Positives: Through the first 15 games of the NHL season, the Flyers have boasted one of the best lines in hockey.
Negatives: Almost everything else has been… sub par, to say the least.
The Flyers do currently posses one of the most lethal units in hockey with their first line combining for a total of 60 points in the Flyers 17 games thus far, a massive total, putting all three of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Sean Couturier at above a point per game pace to start the season. Couturier is tied for 6th in the NHL in goals, Voracek is 3rd in assists, as well as being tied for 7th in points, while Giroux, follows closely behind tied for 8th in points. So it is clear that these three are more than pulling their weight, finally providing the Flyers with a formidable combination which rivals that of the top teams.
Now it is clear that the Flyers have a top line that is elite, however, the subsequent lines have been anything but; now we will grade the rest to see who has been good, and who has been the opposite. (NOTE: These lines will be taken from the most common combinations over the first 17 games.)
LINE 2: Jordan Weal-Valterri Filppula/Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
The second line has really cooled off after a nice start, with Wayne Simmonds playing through a few injuries he had suffered, the line stalled in point production, partly due to an unwillingness to shoot the puck and an inability to finish. Simmonds especially started strong, with a big hat-trick game against the Sharks on opening night, however, even in that performance, two of his goals came on the power play, independent of his line-mates, and the other was an empty net tally. This has been a common thread throughout this line, their numbers as a unit makes it look like they have been effective together, but of Filppula, Weal and Simmonds’ combined 14 goals, 7 of them have came on the power play, where they are not actually playing together at all. seven even-strength goals combined through 17 games is not good enough for a second line. Nolan Patrick, the original second line center to start the season, has been injured for the last eight games and will take a little longer to acclimate due to him being a rookie, so it would be a little unfair to judge his first nine games, however, when he did play he looked creative and shifty in the offensive zone. Overall, this line as individuals have done quite alright, Simmonds and Filppula both have six goals as stated before, good enough for third on the team, but as a collective they just have not performed well enough when they are on the ice together to be a viable second option to the first line.
LINE 3: Travis Konecny-Jori Lethera-Dale Weise
This is where things get really bad. The third line has been in a state of flux since the yaer began, but the Konecny-Lethera-Weise line has been the most popular choice of coach Dave Hakstol to start the season, so we will analyze that combination. Now, this line, even on paper, does not like it would work, Konecny is a speedster who can pick up the puck in the neutral zone and break in with speed, he needs playmakers or snipers to compliment that style. Unfortunately, he is stuck with the Flyers two least skilled players. Lethera and Weise are both fourth line players who are being forced into a higher role due to the success of the Flyers fourth unit, which we will talk about later. As a result of this, the third line has contributed basically nothing as a unit, Weise has three points, Lethera has one, and while Konecny has fared a little better with seven, both of his goals came on the second power play unit, which the same as before, is independent of his line-mates. But, you can have a successful third line without a multitude of points, so do these three have a value that does not show up on the score sheet? No, not really, all three have a Corsi For % of below 50, in addition to all having a negative Relative Corsi. Basically, they do not keep the puck in the opposing zone, they do not score, and based on on their plus/minus numbers (Lethera -4, Konecny and Weise 0), they do not seem to keep the puck out of their own net very well either. This line needs a change, whether it be Dale Weise or Jori Lethera returning to the press box, Travis Konecny moving up the lineup, or a call-up such as Oskar Lindblom or AHL scoring phenom Danick Martel, something has to be done. Konecny has shown flashes of brilliance, especially on the power play, but his potential is being wasted in an ill-fitting situation. As for his line-mates Weise and Lethera, they just simply must be better if they want to keep a spot in an ever more congested lineup.
LINE 4: Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
You know you are doing something right when your line gets a name.
The “Honey Bees”, affectionately named for their bright yellow practice jerseys and chaotic play style, have quietly been the Flyers second most effective line throughout the first quarter of the season. Laughton and Leier have formed a superb partnership, as the two former Lehigh Valley stalwarts have teamed up to make two-thirds the Flyers best fourth line in recent memory. Last but not least is Michael Raffl, adding some size and veteran presence to otherwise a very young line, Raffl has spent time on every line for the Flyers over the past few years, quietly becoming one of the most versatile players on the team. This line is not really relied upon for scoring prowess. even though Scott Laughton did have a two-goal game earlier in the year against the Capitals, those are the only two tallies the line has. Leier has two assists and Raffl surprisingly has stayed off the scoresheet completely. Outside of the offensive dormancy, the line does pretty much everything else well, plays shut down minutes against more skilled lines, holds the puck in the offensive zone, tires out defenders, and can bring some physical presence too on the hectic forecheck. They are all either even of positive plus/minus players, and to be quite honest are probably the Flyers second best performing line at this moment in time, if just a little more scoring is added then this line would be perfect, but that responsibility is more on the second and third lines than it is the fourth.