After a trying season in the City of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia Flyers, under new GM Chuck Fletcher, made a number of changes this off-season in order to improve on their 37 wins and 82-point sixth place finish in the Metro last season.
First Key Game: October 9th, 2019 vs. New Jersey Devils
Odds to win the division
8:1 (6th overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
Win the division? Not quite, but a bet on the Flyers to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs could pay out well, as the competition in the East for the two wild card spots could be wide open, and aside from Washington in the Metropolitan Division, places 2-8 could be randomized and any end-result could make sense.
GM Chuck Fletcher comes for his first full season in Philadelphia with a history of making the playoffs in each of the last six of his nine total seasons in Minnesota prior, while new head coach Alain Vigneault’s experience could be what the Flyers need to push forward in the division.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
Development of the defensive core. Last season, expectations were high that both Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov would both take steps forward in their development in becoming the bona-fide 1-2 punch the Flyers needed on defense. This didn’t quite happen. The 22-year old Provorov went through a subpar season in his own end of the ice while in front of a revolving door of goaltenders. Gostisbehere (26), reportedly played through a knee injury last season, which saw a 28-point drop in offensive production, as the talented blueliner posted a stat-line of 9-28-37, with a +/- rating of -20.
The additions of Niskanen and Braun will certainly help round out the Flyers’ top-4, as both bring along significant Stanley Cup Playoff experience. Travis Sanheim‘s growth into a top-4 defenseman could make “Ghost” a potential trade asset. Phillipe Myers, Robert Hagg and Sam Morin are expected to battle for the 6th-7th-8th defensive slots. The Flyers young core certainly has the potential to be one of the league’s best in the years to come.
Player to watch
Carter Hart. For the first time in a VERY long time, Flyers fans are coming into the season with the knowledge that the team’s goaltender of the present and future is A) here NOW, and B) does not have an extensive history of injuries. After a debut season which saw the young goaltender finish with a .917 SV% and 2.83 GAA, the one thing which Hart stood out for was the ability to lift the team’s spirits by stealing games when his team’s performance in front of him suffered.
Now in his first full NHL season, and with a better team (on paper) in front of him, the team’s playoff hopes will ride on Hart maintaining the same consistency he showed in his 31-game rookie season through at least 50-60 games this season, with veteran Brian Elliott serving in a more fitting role at this point in his career as Hart’s backup.
Offensive depth. The addition of Hayes allows 2017 second-overall pick Nolan Patrick to move down to the third line, as the third-year center has struggled with inconsistency and the occasional injury. Despite the top-6 forward group including the names Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, James Van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek and Hayes, the bottom-six sees a drop-off in talent.
The flashy, but inconsistent Oskar Lindblom is likely to flank Patrick on the left, while Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl and newcomer Tyler Pitlick will provide energy on the 4th line. A PTO was handed to veteran tough-guy Chris Stewart, who played under Fletcher in Minnesota, but making the team won’t add to the offensive production.
For now, a training camp battle between Flyers prospects Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost and German Rubstov will likely fill a bottom-six role out of camp, but an upgrade on either wing could help Patrick and other young players take a much-needed step forward, or at least move Van Riemsdyk’s offense down the lineup.
If the Flyers were an animal, what would they be?
Beaver. The two front teeth are both orange and “tough as iron” (thank you, Google), representing strength up front. Chuck Fletcher, himself, is the beaver whose previous dam sprung a few leaks, but is getting another chance to build with a new colony/family. It’s just a matter of getting the branches to stick in the right places.