Direction. Everybody’s talking about direction. The Flyers front office is trying their best to spoon feed the fanbase their tales of the offseason and how great next year will be, but the reality is the moves, or lack thereof, made during the 2022 offseason showed just how discombobulated the Flyers really are. There is no direction. They opted to run it back with an almost identical roster that finished with 25 wins last season and are trying to convince us that things will magically get better.
There were a few different paths and moves the Flyers could’ve made that at least led on to the fact they had half a clue what they were doing, but apparently expecting the team to do the bare minimum is asking far too much. After all, being an NHL GM is hard work.
What should the organization have done to put themselves back on a path to success and give everyone at least a slight bit of hope that there are better days on the horizon?
Adding Star Power to Carry the Youth
One of the biggest under-the-radar failures over the last decade for the Flyers is relying solely on youth injection into the lineup, but never properly insulating them upon their arrival. The most blatant example is Ivan Provorov, who made the NHL in 2016-17 and spent three full seasons strapped to Andrew MacDonald. Hell, he’s entering year seven of his career and has still only had one solid partner, and that was 68 games worth of Matt Niskanen before the pandemic hit new three seasons ago. Travis Konecny may be the one example of proper insulation when he rode the coattails of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier earlier in his career when the duo was at their respective peaks.
After the last batch of kids were stunted playing next to lackluster veterans, the Flyers seem poised to do it once again with the next crop. The organization passed up on Alex DeBrincat, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk during the 2022 offseason, opting instead to run it back with an almost identical roster to the one they finished fourth worst in the league with in 2021-22. If one of the young guys is the lightning in a bottle they’ve been desperate for, who are they going to play with that will help carry them to that next level?
If Tyson Foerster shows up and makes the team out of camp, who is going to feed your potential sniper? Konecny led the team in assists last season with a measly 36, ranked 94th in the NHL. Wouldn’t it make more season to line him up with Johnny Gaudreau, who had 75 assists last season?
Let’s put it this way, if Cutter Gauthier makes the NHL in 2023-24, do you want him centering 35-year-old Cam Atkinson and Travis Konecny, or would you want him centering Johnny Gaudreau and Alex DeBrincat? they’ll obviously have one more offseason to right that wrong, but considering the salary cap isn’t getting any better next summer, and the fact they turned their nose up at all the star power this summer, there is no benefit of the doubt to them pulling their heads out of their asses next summer to sign, say, David Pastrnak either.
Clearing Vets to Open Minutes for the Kids
If they weren’t interested in adding players, even high end ones, that’s fine, but dealing Van Riemsdyk didn’t have to solely rely on landing Gaudreau. They could have at least moved a veteran player or two in order to open roster spots for the kids to actually play.
Not only are the same washed up faces we’ve come to loathe all returning, they also added enforcer Nic Deslauriers to the roster as well. So now they want to piss away another season, masking it as letting the kids play, with the major fault of not opening any roster spots for the rookies to slot in on.
Theoretically, they don’t have to clear roster spots to make this one happen, BUT what are the odds Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost and Wade Allison among others are given priority in the lineup over JVR, Kevin Hayes and Nic Deslauriers, among others?
This isn’t necessarily a John Tortorella issue, 99% of coaches are going to go veterans over youth when push comes to shove, so it’s the general managers responsibility to limit the toys a coach has to play with, forcing them to ice the kids, but that didn’t happen here.
Do we ever once see a lineup this season where a bulk of the top six are players under 24 year of age?
Adding a New Beloved Hero
Johnny Gaudreau would have been a risky addition. He’s obviously one of the best players in the league today, but at 29 years old and signed to a seven-year deal at just shy of $10 million per season, there’s a good chance that deal backfires on Columbus sooner or later. But in the short term, not only does his addition make the Blue Jackets a better team, but it puts asses in seats as well, as their season ticket sales has reportedly sky rocketed since his signing.
Now imagine the Flyers signed hometown hero Gaudreau to that contract? The team is having issues filling the Wells Fargo Center lately, not only because of the general underwhelming product, but because there are no individual players worth paying to watch.
Especially with Claude Giroux out of the picture, the Flyers needed a new hero, a babyface that the entire fanbase can agree on liking and will pull his weight on the ice. They don’t have that right now otherwise.
They missed out on the one player that could save them on the ice and save their pocketbooks off it all because the Flyers are too god damn cheap to move JVR.
Give Fans a Reason to Believe
The power of perception is a very real thing. Look no further than the 2021 offseason the Flyers had to realize that. There was a lot of movement, lots of fresh faces through trades and signings, but there was very little substance actually added to the roster. The Ryan Ellis trade was fun at the time, but it ultimately backfired, they overpaid for Rasmus Ristolainen, made a salary-clearing swap between Jake Voracek and Cam Atkinson, then they filled holes with washed up veterans like Derick Brassard, Martin Jones and Keith Yandle.
With the benefit of hindsight, those weren’t exactly winning moves, but it felt like they could’ve been. That’s exactly what should’ve happened again this summer. Maybe they couldn’t’ve overhauled the team to their satisfaction given the salary cap restraints, but they sure could’ve made a swap or two to give the illusion that progress was made.
Imagine if they cleared Van Riemsdyk’s cap, then dealt away a package of Konecny and Frost for an extra first round pick. Then they used that newly found cap space to sign a 3C in Dylan Strome and a new middle-six winger in Nino Niederreiter.
Would those two moves alone push the team over the competitive edge? No, probably not.
Would it be easier to believe the Flyers might have some success this season benefiting from the new signings? Yes.
The power of perception.
It would’ve gone a long way to squelching the fan uprising currently taking place. It would’ve bought the organization at least a few months of good grace if a few players were swapped out with new ones, but hey, who needs change when things have been going so swimmingly lately, right?
Do One Positive Thing
It’s miserable being a Flyers fan these days. The organization is a far cry from the team we all fell in love with years and years ago, and the 2022 offseason didn’t exactly mend bridges with the tired masses. First they brought in Tony DeAngleo, a move that insulted a large amount of people, then the bought out cancer survivor and fan favorite Oskar Lindblom, then they refused to pursue hometown hero Johnny Gaudreau in free agency. Just one low blow after another to a fanbase that has been pushed to their limits over the last few seasons.
You’d think from a business standpoint, they’d try and do something -anything- positive to hope to get back in the good graces of the fans, but nope. They’re fully committed to being the most unlikeable team imaginable. I guess in a sense you have to commend them for sticking to their guns, but at the same time, they fully deserve any and all hardships coming their way from alienating your paying customers.
There’s a good chance this organization hasn’t yet reached true rock bottom. Buckle up.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com