VOORHEES, N.J. — Chuck Fletcher has made two deals as Flyers general manager and neither one has budged the needle in terms of impact on the current roster.
But there are signs that indicate what the new Flyers GM could be thinking and evaluating moving forward.
Thursday night, Fletcher essentially pulled off a minor-league swap, dealing Taylor Leier to the Buffalo Sabres' organization in exchange for Justin Bailey, who is a little younger but considerably bigger. Bailey is listed at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, or five inches and 34 pounds heavier than Leier.
Fletcher seized the opportunity to strike while Leier’s value was high. The former Flyer had scored seven points with the Phantoms over his past six games, and while Leier may have displayed some offensive potential in the AHL, that was never going to be his role with the Flyers.
“I don’t think his offense was able to translate to the NHL,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said Friday of Leier. “Ultimately, if you’re not filling a role like killing penalties and getting more minutes, it gets hard to find a niche.”
Instead, the Flyers received a player with size coupled with good skating ability and a little bit of grit that may come in handy on the Flyers' checking line. On Friday, Bailey was assigned to Lehigh Valley, but this trade was more of a change of scenery. Last season with the Flyers, Leier displayed a spark and at times a burst of energy, but nothing that he was able to sustain.
Same can be said for Bailey, who appeared in 52 games during his time with the Sabres but never gained traction and established himself as a checking-line forward.
But look at the makeup of Fletcher’s Minnesota team and you can see that the Flyers' GM has a penchant for size, especially up front. Coming into this season, the Wild were the third-tallest team in the NHL with an average height of 73.7 inches and the fourth heaviest at 205.2 pounds. The Flyers are slightly on the lighter side at 198 pounds, which ranked in the bottom half of the league.
Against the Flyers this past Monday, the Wild had six forwards listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, including 2015 second-round pick Jordan Greenway at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. If you don’t think Minnesota tried to impose its will down in the trenches, here’s what Carter Hart had to say afterward.
I think they were trying to shovel pucks into the net and shovel me into the net as well. I think that’s kind of the style they play and I think that was our pre-scout as well.
You have to think Fletcher would like to see some of that from his current team, especially from his bottom-six forwards.
In trading Jordan Weal a week earlier to Arizona for a sixth-round pick and ECHL-level defenseman Jacob Graves, Fletcher essentially received a minimal return for an undersized center who had become a perimeter player unwilling to work down in the trenches, as well as a forward in the final year of his contract who Fletcher wasn’t willing to re-sign.
If there’s an aspect that should bother Fletcher from what he’s seen in his first six weeks on the job, it’s been a lack of toughness, grit and at times physicality from the current Flyers team, which is the main reason Dale Weise was placed on waivers (see story).
Moving forward, it may also be a reason why Fletcher is on the fence regarding Wayne Simmonds. Trading Simmonds would only deplete the Flyers even further in these much-needed areas, unless they acquire a similar style of player.
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