The 2021 Philadelphia Flyers season was a disaster for the ages and threw the entire state of the roster into disarray. Now, with question marks throughout the lineup, the entire roster will have to find a way to bounce back heading into the 2021-22 campaign. There are certain players that have more to prove than others, from young stars looking to rebound, to players needing to live up to their contracts, which players most need to establish or re-establish themselves for next season?
Number 5: Travis Sanheim
The duo of Sanheim and Phil Myers was a flat out catastrophe during the 2021 season and both shouldered parts the blame. To be fair to Sanheim, he may be the Flyers’ best puck mover they have on the blue line, but his defensive ability is just not up to snuff. He’s quickly approaching the 300 game mark of his career, so there’s a good chance he won’t get too much better than what we’ve seen, yet the Flyers really need Sanheim to finally kick it into the next gear and earn his top four slot in the lineup, because if he doesn’t Cam York will be breathing down his neck soon enough.
Number 4: Travis Konecny
Konecny went from career year to career worst in a single season and now as the 24-year-old enters his sixth NHL season, it’s time for Konecny to finally decide the player his is. With three consecutive 24-goal seasons under his belt, he followed that up with just 11 goals in 50 games, three of which came in the second game of the season. So far, the best seasons Travis Konecny has produced have come when he’s riding shotgun with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, which didn’t happen on a nightly basis this season. On the other hand, he wasn’t stapled to them this year because he didn’t earn it when AV’s slot machine put them together. Is Travis Konecny a top line scorer or a middling winger that just chips in occasionally? It’s time to finally get some direction from Teeks.
Number 3: Scott Laughton
It’s now been nine seasons since Scott Laughton donned the orange and black for the first time. His play has aged like fine wine over the course of his career and he was rewarded with a five-year contract extension before the end of the 2021 season. While it’s not necessarily a bad deal, a five year commitment to a bottom-six forward is a huge risk and Laughton needs to live up to to that contrct. In fairness to Laughton, he was on pace for a new career high in both goals and points with nine goals and 20 points in 53 games. His play may not have been overall as strong as it could have, but it seems as though Scott Laughton still has more growing room left that he hasn’t shown us yet.
Number 2: Kevin Hayes
Kevin Hayes went from two-way superstar to bumbling idiot during the 2021 campaign. He has since admitted to playing injured for part of the season and underwent surgery to fix a core muscle injury. By his timeline, he should be ready to go by training camp, but as we’ve seen over the last few seasons, that isn’t the easiest injury to come back from. Brian Elliott, Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere all had trouble shaking off the cobwebs after their core muscle surgery, so limiting expectations may be the best way to go. That being said, Hayes still plays an important role for the Flyers and they’re going to need him as close to full health as possible. He’s still got five years left on his contract that pays him $7.1 million a season, so for the Flyers’ sake, they better hope he rebounds next year.
Number 1: Carter Hart
Carter Hart seemed like the savior in goal the Flyers have been looking for, though his underwhelming play during the 2021 campaign has forced everyone to pump the brakes on his expectations a bit. He recorded just an .877 save percentage and a whopping 3.67 goals against average through 27 games where he only picked up nine wins. Hart, who will turn 23 in August, has had his share of growing pains over the last two seasons, struggling with road games during 2019-20, and just struggling overall in 20-21. Though, we’ve already seen sneak peaks of Carter Hart’s brilliant dominance, like his sparkling .926 save percentage and two shutouts during the 2020 playoffs. Hart is just 101 games into his career and has yet to play a full 82-game schedule, which has been an added bump in the road of his development. Though the 2021-22 outing is looking to be relatively back to normal, so Hart will have a fresh, clean slate to rebuild his game and once again take the reins as the unquestioned starter in Philadelphia.
The 2017 first round pick has had a bumpy transition to the professional level. From failing to secure a roster spot during his rookie season to playing only four periods of hockey during the 2021 season before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the campaign, Morgan Frost is yet again starting from the bottom in his climb to be a Flyers’ regular. His rehab puts him on pace to be ready for the start of training camp, but his chances to make the Flyers roster out of the gate hinge on any moves Chuck Fletcher makes during the offseason. They may carve out a spot for him, or they may load up the roster and Frost is on the outside looking in and may start the year in the AHL.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com / inquirer.com