Grading disappointing Flyers at quarter pole

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Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

SAN JOSE - With rumors swirling that their roster is nearing a foundation-rattling shakeup, the Flyers limped to the West Coast riding a 1-7-1 slide in the standings. Now, already past the quarter pole of the season, is an important time to take inventory through quarterly report cards:

FORWARDS

Jake Voracek

Grade: A+

Key stat: One point back of Sidney Crosby for league scoring lead.

Remarks: Where would the Flyers be without Voracek's consistency? He already has 11 multipoint games; he had 16 last season, when he posted a career-high 62 points. He's on pace for 114 this season. The Flyers have been shut out in the only four games in which Voracek doesn't have a point.

Claude Giroux

Grade: A

Key stat: Second most power-play goals (6) in the NHL.

Remarks: Quietly as consistent as Voracek in the early going. He is actually on track for a career-high 96 points - it's just that the rest of his teammates have struggled to show up in most games. No one should be pointing the finger at Giroux's "leadership" for the team's slide through the standings.

Brayden Schenn

Grade: B+

Key stat: 17 points in 23 games.

Remarks: Finally growing into the player the Flyers thought they'd acquired from Los Angeles. He's been better than his numbers would indicate, considering he's played out of position and been jostled from line to line.

Scott Laughton

Grade: B+

Key stat: Averaged more than 15 minutes per game over last five games.

Remarks: The Flyers' top offensive prospect is still looking for his first career NHL point, but that will come soon with the way he's been playing. He has been one of the team's only bright spots since his call-up on Nov. 19 and has earned a long look at staying for good.

Michael Raffl

Grade: C+

Key stat: Eight games missed due to foot/ankle injury.

Remarks: When he left the lineup in early November, he was tied for the team lead with six goals. He's been rather quiet since returning, but could well get back on the top line with Giroux and Voracek this week on the West Coast.

Wayne Simmonds

Grade: C+

Key stat: Three goals in his last 19 games.

Remarks: On paper, Simmonds is still scoring at the same clip as last season, thanks to five goals in his first four games. On the ice, it seems like he's lost a little bit of his nose for the net over the last 19 contests.

Sean Couturier

Grade: C

Key stat: Minus-3.

Remarks: One game, Couturier is shutting down Sidney Crosby and collecting three points. The next game, he is barely noticeable. He is still about the same player offensively as he showed his first three seasons. It's still early in the season, but Couturier is on track to finish as a minus for the second time.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Grade: C

Key stat: Zero points in last nine games.

Remarks: Bellemare's transition to the NHL has caught up with him after a decent start. He was a healthy scratch on Saturday in New York, but his speed is an element many players on the roster do not bring.

Chris VandeVelde

Grade: C

Key stat: Set career high with three points in 15 games.

Remarks: VandeVelde has made the most of his skill set over the last 15 games, playing well enough at one point to be slotted on the top line. His minutes have been cut recently, but there is never any question of effort from VandeVelde.

Zac Rinaldo

Grade: D

Key stat: 2.4 penalties taken per 60 minutes; 1.0 penalties drawn per 60 minutes.

Remarks: Rinaldo is tied for 84th in the NHL with seven minor penalties, an improvement after leading the NHL for the last three seasons. But the opposition has scored on three of those costly calls - more goals than the Flyers have scored with him on the ice this season (1).

Matt Read

Grade: F

Key stat: Two goals in 23 games.

Remarks: If it weren't for Vincent Lecavalier and R.J. Umberger, Read's struggles would be receiving a lot more focus. He has never scored fewer than 20 goals in a full 82-game season, yet he's on pace for a grand total of seven this year. There's more to the game than scoring, but Read hasn't even been strong defensively and he contributes to the league's worst penalty kill.

Jason Akeson

Grade: F

Key stat: Zero points in 12 games.

Remarks: Akeson, who cleared waivers and was assigned to the Phantoms, rarely got the chance to play with skilled players. Then again, he didn't do a lot to earn the opportunity. His coach was upset with his turnovers in key areas of the ice and Akeson's lack of production made it tough to keep him in the lineup.

Vinny Lecavalier

Grade: F

Key stat: Career-low 5:56 ice time in New York on Saturday.

Remarks: Craig Berube's quote said it all for the sluggish veteran: "He needs to work harder," the coach said. "He needs to be a better player. He needs to play with more structure and dig in more." He's likely to be a healthy scratch tomorrow in San Jose.

R.J. Umberger

Grade: F

Key stat: Fewer goals (1) than Nick Grossmann (2).

Remarks: It's tough to say who has been a bigger disappointment, Umberger or Lecavalier. Both have disastrous contracts. Both have brought down whatever player unlucky enough to be assigned to their line. Sadly for the Flyers, it seems as if both are playing out the string of their career on a nightly basis.

Incomplete

Blair Jones


DEFENSE

Michael Del Zotto

Grade: B+

Key stat: Third on Flyers in total ice time (454:35).

Remarks: Craig Berube has called Del Zotto his most consistent defenseman so far. That's reflected in his ice time, where he is a key player on both the penalty kill and power play. Del Zotto has been less risky defensively, letting his offense develop from his own end.

Nick Schultz

Grade: B

Key stat: Averages 18:49 minutes per game.

Remarks: Schultz has resuscitated his career with the Flyers by playing a very sound, quiet defensive game. He's gone from spare defenseman to steadying influence in a quarter of the season, bumping others from the lineup.

Mark Streit

Grade: C+

Key stat: 13 points in 23 games

Remarks: Streit is a competitor, and he's been strong on the power play, but he has shown he isn't immune to costly turnovers. Like most on the roster, he can be better.

Nick Grossmann

Grade: C

Key stat: Has already tied a career high with two goals.

Remarks: Grossmann has played his standard brand of hockey. There isn't a whole lot to complain about and there isn't a whole lot to get excited about. He would be a solid third pairing defenseman on most teams, but he is asked to do more with the Flyers.

Andrew MacDonald

Grade: D

Key stat: Healthy scratch on Saturday in New York.

Remarks: To say MacDonald has been an enormous disappointment since signing his $30 million deal last season would be an understatement. His play reached a boiling point on Saturday when Craig Berube thought it would be better for MacDonald to watch rather than play.

Luke Schenn

Grade: D

Key stat: Worst plus/minus (minus-9) among defensemen.

Remarks: Schenn was bumped from the lineup last week, benched two games in a row as a healthy scratch before returning on Saturday. He played his best hockey last season down the stretch after being scratched last November.

Braydon Coburn

Grade: F

Key stat: Flyers are 2-9-0 with Coburn in the lineup; 6-3-3 without him.

Remarks: At which point is that stat no longer a coincidence? Coburn's uninspiring, turnover-laden game contributes to the Flyers' problems in their own end. The most frustrating part is Coburn has all the physical tools to be a solid player.

Incomplete

Carlo Colaiacovo, Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning.


GOALTENDERS

Steve Mason

Grade: B

Key stat: .916 save percentage

Remarks: Despite a serious lack of support in front of him most games, Mason has posted a save percentage very close to last year (.917) - and that got him a seventh-place finish in Vezina Trophy voting. He doesn't have many wins (4-8-2) but he has almost always given his team a chance to win.

Ray Emery

Grade: C

Key stat: .861 save percentage in last four starts (0-4-0).

Remarks: Emery picked up Mason and the Flyers when they needed a boost in October, winning the first four games of the season. He's taken a step back recently, going winless in his last four starts with a 4.34 GAA.

COACH

Craig Berube

Grade: C

Key stat: Half as many road wins (2-8-1) as the Buffalo Sabres (4-7-0).

Remarks: No one is pretending Berube has an easy job with the roster he's been dealt. However, this is still pretty much the same team that closed last year on a 41-23-10 clip and ran over some of the best teams in the NHL. The first 23 games have been filled with injuries, which require lineup jostling, but Berube should be criticized for an itchy trigger finger - making it tough to find any true chemistry. There is little excuse, though, for a shoddy road record and league-worst penalty kill. With the way he turned things around last season, Berube should have earned himself a little more time.

GENERAL MANAGER

Ron Hextall

Grade: C

Key stat: 17 current players under contract for next season.

Remarks: So far, Hextall's one mark on the team - moving Scott Hartnell for Umberger - is turning into a nasty scar. The first-year GM has done everything he said he wouldn't do to start, including using both Gostisbehere and Laughton as call-ups early in the season. Like Berube, Hextall didn't inherit a tidy situation, particularly with regard to contracts. But Hextall has yet to give a glimpse where he's going even though the current crop (including a few pieces supposed to be for the future) includes a significant number of passengers.

THE WEEK AHEAD
 

at San Jose

Tomorrow, 10 o'clock

The Flyers are just 1-5-2 at San Jose’s SAP Center since 2002, with the lone win coming in February when the Flyers exploded for four goals in the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit. After a tumultuous summer, the Sharks (11-10-4) have the NHL's second-longest-tenured coach, Todd McLellan, riding the hot seat. San Jose still has four players (Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau) with 20 or more points in 25 games.

at Anaheim

Wednesday, 10:30 p.m.

The limping Ducks have just two regulation wins in their last 12 games (4-3-5), but they still sit in first place in the Pacific Division thanks to overtime points. They beat the Flyers in a shootout on Oct. 14. Anaheim has been without Francois Beauchemin, Ben Lovejoy, Clayton Stoner, Mark Fistric and goalie John Gibson. Ryan Getzlaf (22 points) and Corey Perry (20) haven't been as productive as usual, but they've gotten contributions from unlikely sources, like Matt Beleskey, who already has tied a career high with 11 goals.

at Los Angeles

Saturday, 4 o’clock

After blowing a 2-1, third-period lead, the Flyers battled back and beat LA in overtime thanks to Brayden Schenn’s controversial goal on Oct. 28. The Kings have been somewhat mediocre (6-6-3) since that game. Star center Anze Kopitar (10 points) is only tied for seventh in team scoring and the Kings’ power play (21st) hasn’t been very effective. But when you have rock Jonathan Quick (.929 save percentage in net), little else seems to matter.


On Twitter: @frank_seravalli

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