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Meltzer: Patience


murraycraven
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Another great article by Meltzer... puts everything into perspective and I think he is spot on here:

The upper management of the Philadelphia Flyers organization and a large segment of its fanbase are notorious for their impatience and what-have-you-done-for-us-lately assessments of personnel. Patience is at a minimum in this city, and it doesn't take much struggle for a young player to go from "untouchable" to the subject of a variety of trade rumors.

My biggest gripe with the Flyers' organization -- and this absolutely starts at the very top with Ed Snider as the biggest culprit -- is that the organization reverses its roster-building course too often in a seeming effort to retroactively win a previous year's Stanley Cup. They are bold but too often in a reactive rather than proactive way.

The Flyers have taken criticism for unloading quite a few of their former nucleus players within a year of deciding to sign them to long-term contract extensions. The frequent reversals of direction do not make the organization look very good to outsiders, but I think each and every move should be judged on its own merits and over a multi-year period.

That said, the organization's tendency toward impatience and all-too-quick reversal of course with developing young players is disturbing, and it spans back to the Bob Clarke years in which players went from building blocks to trade bait in the span of one down year.

When it comes to current struggling second-year Flyers Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn in particular, I think everyone needs to step back and take a deep breath. Everything is magnified in the condensed 48-game season, and since neither player has lived up to their rather lofty preseason expectations, they've been taking a lot of heat as of late. That's especially true in Couturier's case, as he's gone from golden boy to whipping boy in a few short months.

Here's the No. 1 thing to keep in mind: The Flyers have played two months of hockey. The season started on Jan 19. Today is March 20. In a normal season cycle, the Flyers would have played fewer than their current 30 games after two months. In a legitimate full season, it would be December, and we'd be still be several weeks away from the statistical halfway point of the schedule.

It would be utterly asinine to change one's bigger-picture perspective on a player based on two months of hockey or even half a season. This applies to veteran players, too, but especially to ones who are still in the development phase of their careers. I believe that Paul Holmgren understands this, but I'm not so sure that Ed Snider does in all his perpetual win-now fervor. At the end of the day, if the Comcast-Spectacor chairman isn't happy, his GM is going to make changes if he values his own job.

On an organizational level, the Flyers' perpetual win-now philosophy has very much played into their chronic inability to develop homegrown defensemen and goaltenders (though one could also argue that the pre-NHL scouting assessments of the pool of players entering the organization at these positions have also left something to be desired). There is very little tolerance for living through protracted growing pains.

Unfortunately, the learning curve for defensemen and goalies is even steeper and more protracted that that of forwards.

Unless you are prepared to wait as much as five years on a young defenseman or goaltending prospect to develop -- accepting inconsistency as part of the price tag and understanding there's a risk that your patience will never pay off in potential turning into performance -- your organization is going to have a tough time filling these positions from within.

A big part of the reason why the Flyers perpetually find themselves bumping against the salary cap ceiling is that the entire defense corps and the starting goaltending has had to be acquired from outside the organization via trade or free agency. That inability to build premium positions from within drives up the expenditure of cap space as well as depleting trading assets (especially in a leaguewide sellers' market for defensemen).

That being said, I don't advocate the Flyers abandoning their "take the best available player" drafting philosophy in the first round of the Draft. There is no such thing as having too much organizational depth at ANY position. That's a proven way to enable a well-run team to intelligently move around assets to shore up the weaker areas without opening new holes in the lineup.

Secondly, the "miss rate" on 18-year-old defensemen and goalies taken in the first round is even higher than that on forwards. If you draft a defensemen or goalie in round one, it's a roll of the dice. In terms of playing the odds, there's a higher chance of ending up with a player who will never be an NHL star on the blueline or in net (and stands a not-insignificant chance of being eclipsed in the next half decade by someone selected much later in the draft) than if you draft a comparably rated forward.

Unless the Flyers end up with the first or second overall pick of the 2013 Draft and select Seth Jones, there is a high probability that the best available player in their estimation will be a forward. This year's draft is very deep in skilled forwards, less so in defensemen projected to have future top-pairing upside.

That is not to say there won't be some future star defensemen to emerge from the 2013 Draft pool. However, the team that finds these players will need some fortune as well as good scouting and development. The Flyers don't seem to identify many of these future NHL defensemen and goalies in their teenage years, nor do they nurture the better ones that enter the farm system for long enough to reap the rewards down the road.

Even if the Flyers were to somehow end up being able to draft Seth Jones this year, the odds are that he will experience all the usual ups and downs of young defensemen. He will need to be nurtured gradually -- the way St. Louis did with Alex Pietrangelo or Nashville did back in the day with Shea Weber -- rather than being directly rushed into a big role at the NHL level.

Just take a look at some recent highly touted defensemen in the NHL Draft who went straight to the NHL. Adam Larsson has had his share of growing pains in New Jersey. Victor Hedman is only coming into his own now, in his fourth NHL season. Drew Doughty had his share of early struggles and even now in his fifth NHL season, sometimes has bouts of inconsistency as well as dominance. Buffalo's Tyler Myers had a great rookie year and has been up and down ever since.

Do not expect Jones -- or any defenseman in the 2013 Draft -- to be any different. He'll probably show flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. He'll also struggle for weeks or even months at a time in his early years. Over a period spanning four to five seasons after the draft (by which time he'll be on his second NHL contract), he may or may not start to fully tap into his reservoir of potential. It's just the way the process works, even for the guys who go on to be among the best in the game.

These same concepts apply to young forwards as well but the time frame is often (but not always) somewhat shorter. I would be thrilled if the Flyers ended up with any of the handful of high end forwards that will be available in the top 10 to 12 picks of the 2013 Draft. In the meantime, let's get back to former NHL 1st-round picks Couturier and Schenn.

Based on message board, Twitter and radio show fodder, it is crystal clear that a big segment of the Flyers fan base doesn't get the concept that:

a) teams need a balance of youth and experience, and too much youth or too many aging vets in key roles is a recipe for failure both in the short-term and long-term, and

b) players' development phases are more often NOT steady upward climbs and, regardless of how much promise a rookie shows, there's a good chance he will struggle at some point in his early career. The League gets a scouting book on these players and they have to learn to adjust.

One can reasonably debate whether the Flyers should consider trading Couturier or Schenn (or Jakub Voracek or Wayne Simmonds or Matt Read or anyone else not named Claude Giroux) as components of a major trade designed to upgrade the blueline. It's absolutely a fair topic for discussion. The Flyers' have a glaring need for a successful succession plan atop the blueline with Chris Pronger's career over and Kimmo Timonen likely to retire at the end of next season.

There is likely no way for the Flyers to address the top end of their blueline without feeling some pain in what they'll have to give up. They'll have to surrender talents they'd rather keep. That's just the reality.

However, to deal away Couturier or Schenn based solely on what they have or haven't done in this shortened season is extremely short-sighted. That's especially true because the Flyers as a team have not been very good this year. It has been a club-wide failure, and no one from the coaches to the GM to the players themselves deserves to be fully absolved from blame.

It's not just the second-year players who have come up small. In fact, several of the Flyers' key veteran forwards, especially Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, are struggling just as badly as Couturier and Schenn.

With 18 games left in the regular season, the Flyers are unlikely to make the playoffs. As such, I would be fine with the Flyers' being sellers at the trade deadline this year. It would be good to stockpile a few extra Draft picks and begin to assess ways to return to contender status next season and beyond.

The team has some serious salary cap figuring to do as well as an obvious need for some roster retooling to make the personnel better match whatever system the coach employs. In the bigger picture, two bad months -- or even a rotten "full" 2013 season -- from Sean Couturier and/or Brayden Schenn is the least of the Flyers' roster-building concerns.

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Good and obvious points. The problem is when we continuously draft near the bottom of the first round. How do we compete with teams drafting in the top 5-10 every year until they're stacked?

Another thing is if pronger didn't get hurt our d wouldn't be this bad. The other problem is that our veterans taking up most of our cap space are horrible. Without top picks every year what are the chances of drafting a top tier defensive prospect? I understand why homer makes the moves that he does. Now if he trades this year's first rounder I'll have a problem with that. Bit you can't tell me if a team was willing to give up a stud young d man food scooter you wouldn't do it.

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@ flyercanuck

How's a promising young d man sound. Like I said, we can't seem to find or draft one. The only chance we have to obtain one is through the draft (drafting high) or giving up someone another team wants. That would be one of our young forwards...

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@pensuck

I'd love to get one.

But people throw the term "stud young defenceman" around here like they're a dime a dozen and teams are just waiting for a trade offer to send them to us. A team hoping for a top line center out of the deal might send us a good D prospect, both teams hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

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i agree with what he is saying but this is not anything new in Flyerland. The Flyers have been trading youth for rentals since as far as I can remember. Now if he included the other piece of the puzzle....the Flyers ability to manage a salary cap.....then he would be spot on.

In recent years the asinine contracts handed out in relation to the cap have been the biggest deterrent to the team. Homer and crew have recently demonstrated they still have not learned a thing. Timo at $6 million. Hartnell through 2019??? Pronger? the GOALIE!

I really liked the point he brought up about the shortened season in regard to the play of Schenn and Couts but he could have lost a lot of the rhetoric and hit on some other key points like the cap.

good read though.....but as a Flyer fan...I want greatness!

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