Flyers GM defends roster, still convinced this is a playoff team

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on after losing to the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0, at Wells Fargo Center on November 10, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on after losing to the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0, at Wells Fargo Center on November 10, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall doesn’t want to hear about players not feeling well or being tired or generally being morose about the season. 

“Too bad. You gotta go out there and you gotta play your ass off,” he said.

That was the message when Hextall gave a mini state-of-the-Flyers address on Thursday, a day after first-year coach Dave Hakstol put the team through a rather difficult practice following their 4-0 loss to Colorado.

“Dave’s done a good job of starting the process [for accountability] and making it a staple,” said Hextall, who of course hired him.

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The Flyers are 5-7-3 for 13 points, just behind Buffalo in seventh place in the wild card race and seven points away from the Penguins for third in the Metro. They’ve been inconsistent overall, but the real devil in their details is the offense: an anemic 1.80 goals per game, ahead of only the sputtering Anaheim Ducks’ offense (1.69). The main culprit is a power play sputtering along at 13.6 percent; they’re not getting enough power plays either, with just 44 on the season (25th in the NHL).

“It’s not enough. I think if you had told me our power play would be where it was, I’d say ‘no’ and that’s a lot of scoring,” said Hextall.

He revisited a few themes his comments. One of them is that the Flyers have the personnel to compete. In other words, the roster he built is super fine and OK.

“Based on performance, I’m not surprised, based on personnel, we shouldn’t be that low,” he said, “We can make the playoffs. Absolutely. We have enough talent, enough depth, enough high-end players.”

Among those high-end players: Jakub Voracek (no goals), Wayne Simmonds (2 goals), Michael Del Zotto (1 point) and Vinny Lecavalier (6 games).

The offense is a huge concern. Huge. Broad Street Hockey’s Charlie O’Connor had a good breakdown of the new coach’s systems:

The first risk is that the Flyers' forecheck will be ineffective in pressuring the other team. If opposing forwards and defensemen are able to generate clean defensive zone exits on a regular basis, they can move up the ice with speed, and with Philadelphia forwards caught too deep to slow them down in the neutral zone.

As a result, Flyers defensemen must retreat quickly, with little help from the forwards in the way of back pressure. When this happens, opponents are able to easily enter the Flyers' zone with possession of the puck.

This has been the team's biggest problem statistically. Philadelphia is actually winning the neutral zone battle so far this season in terms of raw volume. But their opponents are generating significantly more controlled entries - far more productive offensive zone possessions than those produced via dump-and-chase.

The system's a work in progress.

“You’re always going to have ups and downs in the season, but this one was a little too far down for me. We gotta be a team that gains consistency,” Hextall said.

“When you look at us, we have to have a little more balance in the ups and downs.”

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.