MONTREAL — Chuck Fletcher spared himself from watching another first-period debacle.
The Flyers' general manager did not make the trip to Montreal for Thursday's 5-1 loss (see observations), perhaps tending to the “administrative” side of business with the NHL’s trade deadline now just days away and his team still in a holding pattern.
According to league sources, the majority of buyers looking for that blockbuster deal to boost their roster are all waiting for the Ottawa Senators to make the first move. The Sens have the two most highly coveted players in forwards Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, both of whom didn’t play Thursday night as a precautionary move.
Once those wheels are set into motion and both players are traded as anticipated, it’s expected the teams will start moving quickly toward their secondary plans and that’s where Fletcher, the Flyers and Wayne Simmonds all come into play.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes the Bruins and Lightning have been the two front-runners for Simmonds, but over the course of the past few weeks, scouts apparently have been less than impressed with what they’ve seen out of the Flyers' power forward.
LeBrun tweeted that the Flyers were staying focused on the current playoff chase — one that has taken a severe beating this week as the team has lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 7-8.
Interest has intensified on Wayne Simmonds last few days. But Flyers for now focused on trying to stay in the race. Couple of big games including tonight which will sway final decision before Monday.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 21, 2019
Now’s the time to reevaluate.
There could be some under-the-radar teams that nobody’s talking about.
Arizona GM John Chayka was in Philadelphia this week, perhaps watching Simmonds firsthand. Chayka told The Athletic what needs the Coyotes have at this point: “I think it’s pretty obvious. Scoring and some help on the power play."
And Simmonds checks off both boxes.
However, following Thursday night’s loss, Simmonds has scored just one goal over his last 15 games, his longest stretch of scoring inefficiency this season even during a stretch when the Flyers' power play has been at its most effective.
It leaves you wondering if the buildup to the trade deadline and the uncertainty of his future are starting to wear on Simmonds just a little bit.
The Flyers now find themselves trailing the Carolina Hurricanes by seven points with 21 games remaining, and if they’re struggling to beat some of the teams also on the playoff cusp, then Fletcher must give serious thought to how the Flyers will fare next month when they embark on a stiff 12-game stretch against some of the league’s front-runners.
The schedule only gets tougher and the Carter Hart adrenaline appears to be wearing off. That’s two straight starts in which Hart has been pulled in the first 10 minutes. Sooner or later, the Flyers' porous defense would eventually catch up with them, and now it has.
“We got scored on on two horrible neutral-zone forechecks,” interim head coach Scott Gordon said. “That set the tone for the game, and then after that, turnovers. There were obviously a lot of them. We didn’t give [Hart] a chance to get in the game.”
The Flyers are running out of moves.
Another loss Saturday against the Penguins, and it’ll be time for Fletcher to make his.
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