An admirable, hard-fought effort Sunday night in Pittsburgh didn’t produce the desired result for a desperate Flyers team, even if it did get a point. Despite playing a generally sound defensive game — a rarity — and getting strong goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov (notwithstanding Sidney Crosby’s along-the-ice one-timer to tie it, in which Bryz’s molasses-like lateral movement was the culprit), the Flyers coughed up a precarious 1-0 late in the third period and then lost in overtime. Because of course they did. This is what happens to a floundering team that’s not having a good season. I mean, come on, as soon as Wayne Simmonds’ was called for that slash — weak call considering Brooks Orpik was holding onto his stick with only ONE hand and the stick didn’t even break (or so it appeared), he just dropped it — and then Kimmo Timonen for the hook as Chris Kunitz burst through on a mini breakaway, every single person watching the game knew the Penguins were going to score the equalizer. Whenever the Flyers are clinging to a one-goal lead late and an iffy penalty goes against them, the “That’s the sound of inevitability” scene from The Matrix immediately plays in my mind… except Neo doesn’t jump up and slam Mr. Anderson into the brick tunnel above before narrowly escaping; he, like Mr. Anderson, gets obliterated by the oncoming train. So, I guess in this analogy, if we’re adhering to how the scene actually plays out, the Flyers are Mr. Anderson, without the benefit of being able to regenerate as any other “person” plugged into the Matrix. Convoluted, I know, but it makes sense to me. Anywho, moving on….
With the trade deadline a little over a week away and the Flyers five points out of a playoff spot in a tightly contested Eastern Conference, all the while showing NO SIGN of being an honest contender that can compete with the elite, it’s time for the front office to do what I’ve been preaching for well over a month: Sell, sell, SELL! Plenty of teams can smell the playoffs, and this is shaping up to be a seller’s market. If Paul Holmgren (and puppet master Ed Snider) is smart, shrewd and wants to exercise the big picture approach, he’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity to parlay certain assets and restock the cupboard with just as much vigor as he would finding that “final piece” to make the Flyers a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. After all, these types of trades could end up being the ones that help the Flyers eventually become that legitimate Stanley Cup contender down the road. I’ll analyze the current roster and lay things out very simply.
Keep: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds
Don’t WANT to trade — and Flyers are likely uninterested — but would for young, franchise cornerstone type of defenseman: Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn
Will be staying due to new contract: Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell (terrible since returning from injury and playing like an all-around lunkhead)
Can be had for right price: Matt Read, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn (not going anywhere in reality), Max Talbot (would rather keep unless blown away by offer), Simon Gagne
Bottom-6 forward whose value is greater to the team than what he’d return in a trade: Zac Rinaldo
Has been a major disappointment, is in the midst of a sharp decline and would love to trade… but acknowledge impossibility in doing so given age, contract, no movement clause and now concussion: Danny Briere. Briere should be a prime candidate for the amnesty clause this summer. He’s done, and his continued presence in the top-6 means stunting the development of a younger, more promising player (*cough* Sean Couturier *cough*).
Untradeable: Ilya Bryzgalov (likely won’t be amnestied this summer, but 2014 is an option if both the defense doesn’t improve and his pedestrian performance trend continues)
Out of all the players listed, I think Matt Read is the most likely candidate to bring back palatable value. He’s a versatile top-6 forward with the requisite skills to help a contender and perhaps emerge as one of those under-the-radar difference-makers. Also, he’s signed through next season on a cheap contract. Put it all together, and you have one mighty appealing asset. Read will command a pretty penny as a free agent in 2014, and I doubt he is part of the Flyers’ long-term plans, especially with talented prospects like Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton (don’t forget about Tye McGinn, either!) knocking on the door. If a playoff team offers an upper echelon prospect or first round pick (or, say, combination of mid-round picks), I pull the trigger.
Draft watch: Winning the lottery, getting the #1 overall pick and having the chance to pick Seth Jones seems like the fantasy OHMYGODPLEASELETITHAPPEN scenario for most Flyers fans. However, in the interest of being a little more realistic and not pinning all hopes on winning said lottery, let’s instead settle on the idea that the Flyers will be selecting in the top-10. My target? Sault Ste. Marie defenseman Darnell Nurse. Plays a nasty, “Flyers” kind of game, has all the tools to be a #1, franchise-caliber defenseman, and he’s only going to get better as his 6’4″, 190-pound frame fills out. Upside personified to the nth degree. Oh, and in addition to being Donovan McNabb’s nephew (wife’s brother’s son), he’s already played for the Flyers before — the Don Mills Flyers of GTHL AAA, that is.
Up next: Examining other rosters around the league and looking for players (and prospects) who could be possible trade targets for the Flyers.