Becoming What Was Promised

Morgan_Rielly_2017-12-09_2.jpg
 
2.png
 

By Christian Button

Don’t get misled by the title, no where in this article am, I going to say Morgan Rielly is the best defensemen in the league, but what I will say is that he is becoming what he was projected to be, a true #1 elite defensemen. Yes, Rielly still does have a long way before he is deemed an “elite” defenseman, but for the Leafs he is becoming exactly what they hoped for when they drafted him back in 2012 in the first round. Rielly is in the top 3 of defensemen point leaders with 30 points just 1 point behind Ottawa Senators defensemen Thomas Chabot. 


Last year Rielly had 6 goals, 46 assists which is a combined 52 points in 76 games played. Currently he has 9 goals and 21 assists, so already passing his goal totals from last year in only 28 games, to me that’s very impressive for a young defenseman. Rielly still has ways to go before becoming a true number one defensemen in the league.


Don’t forget that Rielly who still is only 24 years of age is currently on a very team friendly contract at just 5 mil AAV for the next 4 years. Having a defenseman of his caliber with that contract makes it an absolute steal for the Leafs, especially with having to sign Matthews and Marner this off season it makes it that much easier to keep the core of the Leafs together. 
You don’t find defenseman like Rielly that often in the draft or even being available for trade, so the fact that the Leafs have him signed at such a good price makes it all that much better.



Ron Hextall, Your Time Is Up

 
2.png
 

By Mike Bailey

If you would have told me 4 years ago that in the 2018-2019 season, the Philadelphia Flyers would still be a mediocre team, I would have laughed in your face. If you would have told me at the beginning on the season that the Flyers would be in last place of the Metropolitan Division at U.S. Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Yet, here we are. its U.S. Thanksgiving and the Flyers are last in the Metro at 9-10-2, good for 20 points after an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night in Buffalo.

When Ron Hextall took over as General Manager of the Flyers in 2014, many believed it would be the turning point the Flyers needed to head in the right direction. Hextall preached patience as he rebuilt the farm system and stray from handing out big contracts to aging veterans in free agency. So far, he has rebuilt the farm system and hasn’t handed out big, crippling contracts.

However, he has been far from perfect.

For starters, after firing Craig Berube, he hired NCAA coach Dave Hakstol as the new head coach. Hakstol was brought in to help develop the new Flyers that Ron was drafting. Now in his fourth year as head coach, the Hakstol experiment has failed with no improvement in sight. It has been the same story each season, which is troubling that the current Front Office refuses to fix.

This will be the only time I use a John Boruk tweet in one of my articles to prove a point, but it is a common, recurring factor with this team. Yet the Front Office continues to accept this. Yet they refuse to try and make a change to improve.

And Ron gives us this roster improvement this morning. This will fix everything, right?

Wrong.

As Billy Mays always said, “but wait, there’s more!”

Lets talk about the Flyers penalty kill, or rather lack there of.

These are real numbers, ya’ll. The Flyers are actually on pace to have one of the worst penalty kill units in the history of the league. Ian Laperriere is still here as the PK coach. He also took over in 2014 when he installed his own system. Going from 7th to 27th in the league is a pretty noticeable difference. Sure there was an improvement in the 14-15 season, but since then its been downhill, and it’s getting worse.

Seems like with that evidence that is enough alone to fire Lappy, yet Hextall refuses to. Ron said this past off season he hoped to add a PK specialist. Guess what. He didn’t. Instead nothing has changed. Same coach. Same system. Same personnel.

With them being passive on the PK, opposing teams have free will to get set up and have their way with the Flyers and usually scoring a goal. Nearly 1/3 of opposing power plays end up with a goal. That is utterly disgusting, yet fascinating that nothing has been done to improve it. Maybe try being aggressive on the kill for once. We have seen them be somewhat aggressive before, and it has worked. However, more times than not they remain passive and give up the goal.

Goaltending has been an issue with this team since forever. Ron knew that coming in. Ron hasn’t fixed it either. Instead you could say he’s made it even worse. The Flyers have used 4 different goalies this year. 21 games in. 4 different goalies. With 76 goals against, the Flyers are 3rd in most goals against. Currently they are averaging 3.62 goals against per game. Under Hakstol, the previous worse was 2.88 GA/GP which was last year. Sure, they’re GA/GP could level out to previous seasons, but then again it may not.

Flyers still don’t have a number 1 goalie. Sure, Brian Elliott can give you some solid performances, but at age 33 and with recent injury issues, his time could be coming up. Michal Neuvirth is unable to even show up the the rink still without getting injured. Cal Pickard is a back up. Alex Lyon is an AHL goalie, at best. Stolarz could be a NHL backup, but will not be a number one. Then there is Carter Hart. He’s in his first pro season. Could he be a number one in the future? Sure. Could he also reach his peak as an AHL starter or NHL back up and never become a number one? Sure. Same goes for the rest of the goalies in the system. We still may not have a number one. That is troubling since Ron has been here 4 years. He completely burned his bridge with Steve Mason who was a number one in favor of Neuvirth. So, one day the Flyers will have a goalie, just not sure when.

Before this season started, the power play was supposed to be the strong point of the Flyers. With the current weapons and adding in James van Riemsdyk, there was no reason to think other wise. Well, after going basically a month without a power play goal, or 3-43 the Flyers currently sit at 15.9% which is good for 25th in the league. Having this roster with these weapons and having a power play that awful is completely unacceptable. At no point should this power play be this bad. Of course they did have 3 power play goals against Tampa recently, so those numbers could have been worse than where they are currently. You don’t win in the playoffs, or really even make the playoffs if you have horrible special teams.

This season was supposed to be a step forward from being mediocre and making it to the playoffs in the final game of the season. This season was supposed to be different. Here we are, 21 games through the season and nothing looks to have improved and things seem to be getting worse.

Lets not forget this last year. Basically same time as last year as well. Could we be in for another 10 game losing streak? With games coming up against the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, I would not be surprised. Also throw in games against the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and a rematch against the Sabres, another 10 game losing streak is very possible before heading out West, just like last year.

This isn’t a coincidence. This is their identity. A mediocre, streaky team who will just barely do enough to get into the playoffs only to lose in the first round.

Ron, your time is up.

Why Frederik Andersen Is The Best Goalie In The League

Embed from Getty Images
 
 

By Christian Button

We are a good chunk into the year having just past the quarter mark of the season and most teams that are in a playoff position will most likely stay there for the rest of the season. When looking at the top teams in the league most of them are being carried by great goaltenders, and one of those goalies is Danish born goaltender Frederik Andersen, who pretty much carries the Leafs on his back all season.

Despite his slow starts the last couple seasons, he has settled down quite nicely this season, while quietly becoming one of the best goalie in the league. Andersen sits 2nd in SV% with a 0.935 and sits 1st in wins with 12 on the season already and a whopping 583 saves. There are other cases out there for the best goalie in the league like Rinne and Price who are still playing very dominantly, but with Prices recent injury struggles, I believe it is time for Andersen to step up and take over the conversation for being the best goalie in the league. 

A big question in the off season for the Leafs is the lack of defence. But if you look at it, their best defender is in net. Last year Andersen stopped a league leading 2029 shots, which is just above Vasilevsky who stopped 1908 shots. Knowing that they have a solid goalie in net, takes some weight off the shoulders of the Leafs defencemen.

There is still lots of hockey left to play this season before the playoffs start in April, but I think Andersen has the skill and consistency to be, if not already be, the best goalie in the NHL.