It wasn’t very long ago the Philadelphia Flyers were on the verge of gutting the entire team. Peter Laviolette was fired three games into the season and on top of that the Flyers started the season 1-7. Fans were chanting for Paul Holmgren to be fired. Ed Snider and company were criticized — and rightfully so — about the way the organization handled the dismissal and subsequent press conference of the Laviolette firing. Much was made in the media about the Flyers’ lack of patience and tendencies to push the panic button; rumors began to rumble of the team getting ready to send off their underachieving young players who were suffering through a team-wide slump.
Ultimately, the Flyers only made a single trade of any significance, sending defensive forward Max Talbot to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for spark plug forward and former Flyer, Steve Downie, most famous for his lack of self control.
Let’s fast forward to today. The Flyers find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division, and although the Eastern Conference is insanely close in the middle of the pack, they are in much better shape then anyone would have imagined back in the first week of November.
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The team’s biggest struggle early on was the lack of offense provided. Five of their first eight losses were by two goals or less. The team was desperate for somebody to step up and produce.
A lot of people believed the Flyers’ season turned during the 7-0 fight-filled loss to the Capitals on November 1st in South Philly. I disagree. After that game the Flyers held on for dear life to beat New Jersey 1-0, then lost 2-1 in overtime to Carolina followed by a 3-0 loss to New Jersey at home.
It was November 9th that the Flyers’ season finally turned around — the game Claude Giroux scored his first goal. Since that day, the Flyers have had the fifth best record in the NHL and the second best in the Eastern Conference.
KEY FLYERS PLAYERS PRODUCING
Claude Giroux has been a completely different player since that day. In his first 15 games he had seven assists and was a -11. Since then he has played in 36 games and has produced 14 goals, 25 assists, 39 points and a +9 rating. He went through a nine-game point streak from December 11th-December 30th where he picked up 17 points. He leads the team in assists and points and is tied for second on the team in goals.
Wayne Simmonds has been a huge piece to the team’s resurgence. Since December 17th he has picked up points in 15 of the 18 games the team has had. During those 15 games he has 12 goals which has catapulted him to the team lead.
GROWTH OF THE KIDS
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) November 21, 2013
Tweets like that were rampant daily early on. Brayden Schenn was one of the most prominent names being tossed around and it seemed like it was only a matter of time until he was moved for someone of value. As it turns out the Flyers decided against it.
Holding onto both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier has proved vital to the team’s current and future success. Couturier has already proved himself as one of the best defensive forwards in the league despite being just turning 21 a little over a month ago. Schenn has been somewhat streaky, but his physical style of play and his knack for scoring goals at just the right time has elevated his status among Flyer forwards.
Don’t get me wrong, this team has a long way to go if they plan on being Cup contenders. In fact, it might behoove them to not make some sort of move at the trade deadline because the team, as currently constructed, doesn’t seem deep enough on defense to contend for a deep playoff run. The reemergence of Andrej Meszaros — if continued — could go a long way towards helping that, and the return of Marc-Andre Bourdon could be beneficial as well, but more quality seems needed.
What is promising though is that this team has turned the season around with coach Craig Berube at the helm without sacrificing their young players. Their attention to defense was the key to their success, and although they seem to have gotten away from that for a few games, it’s proven that it works. Steve Mason is signed for the immediate future, giving Philadelphia solid goaltending security.
A short time ago we published the top moves by Paul Holmgren during his time as Flyers GM. Well, not making a move this season surely is one of them. The season started out as a disaster and teetered on the edge of implosion along with what could have been a large majority of the roster. Instead the players turned the season around and may have saved their jobs…at least for the time being.
Damien is a contributing writer covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers and Buzz On Broad. He is finishing up a degree in Communication and Sport Management from DeSales University and is currently a Digital Media Intern at Comcast SportNet Philadelphia.