Friday, April 2, 2010

Active Ex-Flyers vs. Current Flyers, Who Ya Got?

After returning from softball practice only to find out that the Flyers were trailing the pathetic Islanders 3-0 after one period in a game they absolutely needed to win — or so I thought, because the Bruins and Thrashers also lost — and then watching them unceremoniously lose 6-4 to old friend Marty Biron, the topic came up about active former Flyers and whether or not a team made up of them would be better than the actual current Flyers lineup.

It's an interesting question. So we might as well take a look at it.

Let me start off by saying there are a shitload of former players still active in the NHL. It's a ridiculous number. By my count, there are 34 former Flyers currently on an NHL, including hurt players and Luca Sbisa (who has only played in 8 games this year for Anaheim) and Donald Brashear (who has all but vanished in New York), and I'm sure there are guys I missed. Truthfully, it's tough even bringing this number down to the acceptable level. So I'll do my best to even out the number of players on the Flyers with the number of players on this former Flyers roster. First, let's look at the current Flyers:

Goaltenders: Ray Emery (injured), Michael Leighton (injured), Brian Boucher, Johan Backlund, Jeremy Duchesne

Defense: Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, Oskars Bartulis, Ryan Parent, Lukas Krajicek

Forwards: Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Danny Briere, Arron Asham, Blair Betts, Jeff Carter (injured), Scott Hartnell, Riley Cote, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Ian Laperriere, Ville Leino, Darroll Powe, Dan Carcillo

That's 26 players in all, including the injured players. So let's make a 26-man roster, though we'll have to throw in three extras spread among defense and the forwards because there are only two active former Flyers goalies in the NHL, as far I as can tell. We'll make a 26-man roster to accommodate injuries. So let's start with the goaltenders.


Martin Biron (Islanders), Antero Niittymaki (Lightning)


Dennis Seidenberg (Bruins), Kim Johnsson (Blackhawks), Joni Pitkanen (Hurricanes), Andrew Alberts (Canucks), Randy Jones (Kings), Jim Vandermeer (Coyotes), Mark Eaton (Penguins), Luca Sbisa (Ducks)


Michael Handzus (Kings), R.J. Umberger (Blue Jackets), Daymond Langkow (Flames), Rod Brind'Amour (Hurricanes), Vinny Prospal (Rangers), Dainius Zubrus (Devils), Glen Metropolit (Canadiens), Mike Knuble (Capitals), Patrick Sharp (Blackhawks), Mark Recchi (Bruins), Joffrey Lupul (Ducks, injured), Ruslan Fedotenko (Penguins), Mike Comrie (Oilers), Justin Williams (Kings), Scottie Upshall (Coyotes, injured), Steve Downie (Lightning)

Not bad. Not bad at all. Some tough decisions to make on who plays and who doesn't. Also some omissions were necessary, because as I said, there are 34 former Flyers (by my count) in the NHL. Left off were Freddy Meyer (D, Islanders), Steve Eminger (D, Ducks), Ryan Potulny (F, Oilers), Jon Sim (F, Islanders), Dean McAmmond (F, Devils), Todd Fedoruk (F, Lightning, really tough for me to leave off because I love Fedoruk), Ben Eager (F, Blackhawks, another tough omission, and probably should take Brind'Amour's spot but I just couldn't, also close with Downie, Williams) and Donald Brashear (F, Rangers).

OK, now to try and make sense of this thing, which will be tough as hell to do. First, let's put together a healthy Flyers lineup:

1st line: Richards-Gagne-Carcillo
2nd line: Carter-Hartnell-Briere
3rd line: Giroux-JVR-Ashom/Leino
4th line: Betts-Laperriere-Powe/Ashom/Leino
D: Pronger-Carle, Timonen-Krajicek/Parent, Coburn-Bartulis/Parent
G: Emery, Leighton, Boucher

Now the former Flyers, just a ballpark here:

1st line: Prospal-Knuble-Sharp
2nd line: Umberger-Upshall-Lupul/Williams
3rd line: Handzus-Fedotenko-Zubrus
4th line: Metropolit-Langkow-Recchi
D: Johnsson-Seidenberg, Jones-Alberts, Vandermeer-Eaton/Sbisa
G: Biron, Niittymaki

With both Upshall and Lupul out with injuries, I'd add Steve Downie to the lineup as well, seeing as the guy has matured to a great extent this season and is having a pretty good year. I always liked that guy even though he was a bit crazy. And Mike Comrie is a good player who should fit in there somewhere. Like I said, many tough calls with so many players to choose from.

Honestly, looking at this thing, I think I'd take the former Flyers over the current ones. For starters, Biron and Niittymaki, for all the questioning they got here in Philadelphia, are simply better than anything on the roster right now, especially with Leighton and Emery done. Boucher sucks, which was made even more clear last night, and the other two shouldn't even be in the NHL. Frankly, I personally think Biron is a better goaltender than both Emery and Leighton when they're healthy was well, and Niitty was a fantastic backup. That's big bonus points.

Then looking at the offensive lines, I think the current Flyers actually match up pretty well on paper, but taking a look at the former Flyers and knowing how they play, I simply would like that team more. It's made up of guys who always seem hungry and willing to do the little things. A Prospal-Knuble-Sharp line would be very dangerous. Umberger-Upshall-Lupul reunited would provide skill and energy, plus you could seamlessly insert Justin Williams and/or Steve Downie for a similar look. Handzus is better defensively than any Flyer forward right now, and Fedotenko and Zubrus add a little scoring. And Metropolit does the dirty work, and somehow turned into a power play scoring machine this year, Langkow has just been a good player for a long time, and Recchi keeps on plugging along. Then for match-ups sake, you can insert Brind'Amour to win every single faceoff and still play some sound D, Brashear for muscle (who would absolute destroy Riley Cote or any other Flyer in a fight), or even Eager or Fedoruk if you so choose.

Meanwhile, this year's Flyers struggle to score goals and have defensive lapses all the time. Not to mention the team as a whole is terrible at passing.

I will say this though, as far as talent goes, the Flyers of today have much more talented depth on the blue line. Pronger and Timonen are way better than anyone on this make-shift squad, and Carle and Coburn probably have more talent than anyone out there, though their inconsistency is really annoying. And frankly, Coburn just hasn't been good this year. Krajicek, Bartulis and Parent are very solid too. Really, only Johnsson, who's at the end of his career, and maybe Seidenberg would crack the Flyers' lineup at this point. It would be nice to have Sbisa around, seeing as he played well for the Flyers last year, but he's been in the AHL most of the year for Anaheim. We all know what Joni is, which is to say not very good defensively but still talented offensively. Eaton plays for the defending champs, and he's solid, but he doesn't blow you away. Alberts and Vandermeer are also pretty good players, but not spectacular. And Randy Jones wore out his welcome here, but he has rebounded pretty nicely for the Kings. Steve Eminger and Freddy Meyer suck.

Overall, this is a pretty pointless exercise, but it's kind of fun to look back at some of these guys and reminisce. It also reminds you of the one that got away in Sharp, and makes me at least long for the days of Biron — at least you could count on him to make the routine saves (I'm looking at you Boucher). It also is kind of depressing, because if the salary cap was never instituted, there's a good chance some of these guys would still be Flyers.

Given the way the Flyers use to spend before the cap was instituted, it's no stretch to think they could have found a way to keep Umberger and certainly Knuble. They possibly could have traded more picks for Pronger, potentially keeping one or both of Lupul and Sbisa. Perhaps the Scottie Upshall-Dan Carcillo trade never happens, though after originally being upset, I'm finding Carcillo to be a perfect fit in Philly. Still, Upshall was a free agent after last season, maybe he could have come back. And they certainly could have kept at least one of the goaltenders, instead of going into the season with a wild card in net.

But such is life in the new NHL. The salary cap crippled the Flyers' biggest advantage, being one of the few profitable teams that could afford to spend and spend and spend. Now they have to find a way, after another disappointing stretch to wind down the regular season, to shed some payroll and shake things up. Should be interesting to see what Paul Holmgren has up his sleeve, and if the Flyers can make things interesting at all here down the stretch and if they manage to hold on and make the playoffs.

BallHype: hype it up!

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