There is a lot of pressure on the offense right now. The team is struggling to score and all of the high-flying talent is starting to force their play. I'm a firm believer though, that the game gets easier when you can take care of the defensive zone. The team lacks a number one netminder and has one hell of a time getting the puck out of their own end. When you have $12.75 million tied up in Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros and Mark Streit, there's a serious problem. As a fan, it's fun to have an owner that is willing to spend to make the team better. The important thing is that the money is spent wisely. The trio above is proof that wise spending isn't taking place. The organization has struggled to find a goaltender ever since Ron Hextall retired, throwing money at anyone who could potentially protect the net. Sergei Bobrovsky was in their hands, but Ilya Bryzgalov was given the keys to the net (oh, and $9 million a year) and couldn't deliver behind a shaky defense. By the time they realized he wasn't the answer, it was too late. Bobrovsky was already gone and the franchises lack of patience with the young goaltender backfired as he went on to win the Vezina Trophy last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Flyers, Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider in particular, have too-often tried to fix the franchise via trade and free agency - goodbye Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk. They want to win every single year, which again, as a fan, is a great thing. The problem is, that attitude results in snap decisions sometimes. Bobrovsky and Bryzgalov are two more examples. Ironically, the Flyers have pressed themselves into a situation that will require more moves in order to fix their issues. They are close to the cap ceiling, even with Pronger's cap hit being placed on long-term injured reserve. They will need to either move forward depth for defensive help or stick it out this year and use the $10 million coming off the books from Meszaros and Kimmo Timonen to bring in more affordable talent. Potential unrestricted free agent options may include players such as Raphael Diaz, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Mark Fraser, Kris Russell, Mark Stuart and Matt Greene. Obviously it's subject to change, but it's worth noting that all of these players are currently making less than $3 million a year. On a side note, I have to wonder if Toronto Maple Leaf property T.J. Brennan is on their radar. Call it a hunch. And of course, without Pronger, the team also lacks a legitimate number one defender.
It really is a shame to see how far the franchise has fallen in two years, but one or two key additions could make all the difference. If Ray Emery and Steve Mason can somehow hold down the crease and Holmgren can find more reliable defensive players (that includes responsible forwards) then maybe they can turn this season around. I'm confident this proud franchise will find its way back into contention sooner rather than later, but there's no denying that they need to take a deep breath and analyze what they truly need to move forward and be competitive.