Backtrack to the offseason where Patrik Laine rumors were swirling like an F-5 tornado. Flyers fans were chomping at the bit like a pack of rabid dogs, throwing out deals they would make. Given, most weren’t even close to the value Winnipeg would have wanted in return for their sniper, but it didn’t stop them. Now it’s all Pierre Luc-Dubois talk. The now-former Columbus Blue Jacket had fallen out of favor with the Jackets and wanted out. Coach John Tortorella made it blatantly obvious that his time with the Blue Jackets was coming to a close.
Then this happened.
On the surface, this deal makes a ton of sense. The two centerpieces were apparently disgruntled and wanted out of their current team. Swapping Roslovic for a third round pick also made sense. Columbus gets a sniper and Winnipeg gets a big young center who could blossom before their eyes. As with any deal centered around a player that Flyers Twitter gets their panties in a bunch about, it begs the ultimate question: Why didn’t Chuck Fletcher make it happen with either of these players?
It wasn’t for lack of effort. According to multiple reports, the Flyers were heavily involved in discussions surrounding the Finnish forward. The asking price started with Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, and the rest was up for debate. Pierre Luc-Dubois was another name the Flyers had apparently shown interest in, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto.
This deal seemed to pay off in spades for both teams. Both Winnipeg and Columbus are good enough to make the playoffs, so seeking picks and prospects wasn’t going to help. Acquiring immediate help was the target, and both teams nailed it. Could the Flyers have pulled off a deal for either of the aforementioned forwards? They absolutely could have. They have the players to trade for a guy like Laine or Luc-Dubois. Would it have been in their best interests to do so? Absolutely not.
Both of these players would have been luxury items for the Flyers. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it is when there are other areas that need to be addressed (see below.) Acquiring Pierre Luc-Dubois would add to an already-crowded middle of the ice. Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, and Nolan Patrick are the top-three centers on the team. Which one gets bumped down to the fourth line or to the wing position if this deal happens? Sean Couturier won’t move to wing. It’s hard to fathom Kevin Hayes being bumped out of the 2C position as well. Would Nolan Patrick be forced to play wing, because he sure isn’t suited for a fourth line role. What about Luc-Dubois? Would it have made sense to acquire someone and then expect them to play outside of their natural position?
Dealing for Patrik Laine would have made more sense for the Flyers. They have a need for a pure goal scorer. The closest thing they have to one is James van Riemsdyk, and he isn’t seeing top-six minutes consistently. Laine would be a big improvement, and would make the Flyers top-six one of the most formidable units in the league. Still, you have Oskar Lindblom, Claude Giroux, Joel Farabee, and Travis Konecny who are your top-six wingers. Laine would certainly be an improvement over most of these guys, but they’ve invested in all of them, Farabee aside, and likely wouldn’t want to bump them off their spot in the lineup. Whether that’s the right approach or not is a discussion for another time.
Not the Right Need
The Flyers are currently giving up the sixth most goals per game in the NHL, tied with the Nashville Predators at 3.50. They sit at 11th in goals for per game. They’re also third in the league when it comes to shots on goal allowed per game, averaging 35.5 shots against. Carter Hart isn’t his usual self, exemplified by his actions after the 6-1 shellacking the Flyers suffered Saturday night against the Bruins.
When Carter Hart is riled up, you take notice. This is a side of him Flyers fans haven’t seen before. It’s likely a side we will continue to see if the lack of help from the defense continues. Allowing that many shots is one thing, but turning the puck over in your own zone time after time is just downright terrible. It’s easy to make excuses like Phil Myers being hurt or Shayne Gostisbehere being out due to COVID-19 protocol. What isn’t easy is watching this defense shoot themselves in the foot continuously with the same type of mistakes. Failed clearing attempts, poorly-timed stretch pass attempts, downright pickpocketing. It’s been a rough go of things without Matt Niskanen, and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of this tunnel.
If the Flyers are on the market for any type of player, it should be a defenseman. Particularly, it should be a top-four defenseman who can log big minutes and kill penalties. The Flyers are killing 63.3% of their penalties, good for 28th in the league. It just simply isn’t good enough. While adding some scoring up front would be nice, some consistent play on the back end would be much more helpful to this team.
While the Flyers have the components to make a deal happen like the one between Winnipeg and Columbus, they were wise to steer clear. They need help on defense, period. Scoring will likely come, and will only get better with Sean Couturier’s return. The return of Phil Myers will definitely help along the blueline, but their play was bad even before Myers’ injury. If Chuck Fletcher is going to seek help through the trade market, he would be best suited looking for a defender instead of a forward. Bringing in someone to block shots and make life a little easier for Carter Hart should be at the forefront of the decision making process for the Flyers.
Photo Credit – John Crouch/Icon Sportswire