VOORHEES, N.J. – There is certainly a furor brewing out there about the Flyers decision to send Tye McGinn back down to the Phantoms Friday.
Local hockey scribes and frustrated fans alike took to social media to lament/criticize/both this decision by the Flyers.
On the surface, it’s certainly understandable. After all, McGinn does lead the team in goals with three and for the life of me I can’t remember the last time in the NHL that a team sent their leading goal scorer to the minors.
So, there is that.
But, it should be noted that this decision goes well beyond the fact that McGinn scored three goals in two games last week.
It goes into the rest of the game - the part of the game that you can’t really discern just by scouring a box score, or just by watching on television.
It’s not to say the opinion that McGinn shouldn’t be sent down doesn’t come with validity.
The Flyers admit that it’s a tough decision because McGinn has played well… albeit in spurts. After all, despite the three goals against Detroit and Vancouver he wasn’t able to muster a shot against either Pittsburgh or the Rangers.
But there is definitely a pecking order for a lineup. There are definitely roles that need to be played. That is often where the oversight comes. The assumption is a player of a certain caliber – like McGinn – can just fit in anywhere in a lineup because he’s scored a few goals.
That assumption is a bad one.
Find a team in the NHL that employs four lines of players who are considered scoring forwards. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Check that. I’ll save you the research. You won’t find one.
That’s because there have to be guys who can come in just to win faceoffs, or just to kill penalties, or just to provide energy with a big hit, or just to be an enforcer in a game where it looks like one will be needed.
That’s what fourth liners are for.
There have to be players who play a solid two-way game, who can be just as reliable in their own end of the ice as they are in the offensive end. These players are the types that are frequently on the ice against the best players on the other team and are asked to nullify any possible offense that those players might produce.
That’s what third liners are for.
Using those two descriptions above to qualify bottom six forwards, where exactly does McGinn fit?
He doesn’t. He’s not a fourth line guy because he’s a big-bodied player who isn’t exactly Dave Brown. In other words, he can’t be sitting on the bench for minutes on end and then asked to lug his body around the ice at 230 pounds to try and provide energy. It just doesn’t make sense physiologically – unless he’s the enforcer, which he isn’t, despite his willingness to drop gloves. That’s what Jay Rosehill is for.
And he won’t win a big draw like Adam Hall or kill penalties as Hall does either.
He’s also not a shutdown forward either who could play on a third line against the Crosbys, Ovechkins, Tavareses, Staals and Nashs of the Metropolitan Division.
And when he doesn’t fit that mold, he’s left with nowhere else to play when the roster is healthy.
Because ultimately, the Flyers top six forwards, even though they aren’t necessarily playing the top two lines at the moment, are Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Scott Hartnell, Vinny Lecavalier, Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read.
Would you play McGinn ahead of any of them? No, of course not.
So where does he fit?
He doesn’t, for now. Unless one of them gets injured.
He played just 10:15 in the win over the New York Rangers Thursday. That’s not enough. McGinn needs to play between 15 and 20 minutes. He’ll do that with the Phantoms. Ten minutes a night would only make him regress in the NHL.
Now, I know what you’re saying – why not Michael Raffl instead of McGinn?
That is a fair question.
And, it’s one I asked privately here today.
And the answer I got, from someone who would know, was twofold.
First and foremost, goals aside, Raffl has outplayed McGinn. That sounds crazy right? Three goals for one guy, zero points for the other guy and I’m trying to tell you the guy with zero has been the better player.
McGinn’s goals are definitely the result of a willingness to skate hard toward the net. That’s something the Flyers need more of, for sure.
But aside from that, was he really noticeable? Not at all. Three plays in four games where he was in the right place at the right time. Good for McGinn. Good for the Flyers. But not enough overall.
So, when you hear coach Craig Berube say McGinn, “needs to be more consistent in his play,” it has zero to do with going to the net hard, but 100 percent to do with the rest of the game that is necessary to play in the NHL.
That’s not a knock on McGinn either. As a call up the past two years, McGinn has definitely exceeded expectations for the Flyers. He will be a permanent NHL fixture someday. But not when he is road blocked by who is in front of him at the moment.
Meanwhile, Raffl has impressed with a lot of the little things.
First and foremost, and this is a big deal in the NHL today, he is a better and faster skater than McGinn. He seems to be around the puck more and doing more with it when he’s on it.
He doesn’t shy away from physical contact. He’s not a perimeter player and isn’t afraid to cut to the middle of the ice, or to get involved in a scrum. And, he has shown a consistent propensity to get to the net, even though he hasn’t finished.
Defensively, he’s been better than advertised, hustling back and being accountable for his job in his own end.
So, yes, he’s been the better player.
Secondly, once everyone else gets their offense going – and it might take a game or two for it to do that for a guy like Hartnell, who is coming off an injury – it’s a good bet that Hartnell will regain his spot on the top line and that Raffl will slide down to the fourth line with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo.
Because Raffl is the kind of player, because of his speed, who can sit a little longer and not fall behind in the skating category on a game night. Raffl can be a 10-minute player as easily as he can be an 18-minute player.
Raffl’s versatility makes him a more desirable roster option at this point.
So, you see, McGinn, for all the good he’s done, just doesn’t fit right now. There’s no doubt he will be back at some point and there’s also no doubt his return will be celebrated greatly on social media.
And everyone can get excited when he returns because you know what you’re going to get from McGinn every night – an honest effort, hard work, and physical power forward play.
It’s what he does well, and the Flyers like that – but only when they need it, and with Scott Hartnell due back tomorrow and everyone else in the top nine healthy, they don’t need it right now.
NOTES: Hartnell isn’t a definite for tomorrow yet, but he said he feels good and that he felt fine in all contact and shooting drills at practice, so he should be a go… Max Talbot was given a maintenance day to deal with his nose issue. “He’s got a piece of the boards stuck in there,” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “Really,” asked a reporter? “No,” Holmgren chuckled. “But it looks like it.”… Steve Mason was the first goalie off the ice at practice, suggesting he will be the starter again tomorrow… Luke and Brayden Schenn again took extra skating at practice Friday, coming off the ice last along with Braydon Coburn and Mark Streit… Streit said he is excited to go back and play at the Nassau Coliseum against his former team tomorrow…. Although he admitted even though it’s a good atmosphere in New York that it doesn’t compare to the Wells Fargo Center… The win against the Rangers was Streit’s 500th career game.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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