General manager Paul Holmgren says he wants to show patience before deciding if a major trade is needed to jump-start his underachieving team.

It's a wise decision.

The embattled GM pulled the trigger much too quickly on coach John Stevens, whose team slumped badly as it used a goalie, Ray Emery, who was playing with abdominal pain that eventually needed surgery.

Holmgren now wants to assess the Flyers when they have had a relatively healthy group together.

It will take Blair Betts, Simon Gagne, and Darroll Powe a few games to get in sync after returning from injuries. After they have played a couple of weeks, Holmgren will have enough time to decide whether to break up the team (Jeff Carter would bring a bundle) or bite the bullet.

When healthy - and that's been rare - the Flyers have four solid lines and can compete with the NHL's elite. But what we have learned in the season's first 2½ months is this:

The Flyers have no depth. Their minor-league call-ups did virtually nothing, forcing the team to basically play with three lines.

There is division in the locker room, and new coach Peter Laviolette seems intent on getting to the bottom of it.

The Flyers, for whatever reason, take periods off. They did it under Stevens and have done it under Laviolette. That shows a serious lack of leadership and character. It's time for Mike Richards to step forward and show that he deserves the C on his jersey.

The Flyers lack an identity. They're not physical - though Chris Pronger was supposed to incorporate that trait throughout the team - and not always scrappy. They have not displayed much firepower since an early-season offensive outburst, and aren't a team that can play shut-down defense.

What's a new coach to do?

To be fair, Laviolette needs several more weeks to incorporate his system. The Flyers have been playing so many games lately that the coach hasn't had time to apply the nuances during practice. The more time Laviolette is here, the more familiar the players will be with his setup. Progress should be on the horizon.

So maybe, just maybe, the Flyers will start improving their forechecking - a Laviolette trademark - and become the attacking team Laviolette envisions.

That would be the start of building a much-needed identity.

Some line creativity might also help in that area.

Suggestion: Create the Philly version of the French Connection. Put Claude Giroux with Gagne and Danny Briere and give them two or three weeks to see if they can build chemistry.

Yes, putting three smallish players together goes against the Broad Street Bullies mentality that is the lifeblood of the organization.

So what?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The line might be pushed around a little, but it also has the potential to dazzle opponents with speed and creativity.

When you've gone through such a horrendous stretch - 12 losses in 15 games entering yesterday - a shake-up can't hurt.

Speaking of shake-ups, the players don't want trades to break up the team.

OK, then, they should do something about it.

The same players said they didn't want to see Stevens fired. They then went out and, with lackadaisical play, got him dismissed.

With the holiday roster freeze going into effect early Saturday morning, no players can be dealt until Dec. 28. The Flyers have four more games until they are allowed to be dealt. By then, Holmgren's patience may have run thin - or the Flyers will be back on track toward a playoff berth.

The choice is theirs.

Inside the Flyers:

Read Sam Carchidi's Flyers blog, Broad Street Bull, at http://go.philly.com/sports.

Blog response of the week

Subject: Flyers' trade possibilities.

Posted by: dave-tx at 8:35 a.m. Wednesday.

Problem with a big trade right now is that Homer would be dealing from a weak hand. Not only do other teams know he's desperate, but the trade value of players he would want to ship is at a low point.EndText

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.