Were the Flyers snubbed for All-Star Game?

AP Images

Were the Flyers snubbed for All-Star Game?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Were the Flyers snubbed for the All-Star Game?

It's easy to find a gripe here since the Flyers had three viable candidates, but Claude Giroux will be the Flyers' lone All-Star representative at the 2018 NHL All-Star Game (see story).

Giroux makes his fifth All-Star Game and his 52 points are second in the league. That's fine and dandy, and since the Metropolitan Division is loaded, this was inevitable.

Sean Couturier's breakout season wasn't enough to earn him his first All-Star appearance, and it's a shame. It probably won't be the only honor he'll get snubbed from this season, either. The politics of NHL award voting are corrupt.

Couturier has 23 goals, which is fourth in the NHL and a career high. He has 42 points, which is also a career high. We could argue Couturier is behind Giroux's resurgence too.

All three deserve to be All-Stars, but that's not how it works. Only one Flyer made it when two probably should. Giroux's back to producing at a high-end level, but if there was going to be only one Flyers representative, I would have liked for it to have been Couturier.

This shouldn't come as a terrible surprise.

The selection of the All-Star rosters is a reputation-driven process. Outside of the fan-voted captains, the players are picked by the NHL hockey operations staff.

So when it came down to the most-deserving Flyers, Giroux likely jumped out. He's a face of the NHL, the name certainly has cachet and the captain is thriving in a rebound season featuring 52 points, tied for second in the NHL.

While Couturier's breakout season is duly noted in the Delaware Valley, it might not shine as brightly among the league and star-studded division. If Couturier continues to replicate his numbers down the line, then he'll become an All-Star at some point.

If anyone was truly snubbed, it's Jakub Voracek. The guy leads all of hockey in assists (43) and is tied for third in points (51). But not every team gets multiple representatives and Giroux, the trademark Flyer, was more than worthy.

Which streak was Flyers' true colors?

Which streak was Flyers' true colors?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Which streak was more representative of the Flyers?

If there is anything we've learned over the past eight weeks, it's that the Flyers are not as bad as their 10-game losing streak nor as good as their six-game winning streak that followed.

There were times during the 10-game skid they were victims of bad bounces, but there were also a few clunkers in there. The Vancouver, San Jose and Boston losses were some of the worst efforts this team has had under Dave Hakstol.

Then there were times during the season-high six-game winning streak that fell one win shy of tying an odd NHL record for most wins following a 10-game losing streak the Flyers probably should have lost. The Buffalo and Dallas wins come to mind.

What that tells us is, the Flyers are a streaky team not quite ready for prime time, but not quite bad enough to deserve low fan turnout. The Flyers, while in a bigger rebuild than imagined, are again a fringe playoff team — like the past two seasons.

Brian Elliott has been stellar in his first season as a Flyer, and Hakstol has relied on him heavily because of (surprise) an injury to Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth could return as early as Thursday in Florida.

Elliott has started the Flyers' past 11 games and has a .933 save percentage over that span. Even during the 10-game losing streak, the losses could not have been pinned on the goaltending.

With Elliott, the Flyers have a chance to win each night. That's all you can ask for from a goaltender when you don't have a goalie such as Sergei Bobrovsky.

There have been enough encouraging signs over the past three weeks that suggests this Flyers team could squeak into the playoffs this April, with secondary scoring atop the list.

Sean Couturier has proven to be a legitimate top-line center, with a career-high 16 goals already. Claude Giroux is back to producing at an elite level. Jake Voracek is back.

Nolan Patrick, while not contributing as one would like, has trended upward over the past three games. He even centered the team's second line with Voracek and Michael Raffl on his wings in the Flyers' last game before the holiday break.

Travis Konecny has found his way into the top six. Will that continue after the Christmas break? We'll see, but he was buzzing with Couturier and Giroux in Columbus.

The defense is young with two rookies. Robert Hagg has been steady and plays far beyond his rookie label, while Travis Sanheim is progressing, though patchy at times. Ivan Provorov has had a bumpy last few games, but he's proven stellar in his second NHL season. He's a rock. Shayne Gostisbehere is back to producing offensively, which has covered up some of his deficiencies. It's been a solid start for "Ghost."

There will be some more bumps along the road as the Flyers close out the season, and when evaluating this team, it's safe to say the Flyers are somewhere in between the team that lost 10 straight and then won six straight.

They sit four points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot as of today. As the schedule ramps up and the games begin to matter more, the Flyers are in a position to strike.

It was hard to see a month ago, but the postseason is still within grasp.

Obviously, the Flyers didn't play well during their 10-game losing streak.

But they weren't downright awful, either.

Half of the defeats came after regulation (when anything can happen and the previous 60 minutes are thrown out the window), while the Flyers also outshot the opposition in five of those contests.

“If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say, ‘We’re playing poorly.’ I would be," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said following the ninth straight defeat on Nov. 28. "We are not playing poorly and to look objectively at our team right now and to say we’re playing poorly, no.

“As a manager, I have to be realistic with how our team is playing. I think right now, as a whole, I think we’ve played better than our record.”

There's a reason they won six straight directly after the 10-game skid. It wasn't strictly a coincidence or a flip of the switch. The Flyers, in fact, weren't far off, maybe just a play or two away from wins during that stretch.

The last time the Flyers lost 10 consecutive games (Feb. 6-23, 2008), they went to the Eastern Conference Finals the same season, which goes to show you streaks in hockey aren't always indicative of the play on the ice or the fate of a team.

Are the Flyers where they want to be? No, but we saw more potential in the six-game winning streak than reality in the 10-game losing streak.

A little bit of time and growth should further prove that, too.

End to End: Which Flyer has been most disappointing during skid?

End to End: Which Flyer has been most disappointing during skid?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Which Flyer has been most disappointing during skid?

There is plenty of blame to go around. It's the holiday season. We should spread the love. So let's. There isn't one player responsible for where the Flyers stand today. It would be unfair to single out one player as the root of the team's problems. It would also be unfair to blame the head coach for the players not performing up to their abilities. It also would be unfair to not place some blame on the head coach. It's Dave Hakstol's responsibility to get the most out of his players, and he's not doing that.

Ultimately, the fault lies with the players. This Flyers team has more talent than it has in the past few seasons. I still believe that. I don't think it's a talent issue, and general manager Ron Hextall said as much last week when the downfall was at four games.

"We have enough talent," Hextall said. "It's not a talent issue, it's an execution issue."

After the losing streak hit nine Tuesday night, Hextall spewed GM-speak. He said all the things he had to say, and that certainly didn't sit well with the fanbase. It didn't sound like he was at his breaking point, which means, it doesn't appear any major changes are coming. The "Fire Hakstol" chants that filled the Wells Fargo Center will get only louder as the rightfully disgruntled fanbase grows more irritated. Hextall, though, doesn't sound like a GM ready to fire his coach. Instead, he believes in his players.

So which one player am I most disappointed in over the Flyers' current nine-game losing streak that has no end in sight? For me, it's Wayne Simmonds, who has one goal in his last 17 games. Simmonds jumped out to a scorching start this season. He scored a hat trick in the season opener and had three game-winning goals in the Flyers' first five games.

Simmonds has been one of the best Flyers forwards since he's been in Philadelphia, and he's doing so on an extremely team-friendly contract. He's a 30-goal scorer. He makes his living on the power play. He's a physical player, plays with passion and heart. But over the last month, he hasn't been the same. He suffered a lower-body injury in the third period Oct. 17 against the Florida Panthers, and while he hasn't missed a game since, he certainly hasn't looked like the same player.

Perhaps Simmonds is more hurt than he's letting on. Perhaps, it's the warrior mentality hockey players have — that if you can walk, you will play. It's one thing to play through injury if it doesn't affect your play. It's another thing to play through injury and have a negative impact on your team. If Simmonds isn't injured, then it's a bigger problem.

We've talked about the Flyers' lack of secondary scoring and Simmonds has been a culprit in that department. The Flyers need him to play better, and they need it soon. There isn't one player responsible for the hole this team has dug itself. It's truly a collaborative effort, but Simmonds has been the most disappointing.

The players are taking the blame for the Flyers' current state of affairs.

So now is a decent time to look at which of those players have underperformed most, resulting in this early-season drama.

And, really, no one guy jumps out as the clear-cut culprit for the Flyers' mess. This is on a lot of the players, not just a few.

For me, however, I've got to go with Jordan Weal, especially because I had such high expectations for him entering his first full NHL season. I loved what I saw last season when he finally got his chance, he works his tail off and at times during training camp and preseason, he looked like the Flyers' quickest and most dangerous player.

In a prominent role with some talent around him, I foresaw a big jump from Weal to provide the secondary scoring the Flyers always seem to need.

It just hasn't happened … yet.

Weal has two points (one goal, one assist) in his last 15 games. Overall, he has six points (two goals, four assists) in 20 games and was a healthy scratch the Flyers' past two defeats. For some context, defenseman Brandon Manning, in the same number of games, has scored more goals with three and has matched the point total of six.

There's no reason why Weal can't rediscover his scoring touch.

But he's now in a fight to regain his role and trust from the coaches.