Philadelphia Flyers: the Metro, the Draft, and Free Agency

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

To attempt to understand why the Philadelphia Flyers dropped from pick 18 and the ability to select the left wing prospect Bellows to pick 22 where they eventually selected the center prospect Rubtsov it helps to understand where the Flyers fit within the Metro.

The Flyers finished 5th in the division last year behind the majority of their major rivals including the Penguins and the Rangers.  If the Philadelphia Flyers are going to make the playoffs by topping the division based on their own merit, then they are going to need to beat the teams in the Metro.

The major competition league wide next year is the Penguins.  That hurts to say and is a bitter pill to swallow, but let’s swallow it now and move forward into the offseason and next year better for it.  No other team conflicts with the Pittsburgh Penguins as much as the Philadelphia Flyers – the rivalry is real, and while there will be opportunities to beat the Penguins there are other teams within the division as well:  the Capitals led the division while the Penguins, Rangers, and Islanders finished behind them.  Every one of those teams finished ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Those teams are the major competition the Philadelphia Flyers must beat if the team is to steamroll into the playoffs rather than limp in on its last legs as it did last year because of a poor start.  No other teams should take higher priority during the fiftieth season than the ones listed previously.  Yes amass as many wins as possible, but these teams should be the strong focus at early home games, but especially at late away games.  To make the playoffs the statistics need to at least mirror the ones from the previous year, and to get into the playoffs with a higher seed the Flyers need to be better during the start of the season.  That starts now during the offseason.

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The microphone barely fell silent during the draft when debates over whether or not the Flyers should have drafted left winger Kieffer Bellows rather than the center German Rubtsov started.  Bellows is a 6’0’’ 196-pound player who “only scores goals” at a position of need.  So why did the Philadelphia Flyers move from pick 18 with the opportunity to select Bellows and drop to pick 22 to select the 6’2” 190-pound center German Rubtsov instead?

To analyze the first round draft choice, we will look at a comparison of each player’s scouting report and determine how each falls in line with what Ron Hextall is attempting to visualize for the future of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Joe Curtis of said,

"Kieffer Bellows is a skilled power forward who can dominate games. Possesses high end puckhandling ability as well as a crisp, accurate release on his shot. Proficient forechecker and loves to win puck battles, which stands out as a consistent part of his game. Strong skater who can bull through the opposition or go around them. Drives the net hard and is a decisive finisher. All-in- all, a competitor who punishes the opposition physically, as well as on the scoreboard.He is a very strong skater with excellent acceleration and balance. But mix in his mobility with strength and tenacity, and you get a coach’s dream.  Rubtsov is a “big play” center who preys on the weak, and his superior playmaking ability and vision enables him to be used in key situations regardless of which end of the scoreboard his team is on. He’s an extremely competitive leader who will involve himself physically if the game is in need of a momentum shift. Rubtsov has a very good shot which he can wire off his back foot or unload via a slapper, and while he is very accurate in terms of getting it on net, he has a tendency to look for the pass as a primary course of action."

In hindsight with Hextall’s move for Dale Weise it is easy to see why he felt he could move down from Bellows to Rubtsov.  Bellows may be better than Weise long term, but in Hextall’s words Weise can shore up the top nine immediately.  I see Weise as a mid or bottom six player but would gladly eat crow if I’m wrong.  I root for every member of the Philadelphia Flyers to be the best they can be, and to create competition on the roster.

Ultimately, between picking up an immediate contributor at wing in Free Agency and this portion from the scouting report saying, “Rubtsov is a “big play” center who preys on the weak, and his superior playmaking ability and vision enables him to be used in key situations regardless of which end of the scoreboard his team is on”.

Next: 2015/16 Season Review – Line 3

This is why Hextall chose the center rather than the winger. Hextall chose this center in particular because of his playmaking ability and situational awareness as well as his leadership.  The ability to create the big play with strong and accelerated skating is also exciting.  In the meantime, Weise feels excited to be a part of the team, that he can contribute immediately, and that he feels wanted by the Philadelphia Flyers.  These are all great attitudes from the front office to player to continue to build chemistry on the team while waiting for the prospects to come up.