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.
When you ponder the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster, it doesn’t immediately scream “hopeless.”
That’s especially true if you scroll down starting with the forwards; the one-two punch of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek is complemented by the unusual power play + power forward work of Wayne Simmonds as well some other nice pieces. Combine that group with redemptive goalie Steve Mason and one can understand the optimism.
The glass gets closer to half-empty as you scan that blueline.
Mark Streit is probably the brightest light in that group, and he’s 37. Things get pretty dicey from there, and GM Ron Hextall’s hands were tied with a clogged cap situation.
Could this roster churn out a wild card berth? One would think it’s a possibility, so we’ll start with that poll:
Feel free to disagree in the comments, yet as plausible as a postseason bid might be, it’s tough to imagine the Flyers contending with that bumbling blueline.
Flyers owner Ed Snider won’t like this, but it could be best to swallow a bitter pill of defeat in 2015-16 and gear up for better days.
You never want to throw away peak years for the likes of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. That said, they’re young enough (Giroux is 27 and Voracek is 26) that they could still be elite producers when the smoke may start to clear in a year or two.
Between Luke Schenn and Sam Gagner alone, the Flyers will see $6.8 million in cap space dissolve in the summer of 2016 alone. They’ll also be free of R.J. Umberger’s $4.6 million mark after 2016-17.
(Vincent Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit taunts them through 2017-18, though. Hey, you can’t win them all.)
Beyond gaining financial breathing room, Hextall collected nine draft picks in 2015, 2016 and 2017, so the farm system could be impressive down the road. Naturally, that would only be more apparent if the Flyers end up with a premium pick in 2016.
So, long story short: should the Flyers go into tank mode next season?