It’s time for another Screen Shots column, in which we take a brief look at a few hockey topics and opine on them for your reading pleasure. As always, we’ll do away with as many lead-in thoughts as possible, and get right to business.
– The Philadelphia Flyers responded about as well as they could following the firing of head coach Alain Vigneault. Dec. 6, posting wins in five of six games through Dec. 29 to improve their record to 13-12-5. However, reality set in after that, as the Flyers dropped their next four games in a row through a 6-2 defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals in Pittsburgh.
The Flyers now sit closer to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division than they are to a playoff spot. The last-place New York Islanders are six points behind them in the Metro standings, but the Isles have six games in hand on Philly, and the seventh-place Columbus Blue Jackets are one point behind Philadelphia but have four games in hand on the Flyers. All this leads to an objective suspicion they won’t make the playoffs, and have to look ahead to next season for real hope.
Part of that projection of what next season will look like for the Flyers is the likelihood captain Claude Giroux is going to be playing for another team in 2022-23. Giroux is in the final year of his current contract – at an annual salary-cap hit of $8.275-million per season – and he’ll be 34 years old halfway through next season. There will be plenty of bidders for his services, and with where the Flyers are now, competitively speaking, there will be better spots for him than Philadelphia. And that’s why Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher needs to trade Giroux rather than lose him for nothing on the open unrestricted free-agent market.
It will be painful for Flyers fans to see their team’s leader go, but the stark reality is they did not achieve much at all in the Giroux Era, and if they can speed a needed rebuild by trading him for a pack that includes top draft picks and/or prospects that will be in Philly for the next decade. The rebuild started with the trading of winger Jakub Voracek to the Flyers last summer, but it will kick into high gear with Giroux’s departure. He was an admirable competitor in his time in Philadelphia, but it’s time to make a clean, productive break.
– One of the weirdest parts of the Calgary Flames’ rebound as a team this season: they’re an absolutely gnarly team at home, with a 4-3-4 record in Calgary, but they’re a 13-6-2 road team, tying them with the Carolina Hurricanes (13-4-1) for the most wins away from home this year. That makes the Flames only one of two teams – the other is the Boston Bruins (9-6-1 at home) – of any team in a current playoff position to have fewer than 10 wins at home this season.
If Flames head coach Darryl Sutter knew what the issue was with Calgary’s play at home, he’d likely have fixed it already. But there’s what could wind up to be a clear link here – namely that the Flames may miss out on locking up home-ice advantage in the post-season, simply because they couldn’t function well at home in the regular season. However, if they continue to perform ideally away from Calgary, home-ice advantage won’t matter.
– Finally, congratulations to journalist Chantal Machabée on her hiring by the Montreal Canadiens this week. Machabée will serve as Montreal’s new vice-president of communications for the Habs, a high-pressure role that will command all of her attention and media expertise. She’s there not because she’s a woman, but she’s still an improvement as part of a new, diverse era for the Canadiens, and she will help them craft their overall message to Montrealers as the team charts a different direction. Best of luck to her.