Travis Hughes of SB Nation's Broad Street Hockey was kind enough to answer a few questions about this year's Flyers. Here's how it went.
Jeff Chapman: Both the Oilers and Flyers are having somewhat, uh, less than spectacular beginnings to their 2013-14 campaigns. There are several contributing factors as to why the Oilers are having a tough time, but if you could pick one for Philadelphia, what is it?
Travis Hughes: Well, the pucks aren't going in the net. That's a good start. But the cause of that could be any number of things, from purely bad shooting luck to a flaw in the system that's causing fewer chances. I think that they've just been sloppy all over the ice -- in the transition game, in their passing, in their shot selection -- and it's leading to fewer chances and fewer goals. To simplify it to a sentence, they're trying to hard and need to start playing stress-free, simple hockey.
JC: Claude Giroux (0-7-7 in 15 games played) doesn't have a goal yet? What? How is this a thing?
TH: It comes back to the pressure, I think. He's trying too hard, and he isn't playing hockey like the elite player that he is. He's forcing bad passes, trying to skate through three defending players to get a chance, taking bad shots, and not getting any luck when his shots do find the net. It all snow balls, too, which makes it even worse. The longer the slump continues, the more he forces it, and the longer the slump continues. It's an ugly cycle. JC: A quick glance at the numbers would suggest that Steve Mason and Ray Emery just aren't getting it done out there, but Mason's SV% is actually rather good at .925. If he continues to hold that number, that's quite a bit better than his rookie campaign that helped put him on the map in Columbus. Is he an option for the future?
TH: Million dollar question ... literally. The hope is that he can, but given his career numbers, that's certainly not the expectation. That said, Mason has been the Flyers best player this season and that's not even close to a debate. I don't think he'll keep up a .925, but with each passing game, we get a little bit more confident that he can end up with a .915 or better season. We'll see.
JC: Who's been the biggest surprise so far this year? Biggest disappointment?
TH: The biggest surprise has absolutely been Mason, for the all the reasons listed above. Pretty much everybody else has been a disappointment, so I'll narrow it down to a list. Scott Hartnell's been awful, and that's not just because of his production. He's looked bad away from the puck too. The same could be said for Jakub Voracek, who's been basically invisible, and Wayne Simmonds to a certain extent as well. On defense, Kimmo Timonen looks about ready for retirement and Luke Schenn, after a surprisingly solid season last year, is now completely justifiable as a healthy scratch. It sucks.
JC: Craig Berube was brought in shortly into the season after the dismissal of Peter Laviolette. It's fair to assume that things haven't gone as well as likely planned. Does he make it to next year as the guy in charge?
TH: If things keep going the way they are, absolutely not. He won't be here and probably won't even survive this season if the Flyers are in last place come March. That said, I think things will turn around -- it's a bad division and the Flyers could still be a playoff team this year even if they look like crap for another month. There's too much talent, especially offensively, for this team to be the lowest-scoring team in the NHL. It won't continue all year. At least we hope.
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