It’s only taken 2 games for the Philadelphia Flyers to mix-up their bottom-6 forward groups, and surely more tweaking is yet to come as well
The situation has been brewing since the summer. The Philadelphia Flyers simply have more forwards than they know what to do with.
It made sense to sign Dale Weise to bolster a third line that struggled much of last season. Additionally, Boyd Gordon was signed to be a veteran penalty killer and faceoff man. Still not done, the Flyers signed Roman Lyubimov from Russia. Those additions made an already full house burst at the seams.
Inevitably the situation was going to create a loser (or losers). The first such loser was probably Scott Laughton. Laughton had an up-and-down season last year, but many hoped he found an NHL home on the wing. His preseason performances this fall didn’t stack up, however. He’s technically on the injury list right now, but I suspect if he was healthy he might be in the AHL right now.
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Now we have a second loser. Coach Dave Hakstol is set to juggle his lines tonight. Matt Read is going from the 4th line to the 3rd line (alongside Bellemare and Weise), and Roman Lyubimov is taking Read’s spot on the 4th line. This leaves Nick Cousins in the pressbox.
In my opinion, Cousins was a bright spot last season. He looked phenomenal in the AHL, then continued to play well and centered a respectable 3rd line for the Flyers down the stretch. Unfortunately he also struggled this preseason. His Corsi numbers were very poor in preseason, and this continued into regular season games this year. The once-presumed 3rd line of Laughton-Cousins-Weise is dead-on-arrival.
In with the New
Given these changes, the first thing is “good for Matt Read.” He’s looked very good in the Flyers first 2 games. This comes after some decent performances last spring, which yielded quality advanced analytics numbers, albeit lacking the hard points.
Second, it will be good to see Roman Lyubimov make his NHL debut. He could turn out to be a very nice depth forward; fast, physical, defensively conscious. Most interesting tonight will be if he plays on the penalty kill.
Lyubimov on the penalty kill is particularly relevant because of who stays in the lineup tonight: Chris VandeVelde. For many Flyers fans, VandeVelde offers the least to the team. Regardless of what fans think, VandeVelde has Hakstol’s trust. With the the UND connection between the two (VandeVelde was an alternate captain under Hakstol there), and VandeVelde’s heavy usage on the penalty kill, he has a tight grasp on an everyday spot.
This logjam at the bottom of the roster will just get worse when Brayden Schenn returns from suspension later this week. That means one more body must come out of the lineup.
For those that don’t like VandeVelde, rest assured that changes will continue. It appears as if Hakstol and the coaches are still figuring out this puzzle as they go. There are more possible lineup variations here than one can count. Truly the only surprise result from this situation would be if it DOESN’T change in the future.