When the Penguins and the Flyers are on the schedule, everyone gets excited. And that calls for a little Flyers perspective with our friends from Broad Street Hockey.
So, introducing, Kurt R, who is a noted Zac Rinaldo fan.
This team has one player with heart remaldo. That's it— Flyers Facebook (@FlyersFacebook) October 16, 2013
Without any further introduction, here are some hot Flyers takes from Kurt, with my responses italicized below.
Let's do this.
1. Who do you think is the best fit on the first line for Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek with Hartnell gone? The Flyers received R.J. Umberger in the trade, but we know he's not a top line player.
Man, if that isn't a question we've been trying to answer for a few years now (even when Hartnell was here, a lot of people felt like an upgrade could have been made from him). The team gave Brayden Schenn a look at that spot, but pulled the plug on that after 1.5 games (more on Schenn in a bit). Michael Raffl's there now, and his speed and ability to find open space do complement those two nicely, but you still feel like the team could get someone with more raw talent in that spot. Vincent Lecavalier will inevitably end up there at some point this year, causing Flyers fans to groan loudly. I bet RJ Umbrella eventually gets a look there, too.
The one guy a lot of Flyers fans have been pushing for in that spot for a while now is Matt Read, who's mostly been used in a defensively-oriented role with Sean Couturier ever since Craig Berube took over. He's an above-average shooter and has scored 24 goals per 82 games since arriving in the NHL, most of that coming at even strength or shorthanded. Berube has said he wants a more physical player in that spot with Giroux and Voracek, which I get, but the way that he's cycled through other options, it seems maddening that he won't at least *try* it some time given that it seems like it could pay off in a big way.
So the answer for now is probably either Raffl or Read, though ultimately I bet the answer is "someone not currently on the team".
Ah, R.J Umbrella. In our first drafts of questions, i was autocorrected and Umberger changed to Umbrella. #NeverForget. But seriously, it feels like anyone could and should be able to produce on that line. But finding some good chemistry, and quickly, would be a good thing to get that first line going.
2. Tell me how you feel about Andrew MacDonald. Really. Lay it all on me right here, right now. Also, tell me how you feel about the alternate jerseys that the Penguins will be wearing this evening?
I actually respect Andrew MacDonald, given that he's a third-pairing-caliber-player who has this incredible ability to convince people that he's an amazing two-way defenseman despite not being able to show it in any way that's even remotely measureable, given that he doesn't score much and he has awful possession numbers and he turns the puck over a lot and his team gets outscored when he's on the ice and he defends the blue line by backing off from it like it's an atomic bomb. Seriously, I'm almost impressed at how he can make so many people in this fanbase/press corps defend him to death on the basis of literally nothing other than "well, I think he looks good out there".
Six years and 30 million dollars. All because he's a good skater who can block shots and can make decent passes out of the zone. The Flyers have made a habit over the last few years (ever since Ryan Parent/Oskars Bartulis/Lucas Krajicek were awful in the Finals against Chicago) of overpaying for third-pairing defensemen who ultimately don't end up being very good, but this is taking it to another level entirely.
And hey they're wearing the black and yellow jerseys? Those are cool I think. I don't totally remember what they look like right now but when I first saw them a while ago I remember thinking they were pretty cool.
FIVE! MORE! YEARS! FIVE MORE YEARS! Wow. I think Kurt's honest takes on Andrew MacDonald are relatively respective of any Flyers fans who have watched him play for even about 12 minutes. That contract is special.
The jerseys are elite and fantastic and the Penguins are going to look insanely good tonight.
3. I saw him play in the Frozen Four and I must admit how much fun Shayne Gostisbehere was to watch. When’s Ghost Time gonna start?
The Ghost Bear is indeed someone that Flyers fans are looking forward to -- the team hasn't had a pure offensive defenseman as good as he could be in quite a while, and he'd add speed and talent to a blue line that really could use a lot of both. The team gave a long look at keeping him at the NHL level this year, so I have to imagine his time will come soon. He's closer to NHL-ready than any of the team's current defensive prospects (and depending on who you ask, he may already be NHL-ready), but Ron Hextall definitely seems like he wants to keep him in the AHL and get him some professional seasoning this season before they make him a full-time NHL player. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the lineup in the later part of this year, but ultimately I don't think he'll be on the roster full-time until next season.
I wouldn't be surprised if Flyers were eager to get Ghost into the lineup sooner than later, but a little more development time can't be a bad thing. What a pain in the ass that kid is going to be.
4. When are the Flyers going to trade for Shea Weber? But no really, do you see them able to acquire a defenseman? I had read that the asking price was Brayden Schenn. What kind of value can you get for Schenn?
The Flyers ARE going to traid for Shane Webber, Mike.
But until then, I really don't know. Word from the beats nowadays is that the Flyers are indeed looking on the trade market for a defenseman -- one who seems to have more of a defensive bent, in particular. Which is annoying, because that's the mindset that led to them trading for all of Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald, who now have evidently been deemed insufficient. However, the rumor is that they're looking for players on short-term deals as to not block the team's defensive prospects if it comes down to that. So that's a plus.
That said, I would hope that the return is something more than "defensively-oriented defenseman on a short-term contract" if they're going to be dealing Brayden Schenn. I genuinely have no clue what Schenn's trade value is, or how other teams in the league see him. I think that he's been underwhelming in his time in Philadelphia. I also think that the Flyers have done a pretty poor job of handling him, routinely shifting him between center and left wing and moving him from whatever line he's on at the first chance they get (see above, where he was moved from the top line after a game and a half, one of which was against Boston and Bergeron/Chara). Do teams see him as a guy with talent who's in a bad spot who can succeed with some more stability? Or do they see him as a guy who's nothing special? A lot of Flyers fans have already fallen into the latter category. I'm not. That doesn't mean I wouldn't trade him for the right return, but based on where he is and what the team is apparently looking for, I don't think that's out there.
A player like Schenn's value hasn't really been determined yet, so I agree that it's hard to have a reasonable expectation of what a trade could net in return. GMs value offensive defensemen, so, I myself would think that a team looking to move one might ask Hextall and the Flyers to sweeten the pot, if only to try and put the grips to a team in need.
5. Where do you see the Flyers finishing the season in the standings?
I think they'll be around sixth in the Metro. My predicted order coming into the season was Pittsburgh, Rangers, Islanders, Columbus, NJ, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina. So far Washington looks better than expected (obviously, it's early), but someone else will fall off eventually. Ultimately, despite its defensive shortcomings, I think this team has too much offensive firepower to find itself at the very bottom of the standings, but I liked the moves that a lot of the other teams made this summer (NYI and Columbus, in particular), and I don't think the Flyers as they're assembled will be able to stay in step unless they get some unexpected contributions.
I think 6th in the Metro is where most (sensible) people had the Flyers pegged for their pre-season predictions, especially after seeing Timonen go out with injury.
6. BONUS QUESTION: If you were on death row and facing execution, what would your final meal be?
Maybe a giant plate of nachos. Did I at least get executed for doing something cool? Is that even remotely possible?
Nachos are great. Do you have anything special on them? Like pulled pork? This is important.
Going Tonya Harding on Andrew MacDonald might be deemed pretty 'cool' by your peers. Time will tell.
A big thanks to Kurt for doing this. We always have fun putting these kinds of things together.
Check out Broad Street Hockey for the reverse angles of questions on the Penguins, answered by yours truly.
And for more on tonight's game, check out our Flyers vs Penguins coverage