Monday, September 21, 2015

Six Flyers Line Combinations I Want To See This Preseason

The Eagles stink, the Phillies stink, and the Sixers are going to stink. It could be a rough year to be a sports fan in Philadelphia. But we have Flyers preseason hockey starting tonight and actual meaningful Flyers hockey in a couple weeks. By the time November rolls around I might want to drink a Wawa bleach iced tea, but for now I'm riddled with optimism. I'm excited to see how Dave Hakstol puts his team together, and there are a few combinations of forwards that I'd like to see this week.

Giroux - Voracek - Raffl
This is more about the first two names than the third. Because if you have G and Jake together, the logical third piece is Raffl, who complements them both nicely and creates an A+ first line.

A lot of the talk this summer was about breaking the two superstars up to "balance the team" and "have more than one line that can score." Fuck that! We know these three play as well together as (almost) any line in the NHL. Why would we pass that up to build two mediocre lines? This has to be the first line, and there is nothing anybody can do to change my mind on that.

VandeVelde - White - Bellemare
I really hope Hakstol's familiarity with CVV means he's centering the fourth line. I also hope the contract extensions for White and PEB mean they're going to be flanking him. This is, at times, the most fun Flyers line combination to watch. Leave Umberger or whoever else might be leftover on the bench and put together the fourth line that everyone wants to see. 

Obviously, my mind is made up for the first and fourth lines. Now, the second and third lines, on the other hand...

Couturier - Read - Schenn
Coots is centering the second line. He is getting paid like a second line center for a long time. If he plays with RJ Umberger or any of the "fourth liners" at ANY point this season, there is a disconnect between Hextall and Hakstol, and that is a BAD sign for a rookie head coach.

The big question about Coots is who to put around him. One possibility is the two guys he had success with at the end of last season. I expect Coots and Reader to stay together as the first penalty kill unit, because they've always had great chemistry. If we can somehow make Brayden look good enough to trade at the deadline along with his deadbeat brother warrant a long-term contract extension, then great. This is a homegrown line that we all know and love, so I'd be happy to see them together again and hope this is finally the breakout year.

Couturier - Gagner - Simmonds
Besides the Giroux/Voracek question, the next biggest topic of debate this offseason has been how to get Couturier more involved in the offense and actually achieve that "breakout year." One simple fix is stick him with two of the best non-Voracek wingers on the team. We know Simmonds brings an attacking mentality and loves to play around the net. The word on Gagner is he has a lot of offensive skill and would be a talented playmaker if he had any decent talent around him.

If bringing Coots to the next level is the goal, and we don't care about having a pretty fucking terrible third line, this is the combination I'd go with.

Lecavalier - Gagner - Simmonds
I want Coots to transcend to superstar status as much as anybody. However, there is a bigger prize to be gained from using Gagner/Simmonds as a pair of wingers. 

We need to get Vinny either (1) back to the player that resembles a future Hall-of-Famer or (2) the fuck out of town. The easiest way to be in a position to decide between those two is for him to be taking offensive zone faceoffs with these two guys who can create goals. We need either Mark Streit or MDZ on the ice with Vinny at all times so he looks as good as possible.

If the deadline rolls around and someone is looking for a relatively short commitment to a veteran center with a lot of skill who has his name scratched into the Stanley Cup, maybe we could dump him. But to do that, he's going to have to look like a completely different player than last year. 

That's an interesting subplot of this whole season: we kind of want to win, but if it's clear we can't do that then we have to do everything possible to move Vinny, Umberger, MacDonald, and maybe even Streit.

Lecavalier - Schenn - Umberger
Here's a dream scenario for you: Coots makes the leap to superstar with the help of Sammer and Simmer (you like those? I think I do). On the next line down the depth chart, Brayden Schenn also breaks out and becomes the superstar we all know he can be (and not just Dom Brown on ice skates). 

By turning himself into a playmaking goalscorer, Brayden also brings up the stock of Lecavalier and Umberger and makes their huge contracts tradeable for Hextall. We don't get much in return, but we are able to clear $9.1 million off the books for next year and $4.5 million for 2017-18. Brayden gets to put a big chunk of that money directly into his pocket, and everyone is happy. 

Parade down Broad Street in Spring 2018 - see you there, Ron? 

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