With 22 games left in the regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers are flirting with missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and marking the first time since the early-1990s that they would go two straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Right now, the team sits just one point ahead of the Washington Capitals for the last playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division and Washington is three points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
There have been bright spots but there also have been major disappointments. The team won just one of their first seven games and went 3-9-0 in the first 12. They have rebounded nicely to a 30-24-6 record at the 60-game mark in the season but imagine how comfortable they would be if they were half-decent in the beginning.
Taking all of that into consideration, click on the photos to look at the Flyers’ three biggest disappointments this season.
Erik Gustafsson himself hasn’t been a disappointment, with the exception of his rough game against the San Jose Sharks on February 27th. The fact that Gustafsson isn’t playing on a consistent basis is the disappointment here.
Gustafsson, 25, has appeared in the same number of games (27) this season as he did in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Swede has two goals and eight assists which is not bad for a third-pairing defenseman.
But the disappointment falls in the logjam at the blue line. Simply put: Gustafsson needs to be in the lineup to aid his development. He is a young, puck-moving defenseman, which the Flyers crave.
Don’t get confused. Gustafsson is not a future No. 1 defenseman and is not the answer to the Flyers problems on the blue line. However, he has proved in the past that he can more than hold his own and chew up minutes. Look at his 21:46 of ice time against San Jose in a game in which he did not play that well.
It’s certainly a disappointment that he has played in less than half of the Flyers game so far this season as the calendar turns to March.
It is difficult not to be disappointed with Luke Schenn. He was the only piece the Flyers got in return from Toronto in 2012 for James van Riemsdyk, who has 24 goals and 26 assists this season and represented Team USA in Sochi.
Schenn has not progressed with the Flyers as many had hoped. He is not great with the puck on his stick and is as slow as they come when dropping back on defense. For a top-five pick like Schenn, there are certain expectations that follow and, to the dismay of Flyers fans, Schenn isn’t living up to the expectations.
The 24-year-old has just three goals and four assists in 57 games this season for the Flyers, a far cry from his 20-assist season in 2011-12 for the Maple Leafs. His 17:49 average ice time ranks seventh among Flyers defensemen, ahead of only Hal Gill who has only played in four games at the age of 38, which lends one to believe the coaches don’t feel comfortable giving Schenn a lot of minutes.
It isn’t all bad as Schenn is a physical presence ranking third among NHL defensemen and eighth overall with 183 hits. But unfortunately there is more to being a defenseman than just hitting.
Schenn’s Corsi-For-Percentage (CF%), which compares Corsi (shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots) for and against when the player is on the ice, is not good. It ranks fifth out of the Flyers’ seven qualifying defenseman at 48.5% meaning 51.5% of the shots fired when Schenn is on the ice are fired at his goaltender.
He has struggled in his own zone and, with seven points on the season, has not been strong enough offensively to overcome his downfalls. To classify Luke Schenn as anything other than a disappointment this season would be sugarcoating reality.
The Flyers big-name signing this off-season has been under the microscope for a large portion of the season. Many wondered about Vinny Lecavalier’s fit with the Flyers as he plays a position (center) that is a position of strength and depth in the organization. And his contract, which carries an average-annual-value of $4.5 million, seemed a bit aggressive for a guy who is aging and has not played more than 65 games in a season since 2009-10.
Well, Lecavalier silenced his critics with his strong start to the season as he was one of the only Flyers who was able to score. He put up five goals and two assists for seven points in his first eight games of the season. It wasn’t too bad considering the Flyers scored more than two goals just once in those eight games and it was the night Lecavalier scored his first hat trick for the Flyers against the Islanders.
His play leveled out a bit in November then he injured his back in December and missed some time. Since his return from the injury on December 21st, Lecavalier has just three goals and seven assists in 25 games.
What has been the most concerning is, in addition to his lack of production, Lecavalier has not been a very impactful player on the ice. There are large stretches of a game or even stretches of whole games in which Lecavalier has been as close to invisible as players come on the ice.
When the Flyers signed Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million deal last June, it is safe to assume they thought they were going to get a player who was going to have a larger impact. Lecavalier is signed through 2017-18 with a no-movement clause so the Flyers better hope he turns it around.
So far this season, despite the early season success, Lecavalier has been a big disappointment.