The Philadelphia Flyers have surprised many to start the season. Through four games the Flyers have a record of 2-1-1 and are ahead of division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils. However, despite the strong start, the team has not played well as a whole. Their starting goaltender Steve Mason had to leave the team for a personal matter, a few veterans suffered injuries and their lineup is constantly changing.
Credit for their record has to go to head coach Dave Hakstol. He’s been proving that he is capable of coaching an NHL club and continues his crafty maneuvering of players in and out of the lineup.
The Flyers are doing something that very few other NHL clubs would do. They are not dictating their lineup based on salaries. Veteran center Vincent Lecavalier counts for $4.5 million against the cap, but he has been a healthy scratch through four games. Defender Andrew MacDonald counts for $5 million against the cap, yet he has been demoted to their AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Despite returning from injury forward R. J. Umberger might actually remain out of the lineup. He also counts for $4.6 million against the salary cap and is second on the team with two assists in two games.
And it’s not all about the players on expensive contracts. Sam Gagner was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes over the offseason and he’s played on multiple lines and multiple positions. Brayden Schenn is listed as a center and he’s played there this season, but he’s currently returning to the right wing.
Then there’s the recent development surrounding his brother Luke Schenn.
ICYMI – The Flyers have had their scouting and player personnel directors at last 2 #CBJ games. Luke Schenn is reportedly a scratch tonight
— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) October 20, 2015
This might be an overreaction but the Blue Jackets need defensive help and Schenn’s scratching might not be just a pure coincidence. General manager Ron Hextall has not showed much faith in either of the brothers and their time in Philly could be rapidly coming to a closure. Here are his comments from before the start of the season.
Brayden, I think, Brayden’s been OK. It’s training camp. It’s early. I think we kinda know where Brayden is and what he is and that he prefers to play the right side, so we’ll see where it goes.
If there’s one thing the Flyers have proved this season, it’s that no line combination is fixed. No player is locked into a certain position and anyone could be in or out of the lineup on a given night. So far, this strategy has worked for Philadelphia. However, as the season progresses, it’s not unfathomable that this rapid player movement will cause a disconnect between players.
But one thing is for certain, continue to expect the Flyers to move players around their lineup, scratch almost anyone and maybe even start trading fairly shortly.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers