Flyers have not learned lessons from last season

NHLHS Philadelphia Flyers correspondent David Strehle looks at the inconsistent efforts being given by the Orange-and-Black, and how the young season is already resembling 2009-10.

You would think that after having to win in a shootout on the final day of the 2009-10 season just to qualify for the postseason, the Philadelphia Flyers would have learned their lesson.

Last year will forever be remembered for the clubs’ amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and all of the hardships that were endured along the way.  But one also has to keep in mind that this team came dangerously close to a non-playoff year as well.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 14: Jeff Carter  of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center on October 14, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The roller coaster ride that the Flyers put themselves through last season isn’t the usual route of a potential champion, and one that Philadelphia should not want to travel again this year.

In the first eight games of the 2010-11 campaign, the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome that plagued Philly for much of last season is being repeated.  And it isn’t so much the outcome of the games that is of concern, as much as it is the way that the club has gotten there.

After opening with a 2-0-1 record, Philly has lost four of the last five.  With all of the losses having come in regulation time, there were no points gained in the standings.  As everyone associated with this team should remember, points squandered in October and November can come back to haunt you down the stretch run.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 11: Mike Richards  of the Philadelphia Flyers awaits a faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche in the first period of a hockey game at the Wells Fargo Center on October 11, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

This is a highly veteran, battle-tested Flyers’ team, so overall effort should never need to be questioned.  But after watching his club go through the motions last night in a brutal 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, it has to be worrisome to head coach Peter Laviolette.

Many words come to mind after that type of a game; lackluster, emotionless, disappointing, even embarassing.

Unfortunately, there is another.  Typical.

Why typical, you ask?  Because the lack of effort exhibited for most of the 60 minutes last night came on the heels of perhaps their most-complete game of the season in Saturday’s 5-2 victory over an upstart Toronto Maple Leafs squad.

As was the case in many of last year’s contests in which the team lacked a work ethic and were devoid of emotion, the result is an impotent offensive output.  Much the same has occured in this season’s opening three weeks.

The only forward line that showed up last night was perhaps Philadelphia’s best trio of Scott Hartnell-Danny Briere-Ville Leino, and it’s no coincidence that they accounted for the only Flyers’ goal late in the third.

If you think it’s frustrating for the average fan to watch the team’s leaders sleep walk through an entire evening, imagine how badly Laviolette must be fuming this morning.

Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards were barely visible against Columbus, and this coming just two nights after Richards had given his best performance of the season with his first goal of the year and two assists against the Maple Leafs.

Carter and Richards had been placed on a line with Dan Carcillo.  But after a quiet start to the year and Carcillo’s benching, the two have been split up.  Darroll Powe was moved from the fourth line to play the left side with Richards and Claude Giroux, but that hasn’t worked so well, either.

Two forwards that appeared set to have big offensive years are both M.I.A.  James van Riemsdyk, who got off to a blazing rookie season last year, then fizzled down the stretch, and newcomer Nikolay Zherdev, have both completely fallen off the radar.  van Riemsdyk, who put on 10 pounds of muscle during the summer to ensure that he could handle the rigors of a full NHL season, has not scored a goal and has recorded just three assists.  Zherdev, who netter five goals in six preseason games, has scored one goal for his only point in eight contests.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 11: Nikolay Zherdev  of the Philadelphia Flyers in a hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Wells Fargo Center on October 11, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

With Richards and Giroux in search of a winger, Zherdev would appear to be the best option.  Giroux and Zherdev are two of the club’s most-talented players, and showed a great amount of fluidity when playing on a line together in the preseason.

Expect Laviolette to continue his line juggling until something else other than just the Hartnell-Briere-Leino exhibits some type of chemistry.

One thing is certain.  While the Flyers continue to search for an identity, this season their bench boss is safe.  While last year’s turbulence resulted in John Stevens getting the ax, Laviolette is as secure as a coach can be after taking the club to the finals.  So if there needs to be any personnel changes, it will be the players on the ice that are affected this time around.

The biggest question of all may just be this one;  which version is this Flyers’ team, the one that made the Stanley Cup Finals, or the one that barely qualified for the postseason dance?

Only time will tell.

Pronger-Carle

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 21: Sergei Bobrovsky  of the Philadelphia Flyers surrenders a first period goal against the Anaheim Ducks as teammates Chris Pronger  and Matt Carle  look on on October 21, 2010 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The top defensive pairing of Chris Pronger-Matt Carle has not been up-to-par thus far, either, but that is understandable.  Pronger’s knee injury caused him to miss all of training camp and the entire preseason, so he is still working to get himself into game shape.

David Strehle
NHLHS Philadelphia Flyers Correspondent
dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com
Twitter: @PhilaDAVEia