Flyers

Flyers

Ron Hextall said he’s going “nuts” over the way the Flyers have been playing since their 10-game winning streak ended.
 
Understandable.
 
The Flyers are mired in a deep, 2-6-3 slump since they were third in the Metro and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.
 
They’ve fallen to fifth and seventh.
 
That soft cushion they piled up between themselves and teams behind them is gone. Carolina is within three points of the Flyers with two games in hand after being 11 behind a month ago.
 
Dave Hakstol’s Flyers aren’t playing as a cohesive team, aren’t getting the two-way play they need from their forwards or defense and their goaltending isn’t saving them either.
 
Hextall called out his captain, Claude Giroux, this week saying, he among others, needs to be better.
 
The team has lost seven of eight, and Thursday night’s game against Vancouver is anything but an assured W at this point, not to mention four Canucks — Loui Eriksson, Alex Burrows, and the Sedin Twins — have impressive career numbers against them.
 
Though time has not expired for the Flyers to get themselves going in the second half, it is near expiration in terms of Hextall doing something drastic.
 
The Flyers' general manager reiterated this week he won’t make a trade for trade’s sake and would do so only if he can significantly improve the team.
 
If that’s intended to comfort his players, it’s not going to work. Sometimes a little bit of a threat to job security works wonders.
 
Yet let’s assume for a minute that Hextall has to make a trade to turn things around. What are his options?
 
Well, the fact is, his current roster has only a few marketable commodities that would bring equal value in return. And most clubs aren’t interested in his roster players, anyway.
 
Ivan Provorov has shown he’s going to be a franchise defenseman. It’s been quite a while since the Flyers had one of those. He's going nowhere.
 
If Hextall has to make a deal, opposing GMs are going to want to pick from the Flyers’ abundance of defensive talent in the system.
 
The Flyers have so many talented blueliners that the question becomes, which one can they afford to part with? The talent gap is so close, they could actually have another franchise blueliner in their system and not know it.
 
Among Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers, one of these guys could very well be a franchise defenseman either here or somewhere else in the NHL. 
 
And that’s not all of their prospects, either.
 
Taking Hextall at his word that he would only make a deal that makes sense for the long-term, and knowing that he won’t part with young prospects unless he is getting equal value in return, his dilemma becomes which player to part with.
 
At some point, the Flyers will have to move one of these players because they won’t have enough room on the roster for all of them when they’re NHL-ready.
 
That’s a good problem for a GM to have.
 
The Flyers' needs remain the same as last year and at the start of this season: scoring depth on the wings.
 
That’s a piece of the puzzle Hextall needs to attain and while that’s easier to do in free agency, it requires more skill to achieve via trade if you’re seeking a young asset for a young asset, while trying to gauge the future impact such a deal has to both you and the asset you’re losing.
 
If there’s anything the Sergei Bobrovsky trade taught this franchise it’s this: The club badly misjudged Bob’s impact long-term.
 
“I'm not going to make a trade to send a message,” Hextall told reporters this week. “I'm [only] going to make a trade to make us better.”
 
He added it was Hakstol’s job to send messages, not his.
 
Hakstol has done that with his repeated line changes that extend into tonight’s game against the Canucks with the top three lines shifting around once again.
 
Fine.
 
Now here’s the reality: Hakstol can change movable pieces only so many times before he runs out of moves to make. The chess board is only so big.
 
That the Flyers have managed to hang onto the second wild card despite their terrible run over the last 11 games is only because of the points they piled up in late November through mid-December.
 
Guess what? They’ve used up their reserve. Florida is two points behind them in the wild card.
 
Like it or not, in this 50th Anniversary season, where the playoff picture is less certain now than it was a month ago, a trade might be Hextall’s only option.