“Make or break” is a term that has been beat to death for the Flyers over the last handful of seasons, but this year things feel like they’re reaching a crescendo. With new head coach John Tortorella at the helm to help sort this mess of a team out, there will be plenty of questions he has to answer from both the on-ice stand point, a locker room standpoint, and how the future could potentially pan out as well.
Number 5: Is the Center Depth Good Enough?
For whatever reason, Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers absolutely refuse to address the team’s lack of center depth. Especially after the 2021-22 campaign where all of their top five centers were missing from the lineup at the same time, the fact that they ran it back with the same starting four; Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Morgan Frost and Patrick Brown, they must feel as though, when healthy, must be a good enough corps to have some success. It’s a rather unimpressive group and with no internal help coming this season. With Sean Couturier now on the shelf, their refusal to make outside additions is already on display.
Number 4: Who Are the Problem Children in the Locker Room?
As anticipation brews for the start of the season, new head coach had some choice words for his team, already holding their feet to the fire and demanding hard working excellence before training camp even starts. The culture of the locker room has been under the microscope lately and it’ll be Torts’ job to find and address the biggest issue facing the club. Why this problem wasn’t addressed during the offseason is a mystery, but it’s the whole reason they brought Torts in to begin with; to start weeding out the weak and building a new culture from scratch. It’ll be Tortorella’s job to diagnose the problem, and Chuck Fletcher’s job to address it. If the cause is removed, maybe the Flyers can tout their positive locker room unironically for a change.
Number 3: Does Tyson Foerster Have Star Potential?
It’s projected that the Flyers will have quite a few young players in the lineup during the 2022-23 season, but none hold a brighter future than 20-year-old winger Tyson Foerster. Whether he makes the opening night roster is up for debate, but he will more than likely see NHL action at some point during the upcoming season, and the Flyers are counting on him being a bonafide sniper out of the gate. He’s already listed at 6’2 and just shy of 200lbs, possesses a booming one-timer and has all the talent in the world to answer the Flyers’ prayers in their hunt for a real star. But we’ve been led to believe in potential from prospects for almost a decade now with very little to show for it. Is this the year the luck changes and the team actually drafted a star, or is Foerster the next man up to disappoint?
Number 2: Can Cam York be a Number One Defenseman?
The Flyers are going to have to face questions regarding their blueline this season, and nobody holds the deciding factor more than Cam York. Ivan Provorov has had some serious ebb and flow to his game over the last few seasons, and Travis Sanheim’s looming contract extension means he will have to step up if he wants a new deal in Philly. The future of both those players could very well be dependent on just how talented 21-year-old Cam York is. He’ll start the season on the third pair with Justin Braun eating heavily favored minutes, but his objective of the season will be to overthrow Sanheim on the second pair and challenge Provorov for top pair duties. Will all that happen in one season? Maybe not, but York’s development will go a long way to determine how the defense will shake out over the next few years, and the progress he makes during the 2022-23 campaign will be a major factor in how they handle Travis Sanheim’s extension.
Number 1: Is Couturier Still a Capable 1C?
Sean Couturier and his brand new $62 million contract return to the lineup in 2022-23 after back surgery ended his last campaign prematurely. With his 30th birthday on the horizon, he has an uphill battle to live up to his new deal. As noted in the earlier entry on this list, the center depth isn’t exactly intimidating. Couturier is the de facto 1C, mainly because they don’t have anybody pushing to usurp him. In reality, he’s more or less going to pontoon with Kevin Hayes, who, if healthy in his own right, will be picking up any minutes Couturier can not. He will also have to lead the way without partner in crime Claude Giroux, so Couturier will also have to add a level of offensive production to his game that he’s never had on his own.
There’s a lot on this guy’s plate, and he’s not going to get better with age. All the Flyers can hope is that he can keep his head above water for the next few seasons as they hope one of their few center prospects pans out and can finally relieve Couturier of the top line center role.
UPDATE: This entry was written a week before Couturier’s herniated disc was announced, so they already got their answer; no, he can’t be counted on as the team’s number one center any longer. Well done, Chuck, bang up job with the contract extension and refusing to sign outside center depth. Those moves are paying off in spades now.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com