Inside the Flyers: Loss of Jaromir Jagr helps explain Flyers' road woes

Jaromir Jagr (left) has six goals, 13 assists and a plus-3 rating in 15 road games this season for the Dallas Stars. Will he be returning to Philadelphia?
Jaromir Jagr (left) has six goals, 13 assists and a plus-3 rating in 15 road games this season for the Dallas Stars. Will he be returning to Philadelphia? (Getty Images)
Posted: March 25, 2013

The Flyers' puzzling road adventures continue Sunday night in Pittsburgh, one of the few areas outside of South Philly where they have managed to win this year.

For the Flyers, a team fighting for its playoff lives, the good news is this: After Sunday, they play five straight games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The bad news: Including the one in Pittsburgh, they have eight more games on the road, where they are an unthinkable 4-12. That's the most road losses in the NHL.

And that follows a season in which they went 25-13-3 on the road. No NHL team had more road wins.

So what's the biggest difference from last year to this season?

Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr was one of the Flyers' top road performers last year and he has kept up the pace with Dallas this season, producing six goals, 13 points, and a plus-3 rating in 15 road games for the Stars.

A future Hall of Famer, Jagr helped give the Flyers a mystique with his presence. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound winger created a follow-this example with his almost-maniacal workout routine, won a majority of board battles, and opened things up for his linemates, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell.

It's no coincidence that Giroux and Hartnell had career seasons with Jagr on their unit. For that reason, don't be surprised if general manager Paul Holmgren tries to bring Jagr back near the April 3 trade deadline. (Though it says here, if he can arrange a deal for a player he has always liked, Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, the Flyers would be much better served.)

In a combined 23 road games this year, Giroux and Hartnell have a total of five goals and a minus-7 rating.

Yes, Jake Voracek has played well in the limited time he has been with Giroux and Hartnell this season. But his linemates have not been overly productive - and putting Voracek on the top line has weakened another unit.

It's all about chemistry, and the Flyers, despite just a handful of moves in the offseason, don't seem to have it. They have never developed an identity - especially on the road - and they have 18 games left to find it.

In their 12 road losses, the Flyers have been outscored, 48-18 - an average margin of 4-1½ per game.

Losing Jagr to free agency has disrupted the offense and the power play, and losing defenseman Matt Carle, also to free agency, has drastically reduced the mobility on the back end. If Calgary falls out of playoff contention and makes the puck-moving Bouwmeester available, he would be an upgrade over Carle.

On paper, the Flyers (13-16-1) shouldn't be this bad. But they have not adapted to a condensed schedule filled with numerous games on back-to-back nights.

This past week, the Flyers' schedule loosened. They haven't played since Monday's 4-2 loss in Tampa, which was followed by two days off and three days of practices.

Will they return with more focus, more commitment?

There are only about five weeks left before the regular season ends. If the Flyers aren't headed to the playoffs, they will have some difficult decisions on whether to exercise compliance buyouts (a.k.a. amnesty) on two players. Candidates include Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere.

Bryzgalov was the Flyers' MVP in the season's first month but has scuffled in the last five weeks. The Flyers don't have anyone in the wings ready to take his spot - yes, they would like a do-over on the Sergei Bobrovsky trade - but the weight of his contract (seven more years, with an annual cap hit of $5.67 million) may tempt the Flyers to look elsewhere.

The same can be said for the slumping Briere, whose annual $6.5 million cap hit has two more years left. Briere turns into one of the NHL's most electric players in the playoffs, but if the Flyers don't get there, they may decide to part with his contract and go younger.

Some view the next five weeks as Operation Playoff Push for the underachieving Flyers. They could turn out to be Operation Pushed Out the Door if they continue to be roadkill when playing in opposing arenas.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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