Flyers

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?

Dougherty
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.

Hall
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.

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

csn-jordan-hall-ron-hextall.jpg
Jordan Hall | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall is determined to find that needle in the haystack.

While the Flyers' general manager has had very good success with his first-round picks throughout his four-year tenure, uncovering that diamond in the rough can be a crapshoot. A hockey organization can languish for many years if they come up with a first-round bust, but it’s the mid-to-late round picks that can elevate a franchise into championship stratosphere. 

Take 2014 in Philadelphia — Hextall’s first draft as Flyers GM. So far, the majority of prospects still haven’t come close to reaching their potential, but the few teams that were able to hit a home run (Tampa Bay, Brayden Point, 79th overall; Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson, 112th overall; Anaheim, Ondrej Kase, 205th overall) have benefitted greatly for their early-career success.

“We always look for one really good NHL quality,” Hextall said. “When you’re talking about third or fourth round, first of all, don’t minimize it. I’m saying like us, for our staff. We need to still try and pick a hockey player, it’s important. Pulling guys out of late rounds is important. When you look at the cycle of a hockey team and depth and everything that we need, it’s important.”

While the attention has centered around the Flyers' two first-round selections, Hextall considers the team’s two fifth-round selections and two more in the seventh round to be equally vital to the Flyers' success.

“We have two seventh-round picks, they’re friggin important,” Hextall said. “We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try and hit on a guy. Whether we will or not, I don’t know what the odds say, I think it’s 2.3 percent, whatever it is. They’re low odds, we know that, but we’re going to try to do the best we can to try and hit on those guys because eventually, you’re going to hit on some of those guys.”

To further Hextall’s point, 29 of the 30 first-round picks in 2014 have NHL experience. Of the next 180 players to go off the board in Rounds 2-7, you’ll find roughly that same number who have played more than just one NHL game. Oskar Lindblom (138th overall) could eventually pan out to be the late-round gem Hextall has tried to uncover.

After sorting out his first four drafts, where might Hextall search to find that next promising prospect?

The Flyers GM has selected at least one player from the USHL in each of his first four drafts with Phantoms defenseman Mark Friedman as the highest drafted USHL prospect, 86th overall in 2014.

Who might Hextall draft

Jack Drury, C, Waterloo, USHL
A slightly undersized center listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Drury is the nephew of former NHLer Chris Drury and has acquired some of the same attributes. Drury has been complemented with a tremendous work ethic and plays the game much like his uncle with a grit and determination of contributing in the clutch. Set a new USHL record with a 23-game point streak and has committed to play at Harvard University next season.    

Under Hextall, the Flyers have also tapped into Sweden’s top junior league over the past four seasons drafting Lindblom, goaltender Felix Sandstrom and defenseman Linus Hogberg to name a few, and 2018 appears to be a good depth draft for the young Swedes especially among defense.

Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea, Sweden Jrs.
While I really admire the size and reliability of Filip Johansson, there may be some value with Lundkvist who’s not quite as highly rated as Johnasson. Lundkvist is more of a defensive defenseman who plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. Both defensemen are right handed and if the Flyers can’t land a righty blueliner in the first round, they may have to wait until Round 2 or trade back into the third round after surrendering that pick to Detroit as part of the Petr Mrazek trade.

There’s a general overall belief Hextall prefers to select a center capable of converting into a winger, and while he’s admitted that many centers have that versatility, it hasn’t defined Hextall who has drafted just as many pure wingers as centers, including five in last year’s entry draft.

Niklas Nordgren, RW, Finnish Jrs.
Nordgren is small (5-9), tremendously skilled and is willing to get his nose dirty. He was one of the most impressionable players at the U-18 world juniors with a tournament-leading eight goals for Team Finland. Preferably you would like a player of Nordgren’s size to be a lightning-quick skater, but it has improved.

More on the Flyers

It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

site.jpg
USA Today Images

It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

In typical NHL fashion, the 2018-19 schedule release is a two-day event.

That means we won't know the entire schedule until around 5 p.m. Thursday, but we know enough today to put together some of the pieces.

It looks like the Flyers will open up their season out West for the third straight season.

The Flyers will play the Golden Knights in Vegas' home opener Oct. 4 at T-Mobile Arena. Their own home opener is Oct. 9 against the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center.

After looking at other teams’ home openers, it appears the season starts Oct. 3 with Capitals hosting the Bruins, the Maple Leafs entertaining the Canadiens and the Canucks facing the Flames at home. Last season began Oct. 4, 2017.

While the Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Flyers won their first game in Vegas with a 4-1 win Feb. 11.

The 2018-19 season will be the fourth straight year the Flyers begin on the road. Last season, they opened up with a 5-3 win over the Sharks in San Jose.

The last time they opened at home was 2013-14, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve won their last two season openers. They’re 5-4-1 in their last 10 season openers.

They won their home opener last year, crushing the Capitals, 8-2.

More on the Flyers