PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Flyers bet their future on Nolan Patrick.
But for the present, Philadelphia is a team unsure of its identity: Does it believe it can get one more playoff push out of stalwarts Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds or is time for Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Jordan Weal to carry the franchise?
The Flyers are counting on a blend of young and old to return to the postseason after a one-year absence. The Flyers, long held up as one of the league’s showcase franchises, haven’t won a postseason round since 2012 and missed the playoffs three times over that span. The Flyers, who last reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, missed the playoffs only once from 1995-2012.
The 19-year-old fell to Philly when the New Jersey Devils passed on him with the top pick in the draft. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was happy to swoop up the center, even though Patrick played through a hernia last year in the WHL and needed surgery in the summer. Patrick said he was healthy on the first day of training camp and seems ready to settle in as the second line center behind Giroux.
At the scouting combine in early June, Patrick said he actually had a sports hernia on both sides and one was “misdiagnosed.” He had surgery June 13.
“I just only want to make the NHL and establish myself,” Patrick said. “I’m just going to try to play my game and contribute as much as I can. I think the Flyers have a really good team, and if you look at their (defensive) core coming up, they’ve got some unbelievable prospects, so I think in a couple years they’re going to be a really good team, or even this year coming up. I think they’ve got all the tools to do that.”
Giroux was once Philadelphia’s star center of the future after he helped Philly’s run to the 2010 finals and was once dubbed by his former coach “the best in the world.”
The 29-year-old Giroux’s numbers in key categories have sagged so much (86 points in 2013-14 to 73 to 67 to 58) that the Flyers may play him on the wing this season to jumpstart his career. Third-year coach Dave Hakstol will try about anything to help the Flyers’ captain regain his All-Star form and had Couturier center Giroux and Voracek in the preseason.
“We’re in camp and we want to look at all the good options we might have,” Hakstol said. “I think it’s a challenge for any player to be versatile. G’s been our No. 1 centerman and he still is. He’s such a good player that I think he can play any position on the ice. There’s no question for a player like him, he can play anywhere on the ice.”
Last year, the Flyers had a 10-game winning streak in a 39-33-10 season that left them stuck in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. General manager Ron Hextall made few moves in the offseason and none that seem likely to send the Flyers on a major uptick in the East. Their biggest move was in the draft lottery when they somehow jumped 11 spots to nab Patrick.
Here are other things to watch with the Flyers this season:
Shayne Gostisbehere emerged as one of the top rookie defenseman two seasons ago and was named Philadelphia’s athlete of the year. He found out during the season he won the award on the day he was a healthy scratch. Gostisbehere slumped last season except for when Philadelphia was on the power play. Gostisbehere’s ability to bounce back – Hakstol scratched him to help him refocus on defense – could play a key role in Philadelphia’s season.
The Stanley Cup drought is one of the longest in the league: The Flyers haven’t had a championship since back-to-back Cups in 1974 and 1975. Philadelphia lost in the finals in 1976, 1980, 1985, 1987, 1997 and 2010.
WHO’S NO. 1
Look no further than Philadelphia’s usual unsettled goaltending to understand why the franchise has gone 41 years without a championship. The Flyers did little to address the situation after it let Steve Mason walk. They signed former Calgary goalie Brian Elliott to a $5.5 million, two-year deal and expect him to share time with Michal Neuvirth.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey