The Philadelphia Flyers 2020-21 season will be one for the history books, unfortunately, not for good reasons. They wrapped up what may have been the worst season in their history with far more questions than answers and now GM Chuck Fletcher has his plate full as he looks for solutions to the issues plaguing his team.
Number 5- What to do with the goalies
Of all the things that went wrong for the Flyers during the 2021 season, the thing that hurt them the most, but was also the most unexpected, was the collapse of Carter Hart. In his first two seasons, Hart hasn’t shown much flaw in his game, but for whatever reason, he hit the wall hard this year and walked away with a .877 save percentage and 3.67 goals against average and just nine wins in 27 games. While Hart obviously isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the question mark he has thrown has put more pressure on the front office to find him a capable backup incase things take a similar path next year. Brian Elliott has done the best he can given the circumstances, but at 36 years old, he just can’t handle the lion’s share of the workload anymore.
Number 4-Who returns on defense?
Even though the goaltending failed, the pitiful defense didn’t help stifle the collapse one bit. With five players already under contract, Sanheim more than likely re-signing, and Cam York and Egor Zamula knocking on the door, there is an abundance of bodies already on the blue line for next season. Not only do they have too many in-house options for the back end, but they will probably look for outside help as well. Whether they shoot for the stars and try and find a top guy or two, or look for a couple depth guys to even out the workload, the twisted merry-go-round will have to end this summer and seven players will have to emerge and claim the spots. Until the draft and free agency are over, we won’t know who is still around to be in the running, but when the time comes it better be definitive.
Number 3- Figuring out forward depth
The game of human musical chairs effected the Flyers forward group heavily this year, especially the bottom-six. It only got more complicated as the season went on and Tanner Laczynski and Jackson Cates joined the team. As of right now, the only two depth forwards that are locks for next season would be Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton. As for everyone else, well there will probably be a battle at training camp for the remaining spots. Does Nolan Patrick return? Does Laczynski make the roster out of the gate? Is Aube-Kubel in danger of losing his spot to a younger guy? Does Morgan Frost challenge for a roster spot? Does Fletcher bring in any help from the outside? There’s a lot to shake out before the season begins, but hopefully some consistency from the bottom-six propels the rest of the team’s re-birth as well.
Number 2- Will the vets keep up this level of play?
One of the more interesting stories that developed during the 2021 season was the veteran core stepped up and carried the team offensively. JVR, Giroux, and Voracek all finished the season tied with 43 points and were far and away the three best players on the team. Considering going into the year most wondered if they had anything left in the tank, it was a pleasant surprise. That being said, now the question becomes whether or not they can replicate that success for another season. It’s possible the trio doesn’t come back whole next season as JVR and Voracek are prime targets for Seattle in the expansion draft, but if they somehow survive can they still produce for one more year?
Number 1- Who gets fed to the Kraken?
The first domino to fall during the offseason will be the Seattle expansion draft and who ends up booking their one-way ticket will set the pace for the rest of the offseason. As noted in the last entry, JVR and Voracek are the best case scenarios if the Flyers want to ditch cap space, though it’s wildly speculated that they may have to compensate Seattle in exchange for taking on big money. If Fletcher bows out of negotiations, the Flyers may be in line to lose someone like Nicholas Aube-Kubel or Justin Braun. Though the emerging front runner may be defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Ghost had himself a fine rebound season, but still finds himself as the odd man out in Philly most nights. Even though his contract isn’t ideal, $4.5 million for two more years, it’s certainly more manageable than JVR or Voracek. Time will tell who ends up getting picked, but it’s a critical decision that will determine how much wiggle room the team has heading into free agency.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com / nhl.com