It’s been a long time since the expectation level for the Philadelphia Flyers entering as season has been as high as it is right now. After GM Chuck Fletcher worked his magic this summer and gave the team a much needed facelift, it’ll be up to the coaches and players to make all the new pieces fit.
Number 5- Veterans Keeping Up Their Play
One of the bigger questions, and later, surprises of the 2021 campaign was the veterans carrying their weight when it came to producing offense. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek and James Van Riemsdyk all slowed down a notch during the 2019-20 season and were practically invisible during the playoffs. Yet all four did a majority of the heavy lifting during the 2021 campaign. JVR, Giroux and Voracek finished the season tied for the team lead in points with 43 and Couturier was the runner-up with 41. Giroux, Couturier, Hayes and JVR survived the summer changes and will once again be tasked as the top producers on the team, and we’ll have to see whether they all have another year of dominance in them.
Number 4- Hot Start
This was a curse the Flyers seemingly broke during the 2021 season when they went 7-2-1 during the opening month of January, but the past decade hasn’t been kind to the Flyers during the first month of the season.
Alain Vigneault has opted to roll close to their opening night lineup for most of the preseason in the hopes of building chemistry so there is less growing pains when the games start to matter. Their October schedule features seven games, five of which are against Western Conference teams. The Metro Division is anybody’s game to win right now and if the Flyers can avoid chasing all season long and instead get off to a hot start, that’ll be a lot less stress later in the year.
Number 3- Avoid Injuries
This one is already out the window, but the Flyers need to hope it doesn’t spiral any further. Kevin Hayes, Samuel Morin, Wade Allison, Zayde Wisdom, Tanner Laczynski, Egor Zamula, and another handful of AHL players will start the season in the injured list. Luckily for the Flyers, there is very little actual impact to their main roster. Allison probably would’ve had an NHL spot locked down but it wasn’t a guarantee, Morin would’ve been the seventh defenseman but given the new-look blue line, he wasn’t going to challenge for a full time roster spot, Kevin Hayes, however, is a major blow to the team. What the other injures did do was basically wipe out the depth the Flyers had. Morin, Allison and Laczynski would’ve been the guys to get the call if other injuries sprung up. So basically, the rest of the NHL squad needs to remain healthy in the short term until a couple of these guys get back in the mix. If they can remain a relatively intact team for the remainder of the season, things should be ok in Philadelphia.
Number 2- Fixing the Special Teams
The Flyers’ powerplay has been bad and the penalty kill has been worse more often than not lately. The powerplay consistently hovers in the middle of the pack league-wide and the penalty kill, with the exception of 2019-20, has been in the bottom third in recent years as well. This is where all the offseason additions Fletcher made will hopefully pay off, as most of special teams units got a decent shakeup. The new guys, defenseman especially, give the team new options on both the powerplay and penalty kill, now it’s just a matter of whether or not the coaching staff can finally craft a good scheme to deploy on the ice.
Number 1- Young Guys Need to Rebound
One of the most surprising developments of the 2021 season was the issue of almost all of the team’s youth failed to have noteworthy seasons, meanwhile the veterans did the heavy lifting, a complete 180° from the season before. Luckily for the Flyers, it seems like Oskar Lindblom is back to his pre-cancer form, Travis Konecny apparently came into camp in great shape, Joel Farabee will be looking to continue his solid play after his breakout 2021 campaign and Morgan Frost will finally get his chance to hang in the NHL. If they can all hit their stride and develop chemistry with the vets, the forwards should be able to carry their end of the deal this year.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: espn.com