Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Flyers Lose Again; What Now?

The Flyers continued their losing ways, by dropping one to the woeful Islanders by a score of 4 - 3. The loss was their fourth straight, and I personally, can only think of one good game that they've played since the All-Star break (their shutout win over Anaheim).

You simply can't watch their games recently and pick out one thing that's wrong with this team right now; they are woefully out of synch for some reason. They seem to sag at just the wrong time and then, as if by sheer will, the puck ends up in their net.

Last night, they even went the extra mile and gave up 47 shots on goal; they were outshot in every period, up to an including the third period, when they entered the period down by a goal and some sort of extra offensive push would be demanded.

What gives with this team? Some thoughts:

1.) During last Thursday's game, it was implied by the broadcasters that the team was bitten by the flu bug in explaining the team's phlegmatic play. The same excuses sort of continued through the weekend, but at this point, I don't buy the flu. That's a bullshit excuse at this point and doesn't explain the entire team looking badly.

2.) Maybe they miss Simon Gagne. Gagne is an elite player in the league; good both offensively and in his own end. Even when Gagne did come back, he was very tentative and a shell of what he is when his head is right (pun intended). The type of two way play that Gagne provides has been missing from quite a few players lately; notably Danny Briere (now a -18 for the year!). Maybe they address some of what Gagne brought at the trade deadline; maybe they don't.

3.) These are the dog days of the season and older defensemen like Derian Hatcher and Jason Smith are simply worn down. Hatcher has been a minus player in 3 of the last 4 games.

4.) There is always the school of thought at this time of year about concern for the trade deadline. I think it's fairly obvious that the Flyers have some chips to trade and they definitely have the ability to make a move; with or without Forsberg coming on board. Perhaps this is making the team play tight and trying to do everyone else's job; including their own.

I think there is something to a combination of the trade deadline theory and possibly, a Peter Forsberg angle as well. Chuck Gormley, excellent Flyers beat writer from the Courier-Post, points out today in a rare blog entry, espouses this very thought:

You might have seen a quote from Marty Biron in one of my recent stories saying the players aren't talking about it (JD add: "it" refers to Forsberg's return). With all due respect to Marty, he's lying. Guys in the dressing room ARE talking about it, Someone asked me every other day what's going on with Foppa. Jim Dowd is wondering because his job's at stake. Mike Knuble's wondering because he'd like to play with the guy instead of getting traded to Detroit to make room for him.

Sometimes, from what I understand, players hear stories about who is coming to the team and they begin to lay upon the imminent arrival of that player some sort of savior complex, such that they stop focusing on their job and what they can do and begin focusing on what the player, who is not even here yet, may or may not mean to the team. This is common around the trade deadline, but in the Flyers' case, there is an even weirder circumstance because of the Peter Forsberg dilemma (or as Gormley skillfully calls it "The Foppa Soap Opera").

Forsberg's decision is supposed to come this weekend and not a moment too soon.

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