This is my first article for Brotherly Puck, and to those unfamiliar with my work, be prepared to hate me. Just when you thought Dan was angry and negative, here comes this pessimistic POS to the scene.
There’s two things I’d really like to address in this article.
The first; Should Flyers fans consider this season a success?
The second; What went wrong and how does Fletcher fix it?
Let’s hit the ground running with a brief recap of the regular season. Philadelphia placed 2nd in the Metropolitan Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference, and 6th in the league with a 41-21-7 record through 69 games, good for a .645 points percentage. They had four 20+ goal scorers in Konecny, Hayes, Couturier, and Giroux. James van Riemsdyk had 19 goals as well and likely would have joined the 20 goal club had a hand injury not kept him out the last couple games before the season was cancelled. Konecny led the team in overall points with 61 through 66 games.
The Flyers were successful during the NHL’s Return to Play early, winning their exhibition game against the Penguins as well as all three round robin games against the Lightning, Bruins, and Capitals.
That was the end of the successful 2019/2020 Flyers campaign.
Although Philadelphia eventually secured the 4-2 series victory against the Montreal Canadians, any who watched the series should readily admit that the Flyers were outplayed heavily throughout the series. Carter Hart played very well throughout the series. Pulled during the 5-0 game two blowout, he responded with back to back shutouts. Overall, the Flyers were outscored by the Canadians by a final tally of 13-11.
Then came the large disappointment from the Flyer’s series against the Islanders. Although Philadelphia managed to force a game 7, they failed to score even one regulation win against the Isles. The power play was abysmal, the stars were missing throughout the majority of the series, and the Islanders controlled play throughout the entire series, limiting the Flyers to mostly perimeter shots.
With that we can loop back to the original question; Should Flyers fans consider this season a success?
There are many bright spots from the 2019/2020 that Flyers fans should rejoice in with Carter Hart’s phenomenal play and Lindblom’s return after beating cancer being the biggest ones. As a whole, however, this season strikes me as a failure.
The future is bright in Philadelphia, I won’t question that. There are a few good excuses that Flyers fans can have in regards to how the season ended including the absence of Nolan Patrick and Lindblom, as well as the general lack of playoff experience for a good portion of the roster. Excuses are just excuses.
When rating the overall success of the 2019/2020 campaign, you have to take two things into consideration. The first being that the regular season is just a long stretch of playing qualifications, the second being that General Manager Chuck Fletcher has created a three to five year “win now” model.
There’s two good takeaways from the season falling off the rails at the end. Fletcher now has a very good idea of what the team is lacking in regards to getting the job done, and the younger players have gained a bit or playoff experience to help them in the future.
Ultimately, when you’re in a win now model, I can’t fathom viewing a second round exit as a success. If the Flyers had played very well and been purely upset in the second round that’s a different tune to sing. The Flyers being largely outplayed by both the Canadians and Islanders and falling short of the 3-1 series comeback does not promote the idea of a success story.
Anyone can feel free to disagree with that take, and there are plenty of positive takeaways from the season in general, but coming up so short in such a humiliating fashion should ultimately be considered a failure.
Let’s all take a moment here to thank former Flyers goaltender and General Manager Ron Hextall, as well as his scouting team, a big round of applause for creating the beautiful prospect pool that is still largely untouched. Let’s then give current General Manager Chuck Fletcher his own round of applause for making some key moves this past off-season to create the “win now” model without mortgaging the farm.
Aside from experience and power play success, the Flyers two key aspects: A high end scoring forward and grit. I HATE the concept of implying a team needs grit to be successful in the playoffs, but the Flyers were clearly pushed around by the Islanders. The Isles played a very heavy game that the Flyers could not break through.
The issue with the scoring forward could resolve itself. After not playing hockey for nine months, no one should have anticipated Lindblom being much of a factor aside from a huge morale boost and a a fantastic story to tell. In the future, when he has his timing, he will be able to put up goals.
Konecny, who failed to register a goal against Montreal and the New York Islanders, could have been battling an injury and should certainly be more of a factor in point production in the future.
Giroux is regressing with age, which is totally expected. Patrick is still dealing with migraine issues and will hopefully be able to return for the 2020/2021 campaign which will help with point production. Farabee played well throughout as well and will get better with experience. Morgan Frost is knocking at the door.
Scoring was an asset that the Flyers couldn’t come up with this season, but it’s an issue that could potentially resolve itself internally.
Then comes the grit. There’s not many players coming through the pipes that I consider to have that two-way, grinding ability at a playoff level.
Luckily Fletcher has plenty of ammunition to build a trade that could bring that type of player to Philadelphia without losing anything of significant value. Gostisbehere could be a potential trade candidate, as well as a few decent options through free agency to replace Braun on the back end.
Gostisbehere’s trade value will be considerably low and getting a higher end player in return would require a package. With consideration to the “win now” model, this is a luxury that Fletcher currently has. Selling a pick or even a prospect who is further away from making the NHL in an impactful way is a perfectly acceptable loss to promote immediate success.
This season the Flyers came up short in a less-than-ideal fashion. The current model was not sufficient to get the necessary wins, but gave a clear indication of what was still needed to take that next step to transition from a playoff team to a legitimate contender.
Cheers to the future, Philly.
photo credit: sports.yahoo.com