48 games have been played, and 34 remain. Despite the numerical imbalance, the games following the All-Star break are typically referred to as the second half of the season. The remaining games have on more important focal point on February 27, which is the trade deadline. Teams have approximately 4 weeks to decide whether or not they still have hope for this season, or if they need to make maneuvers for the future.
The bottom feeders will become sellers. They’ll try to move players who will become free agents rather than risk losing them for nothing in the offseason. They will do the best that they can to get back prospects or draft picks in return so they can build for next season and beyond. Meanwhile, teams at the top of the standings will do their best to acquire that one missing piece that will put them over the top and help them win the Stanley Cup. It doesn’t always have to be a superstar goal scorer. It can be a role player that’s good on faceoffs and responsible in his own zone. Or it could be a depth defenseman that will eat some of the hard minutes, allowing the top pairs a chance to keep their legs for a longer postseason run. Then there are the teams that are on the playoff bubble. Do the GM’s take a risk, and stay in the hunt, hoping their team catches fire, makes the playoffs, and goes deep? Or do they stay pat, and just let things unfold as they may, accepting their fate if they fall short?
After the deadline passes, you have the final month and some odd days left. That’s when everyone is looking at the standings every day and every night. As teams begin to lock up playoff spots, they still have incentive to try getting a higher seed. And of course, there’s always some drama on the final days, as the last spots usually remain open until then. The goal, of course, is not just to make the playoffs and have a favorable seed. The goal is to get your full lineup healthy, and prepared. You want the team entering the playoffs on a high note. Once the postseason begins, nothing really matters if the team is playing well. Of course a high seed would be nice, but just getting in is all you really care about.
So how does all of this pertain to the Flyers? Well, right now we are in 4th place, and only 3 points away from top spot in the conference. Unless the team completely falls apart, it should remain in one of the top 5 spots in the East. Given how they have exceeded many expectations thus far, they have a realistic hope of making some noise in the playoffs. Of course, we know they have their deficiencies. It’s up to Paul Holmgren to evaluate any necessary changes, and maybe make a move at the deadline. I’m not going to bother speculating, since he has a history of making unpredictable moves. However, chances are highly likely that we’re going to be buyers at the deadline.
After that, it’s a race to the finish. Last season, we had a very strong team that just fell apart and backed into the playoffs. Peter Laviolette has to use that as a learning experience. He needs to make sure the guys are readyto play every night. He does have the advantage that we’re fighting for a top spot, rather than sitting above everyone with a nice cushion between us. I really don’t know how things will play out. We need the defense to get a little better. We need to continue to get scoring from many different players. And we have to hope that Jaromir Jagr, Danny Briere, and JVR can come back healthy ASAP. It’s important to get the full squad together, in order for the lines to get into a groove and get the team to peak at the right time. Prior to the season, I didn’t know what to expect. And as of right now, I still don’t. All I know is that this group is fun to watch, and I would love for them to keep playing into early June.
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