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?
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.
SUNRISE — Even with an “obvious” need at forward, the Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t pass up the opportunity to select Ivan Provorov with the seventh overall pick at today’s draft.
Provorov, an 18-year-old who was born in Russia but starred last season for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, is considered by many to be the best defenseman in the draft.
Yes, even better than Noah Hanifin, the Boston College blue-liner that Carolina took fifth overall.
Provorov had 61 points in 60 games for Brandon. He’s been lauded for his ability to create offense in the attacking zone and beat the forecheck in the defensive zone. Oh, and he’s pretty good at stopping opposing players, too.
“We believe that you build from the back end out, and Ivan is going to be a big part of our defense moving forward,” GM Ron Hextall said. “We’re really excited to have him. Really good all around player, great hockey sense.”
The Flyers’ defense, a weakness since Chris Pronger was forced to stop playing, is going to be very different in the near future. Before today, they already had well-regarded prospects Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. Radko Gudas and Michael Del Zotto, both 25, could also be part of the future group. Plus, they signed Russian Yevgeny Medvedev, and who knows how that works out?
For Hextall, the challenge before next season may be to shed one, two or even more of Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, or Nick Schultz.