Pod Street Post: Patrik Laine, Physicality, and Ghost Peppers

Happy Saturday morning, folks! When I proposed the idea of doing weekly mailbags to my good friend Derrik Bobb, he whined about the idea being overdone. In some ways, I agree with him. There are a lot of mailbags out there, even just in the Flyers realm. At the same time, varying perspectives are a great thing to have. Although the Pod Street Post is yet another mailbag, you are not guaranteed to receive the same answers you might get elsewhere. I’m sure some will be similar because that is the nature of the beast we are dealing with. However, I do not intend on responding to participants’ answers with what they want to hear just because I know it will make them happy. In the Pod Street Post, you get my version of the cold hard truth.

Pod Street Post: Laine, Physicality, & Ghost Peppers

This is a great question and one I really struggled with. Let’s start with Cam York and Yegor Zamula. Personally, I would be surprised if they both make the team next season. Philadelphia could sign York to his entry-level deal. However, I think he will at least start the year in the AHL. On the other hand, Zamula could potentially make the Flyers at the start of next season. It really depends on how much he can improve this year. With uncertainty surrounding the world in general, we really are not sure how much playing time he will receive. Still, for the sake of this exercise, let’s imagine he is on Philadelphia’s opening night roster.

The way Philadelphia’s roster is currently constructed, the Flyers are set up to have similar questions surrounding their defense next season. Unless Seattle selects him, Shayne Gostisbehere remains under contract. Robert Hagg, Justin Braun, and Mark Friedman will be here too. Those are all replaceable pieces with better alternatives that we still have to imagine being a part of the Flyers. That is what makes constructing defensive pairings for next year so challenging.

Of course, the one certainty is Ivan Provorov on the top pair. The question, similar to this year, is who do you put with him? Maybe Gostisbehere proves that is where he belongs, though I’m still incredibly skeptical with that. Maybe it is Phil Myers, one of the favorites to assume that role this season. The free-agent market really is not an option because Philadelphia does not have the money to afford a top-two defenseman. Simultaneously, the only blueliner that fits that description destined for the open-market is Dougie Hamilton. Personally, I would love to see it, but he will be out of the Flyers’ price range. Let us assume the Flyers can rid themselves of Ghost via the expansion draft and promote Myers to that first-pairing.

That then leaves a hole in the second-pairing with Travis Sanheim. To me, the option here is a player not yet on the team. Hopefully, the Flyers can clear enough cap space to bring a serviceable middle-pairing defenseman for the short-term. If Philadelphia is set on a right-shot guy, their options are a bit more limited, but you never know who will become available.

Then the third-pairing is where you stick a guy like Zamula, just until he becomes more comfortable. Maybe he plays some this season and can slide to the second-pairing with Sanheim, but I am not ready to commit to that just yet. As for who you put with him, I am going with Braun for now. However, that could very well change.

Unfortunately for the other two, I am going to take this question all by myself. The answer is ghost pepper without any hesitation at all. Luckily I am fortunate enough not to despise any single person the way I loath the Pittsburgh Penguins. Some professional sports teams really have to stretch things to declare a true rival. The Flyers do not have that problem at all. Pittsburgh is the perfect villain for Philadelphia and their fan base.

Let me start by saying I was a major supporter of the Flyers pursuing Patrik Laine over the offseason. It is not often a scorer of that magnitude becomes available. On top of that, he addressed a glaring need within this organization.

According to various reports I’ve read over the past few months, Philadelphia did make a push for his services. It seems like the asking price for Laine, at least at the time of Philadelphia’s inquiry, was astronomical. Once the focus needed to shift to on the ice for the Flyers, I believe that Chuck Fletcher moved away from the idea of acquiring Patrik Laine. If you think about it, it makes sense. With the reported asking price starting with names like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, an in-season transaction of this magnitude would have done more harm than good.

The reality, Laine just wasn’t in the cards for Philadelphia. They did what they could in engaging in a deal but, in the end, felt like they would need to give up too much. The current cap situation probably did not help either. If you think about it now, he certainly will not assist in our current defensive woes either.

To answer your question a bit more directly, yes, the Flyers should have pursued a deal for Laine. To my knowledge, they did. Sometimes the deal is not there.

I really wish I could say yes here. Unfortunately, I am just not sold on this team’s overall talent, especially on the blueline. When rolling on all cylinders, this forward group can compete with the best of them. We have yet to see that this season but it is still early. The defense, on the other hand, provides far more concern than optimism.

Essentially the Flyers possess Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers (when healthy), and many other guys they would love to find upgrades for. That is not a recipe for sustained success.

At the same time, Philadelphia continues to lack what held them back last postseason, physicality. This is still a team that gets bullied around on the ice, and we have seen how that prevents teams from going far in the playoffs. It is unclear what Chuck Fletcher can do to address this situation, but I worry that we are looking at another first or second-round exit until it is addressed.

Shayne Gostisbehere’s insertion into the lineup certainly provided a boost of energy, especially Tuesday night. He provides the Flyers with another defenseman capable of moving the puck out of the backend, which they desperately need. If he can continue to average around 20 minutes a night without becoming a defensive liability, Philadelphia is in a good place. However, I’m hesitant to buy-in on the Gostisbehere redemption tour just yet. This would not be the first time he came out of the gate hot, only to fizzle out a few games later. Still, he is not a problem for the Flyers blueline—something we could not say in the past.

I wish I had a good answer for this one. It still puzzles me that it was addressed during the offseason. Yes, I am aware of the “stagnant cap” narrative, as it is the excuse for every move that was not made across the NHL. Still, nobody can sit here and tell me with a straight face that affordable options addressing this need were not there.

Fletcher’s inability to upgrade Philadelphia’s physicality worries me because he does not appear to view it as a major need for this organization. Again, there were options out there. A team that recognizes the need to bring in a physical player goes out and gets one. If his true answer to fixing the problem is moving to Sam Morin, we have an even bigger problem.

So, to address your question directly, I have no clue. Truthfully, I do not think he does. Even if the Flyers continue to play suspect hockey, his focus will be on upgrading the blueline. Philadelphia might need to go through another postseason where they are once again out-muscled before Fletcher goes out and obtains more size and physicality.

The fact that each team is limited to such a small amount of opponents is unfortunate. There is such a disconnect from the teams that are outside your own division. Of course, I understand why the NHL did it. Still, it does stink that the Flyers won’t play some of the teams that have provided great competition throughout the years.

This is a fascinating topic of discussion. When we say that the Flyers were “killing” the Penguins, I wonder how often they were actually doing this in the first two games. In Game 1, you can certainly argue that Philadelphia possessed the upper-hand for most of the contest. I tend to agree with you. Yes, there were questionable spurts, but that is expected. Moving onto Game 2 against the Penguins. I would argue they were not the better team for most of that game. They were outshot, outplayed, and spent way too much time defending their own zone. Luckily, the better team does not always come out as the victor.

Game 2 of the Pittsburgh series is when we really started to see signs of what this team would be moving forward. Every game since then, Philadelphia experiences the same issues, even in the games they win. Even after two wins against New Jersey, the Flyers’ recent play is not a success recipe. They will struggle mightily against better teams until the necessary adjustments are made.

Well, that concludes the first edition of the Pod Street Post. I have to say I am pretty impressed with the variety of questions presented in the first go-around. Thank you to everyone that participated. Until next time, cheers!

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