Let’s Face It

They’ll wind up being as awful as the movie.

In the wake of jettisoning 12 players and importing 7, no one really knows what exactly the Flyers will look like next year. They are unquestionably better in goal and worse up front. It would be great if Brayden Schenn is a Calder Trophy candidate. Perhaps the click that Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk found between each other against Buffalo in the playoffs finds itself again all season long, similar to the evolution of the Hartnell-Briere-Leino line. Hopefully the gamble on the 39 year old Jaromir Jagr really pays off. Maybe Jakub Voracek shrugs off the laziness that dogged him in Columbus and breaks out. And hopefully having no returning intact forward lines isn’t an issue as the defense, which will be without Chris Pronger to start the season, sorts itself out. That’s a lot of uncertainty for a team with Cup aspirations. One thing that is certain is that the Flyers are going to be terrible at face-offs.

The best returning face-off man is 4th liner Blair Betts. Last season there were 55 players who won 50% or more of their face-offs. Betts was 3rd to last on that list:

Year FO% Att
05-06 53.4 817
06-07 52.3 1186
07-08 50.3 771
08-09 49.3 50.9
09-10 50.9 855
10-11 50.3 817

Last on that list was Claude Giroux, who took the 2nd most face-offs for the Flyers last year and did no better than a coin flip:

Year FO% Att
08-09 47.2 309
09-10 49.5 600
10-11 50.0 1095

Hopefully his upward trend continues. Danny Briere, to no one’s surprise, offers no help:

Year FO% Att
03-04 47.1 1066
05-06 50.7 517
06-07 49.6 1089
07-08 50.5 1250
08-09 46.3 147
09-10 44.2 120
10-11 48.2 820

How about new addition Maxime Talbot?  Cover your eyes:

Year FO% Att
05-06 42.9 473
06-07 44.4 903
07-08 45.0 513
08-09 51.1 542
09-10 41.2 165
10-11 48.6 874

That’s 4 out of 6 seasons where he’s at or below 45%, which is pathetic. Someone should tell the Flyers that face-offs matter.

And don’t look for Brayden Schenn to be the solution, it is rare for a rookie to come in and have a winning percentage of face-offs. Over the past 5 years only 14 out of 94 rookies with even a modest amount of faceoffs (arbitrary end point: 164 face-offs, or a measly 2 per game for a full season) had a face-off percentage of at least 50%.

Last year the Flyers were 17th in the league in face-offs, and they just lost their best face-off man, Jeff Carter, and their top face-off taker in Mike Richards. Without Richards and Carter the 2011-12 Flyers are going to spend a lot more time in their own zone from weak defensive play and getting beat on face-offs.  Good thing they got a goalie.

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