*NOTE* With games snowed out across the Northeast region, the Philadelphia Flyers are scheduled to return to action on Monday, when they host the Boston Bruins at Wells Fargo Center in the season-series finale. The league has not set a new date for the game as of yet and have decided to use today as a full practice day, according to the club’s beat writers.
Over the last two games, the Flyers have really struggled. Receiving back to back losses from the Maple Leafs and Penguins respectively, it’s become apparent as it’s ever been that Philadelphia lacks depth throughout their lineup. Specifically, the bottom six forwards have been abysmal of late and if the team is going to continue pushing towards the playoffs, these players will need to collectively step up.
As of today, the Flyers third and fourth forward lines consist of Ryan White, Chris VandeVelde, Pierre Eduard Bellemare, Scott Laughton, R.J. Umberger and Matt Read. Through the last several games or so, White, VandeVelde, and Bellemare have been used as the club’s third line, despite none of those players being third-line caliber. The trio of Laughton, Umberger, and Read has filled in the fourth line minutes and has had difficulty gaining the trust of Dave Hakstol.
Finding a balance that works consistently has been worrisome to this point; players like Bellemare, White, and VandeVelde are adequate fourth liners but as third liners, they have the potential of getting shelled in matchups.
For players such as rookie Scott Laughton, he has shown some ability but is currently in the midst of a rookie swoon that he needs to learn how to play through. The 21 year-old forward has quite a few NHL qualities, it’s just a matter of waiting for him to put it all together. Matt Read remains a solid defensive forward but has dried up offensively, while R.J. Umberger has become of a shell of the player he once was. The club doesn’t have many other options to correct this, but perhaps altering the top six could provide more balance.
So enter Jordan Weal.
In past blogs, we’ve talked about the Flyers adding Weal and what it could do to their lineup once they do. Since being acquired though, the 23 year-old has not been able to nail down a spot in the lineup so here’s what I would propose.
Coach Hakstol could slide Michael Raffl down to the third line with Laughton and Read, creating a more two-way efficient third line. That could free up a spot for Weal on the left wing along Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. R.J. Umberger could then be moved to the fourth line and be interchangeable with either VandeVelde or White.
At roughly 5’10, 180 pounds Jordan Weal will not likely make it in the NHL as a checking line forward, although he does have some good two-way instincts. In order to best utilize Weal, the Flyers may explore using him in their top six as opposed to their bottom six. In turn, Philadelphia may strike up a balance in all four forward lines and could make themselves tougher to beat down the stretch.