn't count against the salary cap this season, so the Flyers can replace his contract with another player's. Who they bring in is anyone's guess.
There have been rumblings about Oli Jokinen from Florida or Keith Tkchuck from St. Louis. The latest rumor I heard came Saturday, when it was said that the Flyers were ready to ship Robert Esche and Donald Brashear to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi. Yes, please. If Clarke is able to pull of a deal like that, it would immensely improve the team and give them a big, power forward with great hands.
Now whether or not any of this happens remains to be seen, but something needs to be done, starting in Montreal or this season is going to end like so many of the previous ones, with another team hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup. Again.
If you have any comments or opinions about this column, email Nick Browne at email@example.com