Ryan Dadoun

Ottawa Senators v Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers ’15-16 Outlook


The Philadelphia Flyers have built a great foundation, but it remains to be seen if their supporting cast is ready to help propel them into the playoffs.

Although it hasn’t always been the case, at this point it seems reasonable to bet on Steve Mason providing the Flyers with a strong presence between the pipes. At the same time, the chemistry that Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have developed should result in the Flyers once again having one of the most effective top lines in the league. Even defensively, which tends to be seen as their weakest point, they have a solid anchor in Mark Streit.

A solid starting goaltender, great top line, and an effective offensive defenseman are a good start, but that in and of itself isn’t enough to make a serious contender, as the Flyers exemplified last season.

For example, a championship team typically has quite a bit of offensively depth, which Philadelphia didn’t possess in 2014-15. That problem could be largely addressed though if 24-year-old Brayden Schenn and 22-year-old Sean Couturier are able to make bigger contributions this season. There’s also a chance that newcomer Sam Gagner will prove to be an effective complimentary player or that Vincent Lecavalier or R.J. Umberger will bounce back.

Their defense is an even bigger question mark though. While it’s true that Philadelphia has a very promising group of defensive prospects, it’s entirely possible that none of them will be ready to make major contributions this season. That means that the Flyers might be relying in part on Michael Del Zotto, who has been inconsistent over the course of his career, to have a good season or that 32-year-old Yevgeni Medvedev will make a smooth transition from the KHL and at the very least prove to be a helpful stopgap measure.

There are certainly scenarios that can be painted in which this team bounces back and perhaps even enjoys a lengthy playoff run. However, with so many significant X-factors in play, Philadelphia will be interesting, but not necessarily successful in the short-term.

Looking to make the leap: Shayne Gostisbehere

Shayne Gostisbehere

Often both expensive and inadequate, Philadelphia’s defense has been a point of concern in recent years. However, that was largely because the Flyers lacked homegrown talent as far as the blueline was concerned and thus had to resort to trades and signings in an attempt to compensate.

The future is bright though as Philadelphia has no shortage of promising young defensemen working their way towards the NHL and at the forefront of that new wave is Shayne Gostisbehere.

The 22-year-old has significant offensive upside, as was showcased in his run of 82 points in 119 career NCAA games with Union College, which is a potential area of need for the Flyers as Kimmo Timonen has retired and Mark Streit will turn 38 in December.

He already got his first taste of NHL action last season with a two-game stint and has made a favorable impression on Flyers GM Ron Hextall. He suffered a torn ACL in early November though and that limited to just seven games between the NHL and minors.

The good news is that he was feeling close to 100 percentage as of July, per the Philadelphia Daily News, setting the stage for him to compete for a roster spot during training camp. It will be an uphill battle though as the Flyers already have eight defensemen inked to one-way contract. However, even if he doesn’t make the opening game roster, he will likely be among the first blueliners summoned in the event of an injury.

He’ll need to take advantage of whatever opportunities he can get because while Philadelphia’s current roster is cluttered with blueliners that have NHL experience, there are also a number of less experienced, but highly regarded defensemen looking to leapfrog Gostisbehere, including Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, and Travis Sanheim. Throw in Mark Alt, who also made his NHL debut in 2014-15, and Robert Hagg and it becomes clear that Gostisbehere has a ton of competition.

That’s a nice scenario for Philadelphia and it means that if Gostisbehere can eventually establish himself as a regular with Philadelphia, there’s a good chance that he’ll be part of an impressive group.

It’s Philadelphia Flyers Day at PHT

Steve Mason

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Philadelphia Flyers.

In 2013-14, the Philadelphia Flyers endured a terrible 1-7-0 start, but they improved as the campaign went on and still managed to make the playoffs. Last season they once again struggled out of the gate (0-2-2), but this time no comeback of significance was forthcoming.

There were silver linings to be sure. Steve Mason showed that his solid 2013-14 campaign wasn’t a fluke as he posted a 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage in 51 games. After years of goaltending headaches, the fact that the 27-year-old netminder is secured for another two seasons with a reasonable $4.1 million annual cap hit is a big plus for Philadelphia. However, the Flyers largely squandered his strong play in 2014-15 as he had the NHL’s best GAA in losing efforts (2.67) among goaltenders that were charged with at least 10 defeats.

Philadelphia was credited with just 215 goals for, which left them in 22nd place. That’s despite the fact that Jakub Voracek stepped up in 2014-15 with 22 goals and a career-high 81 points in 82 contests.

Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds were the only other Philadelphia forwards that recorded at least 50 points as Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn weren’t able to make a significant leap offensively, Vincent Lecavalier was used sparingly under coach Craig Berube, and R.J. Umberger struggled in his first season following the Scott Hartnell trade.

That all culminated in Philadelphia ending the season with a 33-31-18 record.

Off-season recap

After missing the playoffs, Flyers GM Ron Hextall fired Berube and replaced him with Dave Hakstol, who previously served as North Dakota’s bench boss. Philadelphia stayed busy in the lead up to the UFA period by inking veteran KHL defenseman Evgeni Medvedev, shipping forward Zac Rinaldo to Boston for a 2017 third-round pick, and trading Nicklas Grossmann along with Chris Pronger’s contract to Arizona in exchange for Sam Gagner.

When it came to the draft, Philadelphia realized it needed a forward, but with Ivan Provorov available for the seventh pick, Hextall couldn’t pass on the opportunity to grab the highly regarded defenseman.

The Flyers were relatively quiet during the free agent period, likely due in large part to their cap situation, but they did ink 27-year-old goaltender Michal Neuvirth to a two-year, $3.25 million deal. A veteran of 168 games, he’ll enter the season as Mason’s understudy.

Philadelphia might not be done yet though as they do have eight defensemen signed to one-way contracts, so the squad might part ways with one via the trade market. There’s also always the possibility that the Flyers will find a suitor for Lecavalier, although the fact that he has three seasons left on his contract with a $4.5 million annual cap hit makes moving him a challenge.

PHT Morning Skate: Patrick Kane’s former junior squad pulls his name from training camp team

Patrick Kane

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The OHL’s London Knights had planned to honor Patrick Kane by naming one of their four training camp groups after him, but GM Basil McRae announced that there will no longer be a Team Kane. The former Knights player is reportedly facing rape allegations. The police confirmed they are investigating an incident that allegedly occurred at Kane’s residence. (London Free Press)

Quebec City has reached the third phase of the NHL expansion process, but this still might not end up going Quebecor’s way. (Sportsnet)

Allan Muir created a hockey version of the Seven Wonders of the World. (Sports Illustrated)

With the start of training camp around the corner, what the Winnipeg Jets should do with Dustin Byfuglien is still up for debate. (Winnipeg Sun)

Wayne Simmonds is optimistic about the Philadelphia Flyers going into the 2015-16 campaign, but he feels they have to “work out our inconsistencies.” (Yahoo)

The University of Alberta’s hockey team will play against the Edmonton Oilers’ rookies, including Connor McDavid, on Sept. 16. (Edmonton Sun)

Devils won’t offer tryouts to Bernier, Gomez

Scott Gomez

Scott Gomez was signed by the New Jersey Devils after participating in training camp on a tryout basis last year and it worked out well with him scoring seven goals and 34 points in 58 contests on a team that struggled offensively. History will not repeat itself.

Devils GM Ray Shero confirmed that Gomez, who remains unsigned, won’t receive a professional tryout offer. Steve Bernier, who tied his career-high with 32 points in 67 games last season, won’t be presented with an opportunity to make the team either.

“That’s not a direction I’m looking to go at this point. I think we made a decision back before the draft to let (Bernier) go to free agency and let him go in a different direction,” Shero told NJ Advance Media. “Obviously they haven’t signed anywhere yet, but I’m sure they are working on some things themselves.

“With Scott, as I’ve said before, it really wasn’t so much about him but more us going in a different direction.”

After finishing in the bottom-five of scoring for three consecutive seasons, Shero wants to focus on giving younger players an opportunity. He’s also moved the team’s rebuild forward by selecting Pavel Zacha with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Shero hasn’t ruled out the possibility of offering tryouts to other players, but it seems the march forward hasn’t left any room for Gomez or Bernier’s return.