Monday, February 18, 2008

Flyers Give Back to Fans By Sucking Again

The Flyers capped Fan Appreciation day at the Wachovia Center by finding yet another way to lose en route to dropping a 5 - 3 decision to the Canadiens. The loss was the Flyers' 7 straight and there is little relief in sight.

The injury bug has also bitten the Flyers so bad at this point (Denis Topelko got knocked out of the game with a concussion and Steve Downie already missed this game with a concussion) that there is a very credible rumor (I consider Eklund from to be credible) that Claude Giroux will be an emergency callup from junior hockey for the Tuesday night game against Ottawa.

The effort was there in this game and in the last game against Montreal. I am at the point right now in thinking that this Flyers team, as currently constituted, is simply not good enough to compete at a high level in the Eastern Conference. I don't believe this to simply be another slump during a long season or to be an issue of injuries (although injuries definitely play a part).

The trends amongt players that the Flyers are counting on to be among their core are too much to ignore: Carter with 1 goal in the last 11 games; Umberger with 2 goals in the last 10 games; Richards with 2 goals in the last 14 games. Daniel Briere is now a mind boggling -21 for the year.

I'm not totally ready to start trading everyone and firing John Stevens just yet. But I do think there are moves that they could make that would help.

1.) Someone needs to sit John Stevens down and explain just how badly Jim Vandermeer is playing right now. Vandermeer was on the ice for the first goal last night and was directly responsible (in my mind) for the second goal, where he got goaded into a non-fight with Montreal's Josh Gorges leaving rookie Ryan Parent to deal with a 2 on 1 that Niitty allowed a defenseman (Montreal's Bouillion) to pick the top corner on him. Accountibility only seems to be something that happens to guys like Stefan Ruzicka or Lasse Kukkonen in John Steven's world; not towards Jim Vandermeer or Antero Niitymaki.

2.) The whole world knows you gave a wheel barrow full of money to Mike Richards for the next decade to be one of the cornerstones of the team, so he's not going anywhere. Figure out what you really think about RJ Umberger or Jeff Carter. Specifically, are either of them top 6 forwards in this league? Carter has great raw skills and Umberger does some nice things on the ice (especially against Pittsburgh) but I would hate to fall into a trap where we wait around forever for these guys to come around. I believe both are restricted free agents this summer; I would consider trading either of them now rather than wait till later to find out they have flaws in their respective games that will never be worked out.

3.) Enough screwing around with the goaltending; this isn't the AHL. Who is THE guy? Is it Biron, the guy that carried you through the first month of the year? Or is it Niittymaki, the homegrown organizational favorite of the head coach? Figure it out and get rid of the other one and make Brian Boucher, down with the Phantoms, the backup goaltender. Better yet, include whoever you plan on trading in a deal with Tampa to get Dan Boyle. Tampa desperately needs a goaltender and either Niittymaki or Biron would be an improvement over what they have now.

4.) Find Danny Briere a linemate to play with, so that you can get your money's worth from this guy. Moving him to wing was a good start; now get him a center to play with, whether it's someone currently on the roster or someone else.

I'm a little Flyer'd out for now; I'm glad spring training is starting back up and that the Sixers get back into action shortly, so I can take my mind off of the smoldering wreck this season is becoming.

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