Chuck Fletcher led the Philadelphia Flyers through a very impressive summer and there is a lot to be excited about. All of his acquisitions were generally positively acclaimed, his drafting has been above average, and the positive vibes of the offseason have lead most to buy back in to the Flyers being a good hockey team with plenty of potential to make a playoff run this year.
But Flyers fans being Flyers fans, there is always that PTSD that comes into play when things are noticeably wrong, and as the man who earned the title of “Negative” Dan over the last half decade or so, why not take a step back and let it all out now, and look at some of the things that could go wrong for the Flyers this season.
Between injuries and underwhelming youngsters, the biggest concern for the Flyers is the stunning lack of center depth. Even before the injuries, the original four centers slated to start the year were Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Derick Brassard and Nate Thompson. Now with Hayes on the shelf and Morgan Frost failing to capitalize on the opportunity, the team is forced to go back to Scott Laughton at 3C and the 34-year-old Derick Brassard plays at 2C. Fletcher has also hinted that he hopes Hayes will be ready close to the six weeks side of his 6-8 week timeline, which isn’t necessarily positive news. Hayes is working his way back from not one, but two, abdominal surgeries over the last few months and rushing him back into the lineup can do far more harm than good. Between the time of year and the cap ceiling looming just over the Flyers’ heads, they don’t have many options for a last minute saving grace before the season starts. All they can do now is hope the players still healthy can hold down the fort and the reinforcements of Frost and Hayes will return soon enough and take some pressure off the group, if not, this could be a long season.
The lackluster goaltending was a huge reason the Flyers struggled last season, but the hope is that Hart has overcome his struggles and Martin Jones can re-find some chemistry he had with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh from their days in LA. So far through the preseason, Hart does seem to have his head on straight and has received positive feedback from Alain Vigneault and teammates about his boosted attitude and play. Jones, on the other hand, has had a rough go during the preseason. While his play hasn’t been awful per se, he has allowed quite a few very soft goals despite turning in decent overall performances, a problem they were hoping to get rid of when they let Brian Elliott go. If Hart can at least turn in results that are slightly above average, and hopefully a lot better than that, maybe Jones won’t have to be relied upon as much, but if Hart’s struggles continue and Jones has to take closer to half of the starts, Fletcher may need to work some magic to correct an offseason mistake.
If there was a magic button to go back in time to, say, the beginning of September before the injury bug struck the Philadelphia Flyers before the preseason even started, I’m sure there’d be no hesitation to press it. Kevin Hayes, Wade Allison, Samuel Morin, Tanner Laczynski and a handful of AHLers have already hit the injured list before the opening night puck dropped. Luckily, those injuries haven’t decimated the main roster in the sense of key players being on the shelf, but they’ve eradicated the depth and impacted one key hole on the Flyers roster. There have already been a few players, Claude Giroux, Carter Hart, Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen that have already gotten extra maintenance days late in the preseason, which may be nothing, but it may mean they’re already banged up. This group just needs one good run with as little injuries as possible, something that just never seems to happen.
As with most things in the preseason, there is always reasonable doubt when certain aspects of a team struggle, and the special teams is under the microscope after a horrible performance in the exhibition games. The powerplay fired at just a 16% clip (4/24) and the penalty kill killed only 60% (12/20) of opportunities faced. We’ve defended Alain Vigneault from the disaster that was last season, but his assistants, however, are a different story. Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo have been very underwhelming during their tenures in Philly, and one of the benefits of all the changes Chuck Fletcher made is with the improved personnel on the ice, it should put the coaches on the hot seat if they can’t come up with a winning strategy. Though considering Therrien is Vigneault’s guy and Yeo is Fletcher’s guy, so they all seem locked in regardless of the results on the ice. Hopefully the improved player personnel can overcome bad schemes.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: NHL.com