The Philadelphia Flyers’ offseason didn’t exactly work out like everyone thought it would. The aggressive retool fans were promised didn’t pan out as expected and now they’re looking at a team featuring the same exact roster that finished fourth-worst in the league last season. It’s not exactly easy to paint the brightest picture for the outlook of the team… but what if this is the year players actually hit their potential?
It’s understandably very difficult to sit here and once again put stock in “potential” of the young players in the lineup. It’s a strategy that has been done to death over the last decade in Philly with very little to show for it and asking fans for compliance one more time isn’t the smartest way to go about things, but it’s the path the front office opted to take.
So, let’s be positive.
There’s expected to at least be a real injection of youth into the lineup during the 2022-23 season.
Over the last few seasons, there hasn’t been an abundance of young players in the lineup as they were sitting in between generations from the Hextall era prospects drying up and waiting for the Fletcher era prospects to make the jump to the professional level. They’ve been trying to shove the Morgan Frost square peg into the round hole for years, and the Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers experiments failed during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign.
This season will actually feature an influx of youth, with players like Cam York, Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, and sooner or later guys like Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski, Bobby Brink and possibly 2020 first round pick Tyson Foerster all expected to be NHL regulars by season’s end. That’s quite a few opportunities for at least one kid to play the role of a competent hockey player.
If one or two of those players can establish themselves at the NHL level and flash serious potential, it will give the Flyers building blocks to actually strategize an approach during next offseason. They’ve too often been stuck in the in-between with players like Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny showing flashes of potential but injuries or inconsistency have prevented them from ever reaching their true ceilings. They need at least one guy to show up and be the game changing star on a night-to-night basis, and with six young forwards slated to battle for roster spots, there’s a decent likelihood that they find the next star they’re so desperately looking for.
Not to mention there is also a new, rather eccentric coach on the block in John Tortorella. If there’s anybody who can get this runaway train back on track, it’s Torts. He’ll be tasked with squeezing the most out of a lackluster veteran core, and ultimately deciding on whether or not the kids can overtake their veteran counterparts if their play isn’t up to snuff.
More than anything, the Flyers need a leader. Someone to instill a new way of thinking. They keep talking about team culture and how to fix it, and, well, few people seem better suited to weed out the weak like Torts. Now that the old leadership group has primarily been dismantled over the last few seasons with guys like Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux moving on, plus the injection of youth, having someone like John Tortorella at the helm to give a direction to the fledgling roster may go a long way.
The Flyers have piss poor center depth and their defensive depth isn’t overly impressive at the moment, but they do have an abundance of wingers, specifically on the right side, that could be knocking on the door for a full-time roster spot in 2022-23. It’ll not only put pressure on the veteran wingers like JVR, Atkinson and Konecny, but it will once again go into the idea of assessing the future of the roster. If the kids surpass the vets, then whoever is GM of the Flyers next summer can clear out the elder statesmen and let the kids go.
As hard as it is to hear, it’s a transition year in Philly. The Flyers hemmed and hawed over the last few seasons refusing to pick a direction which has led to the level of fan backlash that is currently occurring, but at least on paper, this will be the season where they finally assess the talent, or lack thereof, on the roster and will come together at season’s end and address the major issues next summer.
That’s the plan anyway. Whether it gets properly executed as such will be a different story.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nbcsports.com / elitesportsny.com / usatoday.com