Help might be on the way but the question is this: Can any player or two turn around the Flyers’ sagging fortunes?
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher still has a few weeks to make a trade – either to help a struggling defense corps or add some scoring punch up front.
But the way things are going right now, with a 4-8-1 record in March, it’s going to be a pretty tall order to find someone with that sort of necessary impact.
Fletcher admitted as much during a Wednesday media Zoom call.
Asked if he might be a buyer or seller leading up to the April 12 NHL trade deadline, Fletcher left the door open for buying but all but closed it on selling.
“We’re certainly not looking at selling right now,’’ Fletcher said. “I would say in my calls around the league, first of all, I’ve received very few calls. It’s been really quiet receiving calls.
“I’ve made many, I’ve been much more aggressive than a lot of people just looking at different options. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of teams out there willing to take on dollars.’’
Fletcher said a number of teams are looking to move some pieces rather than take on pieces for various reasons.
“We’ll take a look,’’ he said. “Anything we do, we want to make sure it makes sense, if we can fill a box for the long term. Right now we can potentially explore that. Certainly if we can upgrade our team, we’ll do that.’’
It’s fairly clear something needs to change because the Flyers as presently constituted are not headed in the right direction.
Fletcher indicated the blame for the Flyers’ current plight should be spread evenly among the front office, the coaching staff and the players.
“It starts with me,’’ Fletcher said. “I’m responsible for the overall direction of the team, from hiring the coaches to bringing in the players.
“At this point everyone’s accountable. We’re all accountable for where we’re at in the standings (currently two points behind Boston for the fourth and final playoff spot). Having said that, we’re still in the middle of a playoff battle. We’re pushing to get back in.’’
It’s particularly disappointing because the Flyers made a lot of progress last year, finishing one point behind Washington for the Metro Division title and then securing the No. 1 seed by winning the round-robin tournament.
Then they went out and won their first playoff series since 2012.
This season, with a compressed 56-game schedule, started out OK, leaving the gate 11-4-3, even though the play was sporadic. Then came March and things unraveled.
“Certainly we’ve lacked consistency this year,’’ Fletcher said. “The goals against have been frustrating. But I also look on the positive side: Two of our best games have been in the last week (a 4-3 win and a 2-1 loss to the Islanders).
“I think as a group we know the recipe for success. We just have to find it a little bit more consistently.’’
Fletcher still believes this is a playoff team, regardless of any transactions in the near future.
“There are probably some holes we need to fill to get to where we want to get to,’’ Fletcher said. “We’ve had a tough month. I do think we can rebound from this. I think we have a chance here to catch our breath. We don’t have as many back-to-backs. I think we have a chance to reset.’’
>Keeping faith with young players
A number of young Flyers are having off years, starting with the defense pairing of Phil Myers-Travis Sanheim, along with forwards Nolan Patrick, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and goaltender Carter Hart.
Fletcher said he has faith those players will get things turned around.
“With young players there’s going to be ups and downs,’’ Fletcher said. “Certainly some of our young players haven’t played to the same level that they had last year.
“I think long term, a lot of these players are going to be good players in this league for a long time. I think it’s a year where you have to be careful overanalyzing the results. There are challenges this year that you normally don’t face.’’
>Why have the Flyers struggled so much?
Fletcher said some of the Flyers’ shortcomings have led to the recent struggles.
“This hasn’t been anywhere near like last year,’’ he said. “That’s in large part because we’re 30th in the league in goals against and 31st in save percentage. We’re giving up way too many goals.
“Last year we defended well as a five-man unit. We had strong goaltending. This year we’re not defending well as a five-man unit and our goaltending hasn’t been at the same level.’’
>Goals allowed off the rush a big headache
Another area the Flyers have struggled: Goals allowed off the rush. They have given up a stunning 27 goals, dead last in the NHL.
That’s an indication the Flyers are not doing a good job backchecking.
“One of the hallmarks of our team last year was that we defended well,’’ Fletcher said. “We did not give up those types of chances. It starts up the ice, we put a lot of pressure on our ‘D’ and our goaltenders by the way we play up the ice.
“It’s something we feel we can fix but we will have to do it quickly.’’
Morgan Frost, out indefinitely due to shoulder surgery, has begun working out. He’s about eight weeks post-surgery and could start skating in a couple weeks.