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 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.

Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

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Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

When the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from Detroit out of necessity in February, Ron Hextall explained the trade as a reward for his players’ hard work.

“We’re in a tough situation — you lose your top two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot,” Hextall said then, “and our players have worked hard for a long time now. I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.”

One month later, Mrazek has been erratic, and the Flyers’ grip on a playoff spot is loosening. With eight games remaining, Dave Hakstol owes it to his players to ride the steadier goalie, and that's not the proven NHL goaltender.

For the second time in six days, Hakstol was forced to pull Mrazek on Tuesday night, and for the second time in six days, Alex Lyon battled in relief, giving the Flyers a chance in a game they otherwise had no business being in.

Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots Tuesday, holding off a determined Red Wings team and allowing the Flyers to fight back from a 3-1 deficit and force overtime. They lost, 5-4, in a shootout, but the point was huge.

We’re tired of hearing that too. But at this stage, and with how the Flyers have played in March, any point is needed. The goal is the playoffs, and right now, the Flyers cannot trust Mrazek.

What we’ve seen from Mrazek in his short time here explains why the Red Wings soured on him.

Mrazek showed glimpses of his potential in his first three starts as a Flyer, but since, he’s been inconsistent and unreliable.

In his last nine games, Mrazek’s 2-5-1 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .865 save percentage. He's allowed fewer than three goals just once. There have been far too many bad goals along the way too.

Last Thursday, Mrazek was pulled after yielding his fourth goal against the Blue Jackets, a team the Flyers are jockeying with for playoff position in the Metropolitan Division.

That relief appearance earned Lyon the start Saturday in Carolina, where he was again steady. Hakstol went back to Mrazek on Sunday and then again Tuesday.

Now, it’s time to ride Lyon until the rookie shows wear on his tires and until either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth is healthy enough to return, which likely will not be until closer to the final week of the season.

Lyon has not looked out of place since his second call-up of the season Feb. 11. In six games — three starts — he has a .933 save percentage.

The 25-year-old passes both the numbers and eye test, and it’s time to show faith in him.

After Tuesday’s loss, the Flyers dropped to the top wild-card spot, with Columbus leap-frogging them to third in the Metro. Both teams have eight games left. The Flyers are four points ahead of the Devils, who have one game in hand.

Then, there are the Panthers, five points behind the Flyers with three games in hand. Per Hockey-Reference, the Flyers have an 88.8 percent chance at the postseason.

We’ve seen crazier collapses happen, though. When March began, the Flyers were one point behind the first-place Capitals. They’ve picked up just eight of a possible 22 points this month.

At this point, it’s about surviving, and Lyon gives the Flyers a better shot to stay above the line than Mrazek.

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time


DETROIT — The Flyers brought a cold engine to the Motor City and it took a good 40 minutes to finally get it started.

Sure, Dave Hakstol’s team rallied back from a two-goal deficit Tuesday to earn a point at a time when every point is critical, but losing a 5-4 shootout to a fragile Detroit team is unacceptable and unexplainable (see observations).

“Maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game,” Sean Couturier said. “We didn’t play the right way. We didn’t play hard. We wasted 40 minutes. We came back and got a big point, but we can’t be wasting time at this time of the year.”

On a night when the Flyers could have officially eliminated the Red Wings from postseason contention, they turned back the clock and made this Detroit team look more like the juggernaut that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships 20 years ago. 

At least through the first two periods.

“The second period was god-awful,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We really didn’t help our cause out. We weren’t pushing plays and we just weren’t battling out there. You saw in the third what we could do when we light a fire under our ass. It’s tough like that when you dig yourself a hole and you come back, you expend a lot of energy. The positive we can take is that we got a point out of it.”

You may have never known this was the same Red Wings team that, like the Flyers in the first half of the season, had dropped 10 straight with an 0-9-1 record. Detroit had been outscored a whopping 41-19 from Feb. 28-March 18.

The Red Wings had also returned from a four-game Western Conference road trip less than 48 hours prior to the opening faceoff.

With eight games remaining on the Flyers' schedule, Hakstol is also mired in a goaltending dilemma. Petr Mrazek was rescued from Detroit to be the savior in Philadelphia following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. 

After winning his first three starts, Mrazek’s numbers reek of mediocrity: a 2-5-1 record, 3.72 GAA and an .860 save percentage. Most recently, he’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon in two of his last three games.

“The second one is a bad-angle goal,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, he wants that one back, but we gave up a number of opportunities that he was very strong on.”

Mrazek was pulled from the game at 3-1, and before heading to the locker room, he expressed his disappointment with the coaching staff over a non-goaltender interference call during the Red Wings' third goal.

“I talked to Coach and I was just wondering about the goalie interference because someone had bumped in there during the shot,” Mrazek said. “It wasn’t anything like I was mad or something that I got pulled. I was just asking him if there was a goalie interference or not.”

The Flyers' shootout loss coupled with the Blue Jackets' ninth straight victory now drops the orange and black into wild-card territory (see standings).

If this is indeed a playoff team, it needs to repair what’s under the hood and fix it fast.