2020-21 Philadelphia Flyers: What Went Wrong

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As the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs approach, NHL teams will start getting mathematically eliminated from contention. PHT’s “What Went Wrong” series aims to analyze why each team missed the playoffs. The “What Went Wrong” series continues with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Here’s something you might not have noticed. From 2011-12 and on, the Flyers have rotated seasons when they’ve made the playoffs, then missed the postseason. If the season ended in an even year (2011-12, 2013-14, and so on), they were in the playoffs. If it ended odd, like in 2012-13 or, say, 2020-21, then the Flyers missed out.

Such ebbs and flows were easier to stomach when Ron Hextall was painstakingly rebuilding a roster that had been dilapidated by a reckless (albeit, fun-for-bloggers) Paul Holmgren regime.

After a nice push to Round 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the future looked pretty bright for the Flyers, including in 2020-21.

You could argue about how soon GM Chuck Fletcher might deliver a true contender, but it seemed like things were on the upswing.

Instead, the 2020-21 season was a jarring faceplant for the Flyers. Carter Hart went from being the second coming of Carey Price to, perhaps, the Carey Price that many mainstream hockey people sometimes refuse to see.

(OK, even the 2017-18 Carey Price didn’t struggle like Hart did for the 2020-21 Flyers.)

Let’s dive in on a massively disappointing 2020-21 season for the Flyers.

What went wrong before the Flyers’ 2020-21 season

If you’ve followed a decent proportion of Flyers people, they’d devote multiple paragraphs to the surprise retirement of Matt Niskanen.

Should the Flyers have worked harder to find a replacement, though? By forfeiting his 2020-21 salary, the Flyers had about $8.6M in cap space to work with after Niskanen retired.

Fletcher didn’t totally rest on his laurels, although even an optimist would’ve found it a stretch to say that Erik Gustafsson was more than a Band-Aid. In hindsight, maybe the Flyers should’ve been more aggressive in seeking a trade?

Regardless, that was definitely a tough situation for the Flyers. There were other decisions that might have given the Flyers more leeway in 2020-21, though.

Rather than hoping Brian Elliott would work out better than previous seasons, would the Flyers have been better off forking over more dough for a more established backup? Such a plan would have made it seem a little bit less like the position was Carter Hart or bust.

It’s possible that the Flyers played over their heads at times last season, creating a mirage heading into 2020-21. But few saw this level of misery coming.

What went wrong during the Flyers’ 2020-21 season

Woof, it’s hard not to pin a lot of the blame on Carter Hart, or the Flyers’ goaltending as a whole.

Consider this. In 69 games in 2019-20, the Flyers allowed 196 goals. Through 55 games in 2020-21, the Flyers gave up 199 goals.

Again, a lot of that straight-up falls on the goalies.

Based on Hockey Reference’s version of Goals Saved Above Average, Carter Hart was the worst this season (-22.71 GSAA), and Brian Elliott ranked second worst (-14.45). Allowing essentially 36-37 more goals than expected? Yeah, that’s not going to do your team many favors.

Now, by a wide variety of advanced stats, the 2020-21 Flyers weren’t necessarily a “dominant” team. But the numbers indicate that they should have at least been more competitive.

No doubt, it’s not fair to place all of the blame on Hart and the Flyers goalies. Some, for instance, believe that Alain Vigneault didn’t handle Hart’s struggles very well.

But there’s also a cutoff point where goaltending sinks enough to throw a team off balance. That definitely happened at times in 2020-21 for the Flyers, and they need to find answers. Maybe it boils down to investing in a heartier backup? (Frankly, it was a mild upset that Brian Elliott remained in the NHL, at least beyond being a third goalie option, like Aaron Dell in Toronto.)

What went right

The good and bad news is that some veteran Flyers played very well in 2020-21.

While Claude Giroux won’t prompt Peter Laviolette to call him the best player in the world any longer, he ranked among the best Flyers players in 2020-21. James van Riemsdyk also enjoyed a better season than expected. Injuries limited Sean Couturier a bit, but he still delivered.

Consider where those players ranked on this GAR chart for the 2020-21 Flyers, via Evolving Hockey:

Now, ideally, Ivan Provorov‘s value would match his reputation. And maybe Nolan Patrick would inspire a bit more, um, hope.

Yet, even positives like that come with caveats. It must feel like a waste to squander late-prime years from Giroux (33), JVR (32), and Jakub Voracek (31). Even Couturier (28) and Kevin Hayes (29) might need to think about hiding Father Time’s glasses soon.

But, hey, at least Giroux and other veterans might still bring something to the table. That could make trades possible. More realistically, it could also allow them to raise the Flyers’ ceiling — if others can start to step up.

What’s next?

Follow the Push for the Playoffs to keep track of the Flyers’ 2021 NHL Draft Lottery odds. This offseason figures to be a big test for Chuck Fletcher, and easy answers aren’t especially abundant.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

“We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

“I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

“Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

“We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

“It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

“I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

“We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

“I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

“It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

“It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

“We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

“I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

“It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.