After a disastrous 8-10-4 start that has them sitting nine points outside of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, it was inevitable the Philadelphia Flyers would start making some changes.
The off-ice shifts started earlier this week, with general manager Chuck Fletcher firing head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant head coach Michel Therrien.
Fletcher spoke candidly about the firings, giving us a bit of a glimpse into what he's thinking as he guides the Flyers through this next phase.
"I was hoping we could get some people back and get our group together and find out what we have," Fletcher said, according to Charlie O'Connor of The Athletic. "But we just keep digging a bigger hole right now. As a group, we've got to find an identity; we've got to start to play the game the right way.
"It's a tough day today, but hopefully this is a new beginning."
That new beginning could lead to on-ice changes as well. Veteran captain and long-time Flyer Claude Giroux's contract is up at season's end, which has pundits (such as Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer) wondering whether Fletcher will move him ahead of the March 21 trade deadline.
Giroux has already said he's not thinking about waiving his no-trade clause, but that doesn't mean that we can't examine some possible landing spots for the forward. If the Flyers continue to plummet down the standings—interim head coach Mike Yeo led the team to a 7-5 loss in his first game at the helm and got shut out in his second—then trading the 33-year-old would bolster what would almost certainly be called a reset.
The Anaheim Ducks are the most surprising team in the NHL this season. Analyst Dom Luszczyszyn's model gave the squad a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs during his offseason projections for The Athletic.
"Buffalo, Arizona and Anaheim are in a tier of their own in the basement. Though the Ducks aren't quite as poor as the Sabres or Coyotes, they're closer to those sad sacks than they are to the next-worst team which is four projected points away," he wrote in September.
The Ducks have outperformed that forecast, and MoneyPuck.com has them with better than a 60 percent chance of making the postseason.
Anaheim is one of only a handful of teams in a playoff spot that could take on Giroux's contract without sending any money back. That could matter a great deal if Philadelphia does decide to pull the parachute on this season.
We don't think the Ducks should sell the farm for Giroux, and if there's a bidding war, the still-rebuilding club should kindly exit. But Ryan Gilbert of Broadstreethockey.com sees Rickard Rakell as a possible trade target in general for the Flyers, so maybe there's a fit here.
This is a fun bit of speculation, though, and it would be one hell of a message sent to the rest of the league by this overachieving team.
Trading for Giroux would be the most Ottawa Senators thing they've done since general manager Pierre Dorion declared the rebuild over in the summer.
Yet it's a possibility that NHL insider extraordinaire Elliotte Friedman is openly wondering about while doing his usual media rounds, so we'll at least consider it in this space, even though the Senators are hanging around the bottom of the Atlantic Division, sporting a .313 points percentage—that's the third-worst number in the entire league.
In October, when Ottawa still had a prayer of making the playoffs, this kind of deal seemed more likely. If Dorion honestly saw this as a postseason team a few months ago, however, he likely still does despite the Senators' performance out on the ice through 24 games this year.
Maybe he's got an eye toward bolstering his roster ahead of the 2021-22 campaign and thinks Giroux could boost Ottawa's awful offense next season. Only six teams score fewer goals per game than Ottawa—ironically, one of those squads in Philadelphia—and perhaps the GM thinks he could get Giroux to re-sign since the forward lives there during the offseason.
If Giroux wants a Stanley Cup before his playing days are through, though, this might not be the best landing spot for him. And it isn't every day we see a bottom-feeding franchise trade futures for an aging center, but the Senators are unpredictable.