NHL Season Review: Philadelphia Flyers
Welcome to NHL season review: a brand new series that will breakdown every NHL team this offseason. You can expect to see a new post everyday until the end of July, starting from the 30th place team, and finishing with the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the offseason, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun month of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 33-31-18 (84 points)
- Goals per game: 2.58 (21st)
- Goals against per game: 2.72 (21st)
- Power play: 23.4% (3rd)
- Penalty kill: 77.1 (27th)
- Shots per game: 29.4 (21st)
- Shots against per game: 30.3 (23rd)
The Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs for only the second time in the last five seasons. A team with so much fire power finished 21st in goals per game, despite having the third best power play in the league. Offensively, the Flyers have all the weapons they need to be one of the league’s best offenses, but they were unable to score goals on a regular basis five-on-five. In the end, their lack of goal scoring combined with their below-average defense forced management to make some changes.
The biggest change came at the head coach position, where Chaig Berube was relieved of his duties. Despite a 75-58-28 record over the last two seasons behind the bench, GM Ron Hextall felt a change was needed to help bring the team to the next level. On May 18, the Flyers announced the signing of Dave Hasktol as the franchise’s 19th head coach.
At first glance, this looks like a terrible hiring, but Hasktol has proven he is a winner—bringing his team to the NCAA Frozen Four four times and the regional finals two times. His inexperience at the NHL level may worry some fans, but his 289-141-43 record at North Dakota is more than enough to give him the opportunity to show the organization what he can do with a talented NHL team.
Philadelphia came into the 2015 draft with the seventh overall pick and selected defenseman Ivan Provorov from the Brandon Wheat Kings. The six-foot defenseman from Yaroslavl, Russia was touted as the best offensive defensemen in the draft. The 18-year-old finished last season with 61 points (15G, 46A) in 60 games for the Wheat Kings. According to eliteprospects.com, Provorov is “a complete defenceman who knows how goals are scored and executes accordingly”. The kid will get a chance to make the 23-man roster come October, but the Flyers and management may want to be patient and let Provorov work on his defensive game a bit more before making the jump to the big league.
Offseason Game Plan
According to mangameslost.com, the Flyers lost 329 man games last season due to injuries (6th most). With the team having only $4.5 million left to spend, the best game plan may be trying to stay healthy.
One of those players who need to stay healthy is goaltender Steve Mason. Mason missed time last season due to a nagging knee injury. The injury limited the Flyers starter to 51 games and proved to be the difference between making the playoffs and watching from the sidelines. The 27-year-old posted a mediocre 18-18-11 record in those 51 games, but his 2.25 GAA and .925 SV% were among the top-10 in the league. For the first time in almost two-decades, Philadelphia looks to have a goalie that can win them some games. As long as Mason stays healthy, the Flyers have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, but that remains a big “if” heading into next season.
Another big question mark heading into next season is the Flyers defense. The only team to allow more goals per game than the Flyers last season and make the playoffs were the New York Islanders (2.73 GA/GP). With so many quality defensemen still available via free agency, the Flyers may want to take a stab at signing one to help bolster their blue line before next season. It may be complicated with their current cap situation, but if Hextall can get creative and unload some unwanted salary, it may be the best decision the club makes all offseason.
One of those contracts that management would like to unload is that of Vincent Lecavalier. The 35-year-old totaled just eight goals last season—his lowest total of his career—and is slated to make $4.5M for the next three seasons. The Montreal native is no longer the player he once was and has clearly become a burden to the team both on and off the ice. Hasktol has publicly said that he will give Lecavalier a fresh start to prove himself before the upcoming season begins, but a buyout would give the Flyers the extra cap space needed to add a much-needed defenseman to their team. With so many options down the middle, Lecavalier may be the odd man out.
Offensively, Philly should be able to rebound. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will once again be counted on to lead the way offensively for the Flyers, but it’s the secondary scoring that will make the difference. Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn are coming off successful seasons and will need to continue to build on that success to help the Flyers be a playoff team. Newly acquired center Sam Gagner will be counted on to help provide some of that secondary scoring for the Flyers. The London, ON native is coming off another 15-goal season with the Arizona Coyotes and will get every opportunity to anchor the team’s second line once the season begins.
In the end, the Flyers look like a team that will be on the outside of a playoff position come April. The team has failed to make any moves so far this offseason, while the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins both made significant upgrades to their rosters. The Flyers will need to stay healthy if they want any chance of beating those teams for a playoff spot, but with health being virtually impossible to control, fans may be in for a long season if history repeats itself again next season.