(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Devon McIntyre.)
The thing about the Flyers and how they’re really not very good is that their fate has really risen and fallen on the ability of one player — Claude Giroux — to make things happen for them. When he was awful to start the year, and boy was he ever, so too were the Flyers. When he started playing well, as if by magic, the entire team followed suit.
Obviously there is more to it than that, but if you’re looking for a storyline, that’s what it is. Now, you can say a lot of bad stuff about the way that team is run, and almost all of it would be deserved, but the one thing you have to say for sure in Paul Holmgren’s defense is that there are some pretty damn good players on that team.
Giroux is clearly in a class by himself, as perhaps the fourth- or fifth-best forward currently alive. There’s Kimmo Timonen who is being used a little more judiciously these days but still mostly very good. There’s Jake Voracek, who’s been very solid since coming over from Columbus. Braydon Coburn is pretty damn good in his role as shutdown defenseman, and one of the Flyers D few that actually starts the majority of his shifts in his own zone against top competition. Wayne Simmonds has his uses, as does Scott Hartnell.
But for money perhaps the most underrated Flyer, and certainly the team’s second-best forward overall is Matt Read.
He is, for one thing, tied for third on the team in goals behind Giroux and Simmonds (24) and with Voracek (20). This despite playing a basically all of his time in a shutdown role alongside guys like Sean Coutuier and Steve Downie and Vinny Lecavalier, who aren’t exactly known for their offensive prowess here in 2014. He also has positive possession numbers (okay, barely) despite facing the toughest competition available, and starting more shifts in his own zone than every other player on the team besides Couturier and Adam Hall, both of whom are getting buried by the players they face.
Which really isn’t bad at all for a college free agent out of Bemidji State, playing for a team that has been drowning in possession literally all season long. The thing is, too, that chart up above. No one who’s more left or up on that graphic from Extra Skater (the former indicating more zone starts in players’ own end, the latter a greater quality of competition) also happens to be colored in not-red, which kind of tells you something about how dependable Read is and likely will continue to be for years to come.
If the Flyers were better, he’d be in pretty good shape to be in the “Most Underrated Two-Way Forward” discussion. But they’re not so he isn’t. Maybe he should be anyway.
Thank you for reading and supporting 826 Boston. Don’t forget to donate!