It’s mail time again! This week we asked you for questions for our second mailbag of the season. Please remember that all of the answers here are pure opinion and speculation based on my knowledge of the team and the organization as a fan.
@BenjaminMelusky: So Beyond Myers and Friedman the Flyers depth at D in LHV seems depleted (not forgetting the injured Morin). Who is and how far away are the next wave that we should be looking forward to?
@BartlettBrando: Lots of talk about how the Flyers D has underperformed thus far. Will the eventual return of Samuel Morin change anything?
I want to start off by saying that only half of the current defense is an issue. It doesn’t have to be completely dismantled like it did before Shayne Gostisbehere arrived. The roster currently has four players who will be and should be part of this franchise for the foreseeable future. Gostisbehere, Provorov, Sanheim and Hagg aren’t going anywhere, unless something crazy happens. (Full disclosure: I could see Hagg being part of a trade, but I don’t think it’s likely.) Adding in Myers for sure and probably Friedman means that the Flyers have their top-6 for the future. Because of this, they don’t really need a huge wave of high-level talent to come along and save them. They just need the players they already have to develop and transform into the studs they can be.
The glaring issue with that crop is that the oldest, most experienced player on that roster is only 25 and is in just his fourth full NHL season. That seventh defenseman position could be used to bring in a reliable veteran presence that will help guide the younger players in the right direction. Or, if management is content with Ghost’s ability to be the veteran leadership, they could work within their own organization.
Morin could fit the role of the seventh defenseman, though he wouldn’t be my first choice. Other internal options include: Linus Hogberg (2016 5th round), Adam Ginning (2018 2nd round), and Wyatt Kalynuk (2017 7th round). All three could potentially reach the NHL level around the 2020-21 season.
The talent on defense is already within the organization, and mostly on the NHL roster. They just need a coach who will use them appropriately and help them develop properly to maximize their potential.
As for Sam Morin, if I’m being completely honest here? I don’t know why they’re still holding on to him at all. He is not the answer to the problems. Right now, he’s a future sixth or seventh defenseman at his healthiest. When he returns this season, he’ll be a minor influence in the AHL and probably not much more unless there are a LOT of injuries at the NHL level.
@BartlettBrando: Do we have a legitimate chance to draft Jack Hughes?
Despite the horrendous start, I don’t think the Flyers are the worst team in the league. I think they have been gravely underperforming while other teams are outplaying their own potential. They do not currently have the worst record in the league, and they won’t have that distinction at the end of the season. That means if they do draft first overall this coming summer and get Jack Hughes, they’ll either have to trade for that pick or win big in the draft lottery like they did in 2017.
Trading for that pick is unlikely. The Flyers probably won’t be giving up any big names at the trade deadline that will warrant a first round choice, besides maybe Wayne Simmonds. But the teams that would likely be interested in Simmonds will be playoff teams and therefore won’t have the change to get the first overall pick to give away.
I’m still holding out hope that this is just a rough patch and they’ll turn it around in time to make the playoffs, which will exclude them from the draft lottery. But if they don’t turn it around soon, they could definitely be looking at being in the mix for that top spot.
@Trathan_nump: How does the current state of the Flyers (though management clearly doesn’t see anything wrong) affect Simmonds’s future?
As of right now, the Flyers are a complete disaster. If they don’t turn it around soon and make up some serious ground, they will not be a playoff contender by the trade deadline. If that happens, Wayne Simmonds will absolutely be on the trading block. If they manage to turn it around somehow and want to bring him back for the future, they’ll still have to rely on Simmonds’s willingness to sign at a team-friendly cost. But as of right now, it doesn’t look like he’ll last that long.
The good news is that Simmonds seems to be in much better shape than he was last year. He hasn’t produced much, but neither has anyone else on the roster. He’s still proving to be a capable addition to any team looking at a potential deep playoff run, which is what the Flyers will try to exploit if they are at that point when the trade deadline rolls around.
Katherine Pelepchan (Facebook): Please explain Gritty. I thought I read he’s related to an old mascot… but I’m more just curious as to why??
Gritty is not related to an old mascot. He was created as an additional marketing tool because the organization wanted to add more fun to the franchise and engage fans, especially young kids, outside of the arena.
You can read my interview with one of the creators of Gritty here.
@Wheels_123: Is it too early in the season to hit the panic button? Because I’m really having a hard time feeling optimistic about this team.
It’s absolutely time to panic. I don’t think the panic should have anything to do with the players themselves. They haven’t been playing to the best of their abilities, but players go through ups and downs and it’s really hard to get out of a funk like this when the entire team is in the dumps.
However, I think the reason to panic is in the coaching staff and the front office decisions. The coaches, especially Dave Hakstol, seem to be completely okay with the fact that the Flyers are absolutely awful. Good coaches see that their players are struggling and do something to help get them out of it. Dave Hakstol just says “sack up” and hopes that his team will figure themselves out. That’s not a way to coach, it’s just lazy.
Even more so, the front office seems content with that sentiment. If Ron Hextall isn’t willing to actually DO something about the clear lack of coaching ability, he is just as responsible for this horrid play as the coaches. Does Hextall really think that this team right now is a playoff-caliber team? Does he think this is just the result of a few bad games and once the bounces start going their way they’ll be fine? Because that’s definitely not the situation this team is in right now.
What really gets me is the fact that Dave Hakstol has yet to take any responsibility for the way this team has been performing. He keeps throwing the players under the bus, saying that they’re the ones who have to start doing what they’re supposed to do. Where’s the accountability here? It’s HIS system that isn’t working. It’s HIS penalty kill coach that is leading one of the worst PKs in the league. It’s HIS lack of leadership that can’t get this team to spark. It’s HIS choices to play bums like Lehtera, Weise, MacDonald and Folin more than guys like Sanheim, Vorobyev and Weal. This is Dave Hakstol’s team and this dumpster fire is his legacy. It’s time he took responsibility for it.
The players absolutely need to figure out what’s going on and perform better than they have been. But it’s the coaching staff and front office’s job to help them fix that, and they just don’t seem to care. That’s what you should be panicking about.