As we enter the doldrums of the NHL offseason with the fireworks from the draft and free agency starting to stagnate, it’s time to take stock of the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to dissect as far as additions go. That leaves plenty of room to highlight the questions still facing the Flyers roster before the start of the 2020-21 season.
Number 5: Will Brian Elliott Be Enough?
What originally seemed like a cheap retainer so they could spend money elsewhere in the lineup turned out just to be a cheap cop-out for the organization. For all intents and purposes, Elliott was on the roster specifically to take any bullet Carter Hart wasn’t ready for a la road starts and back-to-backs. With a potentially compressed season upcoming, there is a chance there are more back-to-back games than usual, which could lead to more starts for the backup ‘tender. Time will tell if Elliott can still be a serviceable player, but if his play slips any further than it did last season, the Flyers could be in trouble.
Number 4: Gostisbehere’s Fifth Second Chance
Well, it looks like they’re doing this. When the Red Wings acquired Marc Staal and the Senators traded for Erik Gudbranson, the two easy places for a salary dump were taken. Shayne Gostisbehere got the praise of Chuck Fletcher during his press conference a few weeks ago, and it seems like they’re intent on rolling with him for the 2020-21 season. It’s now been three seasons since his infamous 13-goal, 65-point campaign and it looks like he’s going to ride on that reputation for yet another season. To be fair, he has been dealing with a lingering knee issue for at least the 2019-20 season, so maybe if that’s cleared up, he still has a chance to pull a solid season out of his hat.
Number 3: What’s the Plan at 3C?
Other than Matt Niskanen’s replacement, the only other major hole in the lineup that needed attention was the third-line center, and like the number two defenseman spot, they ignored it as well. Nolan Patrick recently signed his qualifying offer, but there is still no word on whether or not he’s cleared for game action. If he’s not ready, there’s always Morgan Frost, who is yet another big question mark. Considering 3C was a big issue for them last season, eventually ending up with Nate Thompson and Derek Grant being brought in to put a band-aid on the situation for the playoffs, it seems incredibly callus to pass over the glaring hole again.
Number 2: Are Myers and Sanheim Ready For Bigger Roles?
When Matt Niskanen retired and the Flyers stayed silent during free agency, the only logical conclusion to come to on the blue line is that they trust 23-year-old Phil Myers and 24-year-old Travis Sanheim to take bigger roles on the team. Ideally, they’d put Myers alongside Provorov, but there’s a good chance both players get their looks on the top pair early in the season. The question is, are either ready for the big time? They’ve both shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but it comes with the mistakes you’d expect young players to make. Will the positives outweigh the negatives? Time will tell.
Number 1: Can Giroux Still Go?
Maybe the most alarming situation the Flyers found themselves with during the 2019-20 season was the decline of captain Claude Giroux. What started as a quiet start to the season, scoring his first goal eight games into the year, ended with a completely invisible player during the playoffs who had nothing going his way. Maybe it was his first year of being a parent that had him mentally somewhere else during the season. He was in the bubble in Toronto during his son’s first birthday. And we can all hope that was the issue this year and he’ll be back on his game when the 2020-21 season arrives, but what if it’s more than that?
Giroux is about to enter his 13th NHL season and he has carried some heavy weight during that time. Soon to be 33 years old, he won’t be getting any better, now it’s time to worry about conserving the player they have left. The best way to do that is to limit his overall ice time, take him off the penalty kill, and roll him with as favorable minutes as possible. The biggest issue if they choose to finally give Giroux a break is that they don’t have anybody even close to filling his shoes. The organization is between a rock and a hard place with Giroux and the clock is ticking ever faster to try and get possibly the greatest Flyer of all-time a Stanley Cup before it’s too late.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com/fastphillysports.com