Jan 17, 2013, 3:16 PM EST
It might sound silly, but the club that finished tied for second
in the NHL in goals scored for the 2011-12 season has an offense problem. The
Flyers must find a way to replace the scoring output of several of the players
that escaped during the offseason, Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk, and Matt Carle being at
Actually, it’s more than that. Not only must their pure
output be replaced, but with regard to Jagr, they must discover a whole other
player to skate on the top line.
Because replacing the actual numbers Jagr, van Riemsdyk, and
the slew of defensemen that won’t be wearing Orange & Black this year
shouldn’t be that big of a deal. After all, we’re only talking about 35 goals
here – 13.5% of all the pucks to escape opposing netminders.
For starters, despite all the talent he may possess, van
Riemsdyk’s impact last season was miniscule. He finished with just 24 total
points, in part because he missed half the season due to injuries. Still, that’s
over 43 games, and if we were to subtract his 11 goals from the Flyers’ total,
they would go from being tied for second in scoring all the way to… third. They
still put the third highest number of pucks in nets.
That’s not to say JVR won’t be missed, especially if he
grows into the All Star that we all know he can become. They weren’t getting
much of a contribution from him though, so all the Flyers really lost is a
prospect who they theoretically don’t need.
Obviously it gets a little more complicated when we start to discuss
Jagr, who finished third on the club in points with 54. The Flyers lost a lot
more than goals or even Claude Giroux’s linemate – Jagr’s leadership and instinct
cannot be duplicated.
Yet you get the feeling just about anybody could skate with
Giroux and put up solid numbers. Currently that’s Brayden Schenn, who isn’t
quite “just about anybody.” Schenn lit the lamp 12 times in 54 games compared
to Jagr’s 19 over 73, and Schenn’s totals were largely posted alongside a
couple of rookie teammates, not a pair of All Stars in G and Scott Hartnell.
Where Schenn is brimming with promise, and could take his
game to the next level this year, Jagr looked visibly slower by the end of last
season, as one would expect with a 40 year old. As long as the chemistry works out, and Schenn
continues to develop as the organization plans, there might even be room for
improvement on that top line.
And if you’re worried about the loss of Schenn reverberating
down the bench, keep in mind Matt Read and Sean Couturier now have a full
year under their belts. They’re only going to get better. Plus, Peter
Laviolette should be able to squeeze some production out of Ruslan Fedotenko,
who signed during the offseason.
In terms of forwards, I’m just not seeing the huge drop-off.
However, that’s not to say there is no reason for concern.
Say what you want about Matt Carle’s turnovers and his
defensive ability altogether, he was one of their better defensemen when it
came to sparking the offense. Carle was second on the team behind only Kimmo
Timonen in points from blueliners with 38, which is not something the front office was
truly able to replace this offseason.
The hope is Brayden’s brother Luke fills the void on the
back end, but in terms of a puck-moving defenseman, there would appear to be a serious
dropoff there. Schenn matched his career best with 22 points last season, which
is almost half of what Carle is capable of.
To be fair, Schenn’s numbers are with significantly less
ice time and an abysmal supporting cast, but what Carle has shown he can handle
and Luke has not is skating on the power play. Nearly a third of Carle’s points
came on the power play last year, while Schenn has just one goal and one assist there
for his entire career.
Perhaps Andrej Meszaros can pick up some of the slack here,
but he’s still battling back from a torn Achilles tendon, so it remains to be
seen how much he can help this year. Otherwise an offensive-minded defenseman
may very well be a big hole for this club.
The issue of course is who will set the table for the guys
up front. It remains to be seen who will step up into Carle’s role, but then
again if Luke Schenn can upgrade the Flyers defensively – a big if – it might be a trade-off
the front office is willing and able to make.
Philadelphia was 11th in goals allowed last season, so perhaps
placing the emphasis on defenders who could be better equipped to defend means they won’t even need to tally
quite as many themselves.
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