The Philadelphia Flyers are in a very interesting position this season. They totally aren’t tanking; they absolutely believe they’re going to be a competitive hockey team in 2022-23, but their roster is still lackluster and they’re bound to make plenty of mistakes as multiple youngsters get acclimated to the NHL. So while they’re selling a good, competitive season, their end goal still appears to be getting the highest draft pick possible in the stacked 2023 draft.
So what happens if they achieve that goal? What happens if they, in a minor miracle, land a top three pick this season. Does their plan of attack for the future change? What comes next?
The top three picks in the 2023 draft appear to be Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Matevi Mitchkov, two centers and a winger respectively. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Flyers land Fantilli, a high-end center prospect but not quite a guaranteed generational game changer as Bedard.
They walk away from the 2023 draft with a legitimate top center prospect. He becomes the crown jewel of a fairly solid prospect pool. They achieved their unspoken goal.
Their next steps will be very interesting, as we’ll learn whether or not the Flyers are a rebuilding team with competitive intentions now that they’re stocked up on prospects, or are they the new Coyotes who are just going to keep drafting with no end date in mind?
Back on the main roster, there is quite a rivalry brewing between the lingering veteran players and a rise of NHL-ready prospects who will be battling for NHL ice time during the 2022-23 season. What happens if Tyson Foerster and Owen Tippett outperform their veteran counterparts in Travis Konency and Cam Atkinson?
They’ll then have a couple young wingers established in the top six and quite a few more wingers with enough talent to fall into the bottom six. That would mean guys like Konecny and to a lesser extent Atkinson are no longer needed. Does Chuck Fletcher have the guts to part ways with the superfluous players to not only let the youth flourish but to shed some cap to bring in a big piece or two to push them over the competitive line?
Speaking of Chuck Fletcher, an extra layer of insanity in all of this is there doesn’t appear to be a good answer as to whether or not Fletcher or other key members of the front office even survive the season. If another losing season is their super secret plan, they may make it through the year because internally it’s been the plan all along. But if the season is so far off the rails that fans are assembling a gallows outside the Wells Fargo Center, ownership may have no choice but to finally fire Fletcher just do to pressure alone.
The 2022 offseason didn’t leave a good taste in the mouths of fans when it comes to trust. The organization opted to run it back with a nearly identical roster to the one the finished fourth worst in the league in 2021-22, refusing to sign hometown hero Johnny Gaudreau or address the team’s lack of center depth, yet trying to sell the piss poor result as a legitimate effort that will make the team better in 2022-23. It’s very difficult to believe that, especially if Fletcher survives the season, that this team will take a major step forward and part ways with Travis Konecny and any other players that need to go, or that they’d pursue big time free agents like Dylan Larkin, David Pastrnak, or whichever big names ultimately end up making it to free agency or are available via trade.
Does the organization realize it’s go time and start insulating the youth they’ve been stockpiling with legitimate stars and aim for a playoff run?
Do they keep the veteran core of underwhelming players together and sign another Nic Deslauriers clone and call it a day, running it back once again trying to sell the fans on whatever minor standings improvement happens in 2022-23?
Guess it all depends on whether or not Fletcher survives that long.
Though finally landing a top center prospect like Fantilli, backed up by 2022 first rounder Cutter Gauthier along with the development of various other prospects could lead to a brighter day in Philly. For the first time in almost a decade or rebuilding, there appears to finally be prospects worth building a franchise around.
The financial situation the Flyers have once again worked themselves into is ugly, and with the salary cap still years away from a significant increase, the Flyers may have to take a few on the chin in trade negotiations just to create enough breathing room to even consider bringing in even one worthwhile outside player. But it’s something they’re going to have to do if they’re serious about building a playoff team.
A top three pick in this draft could be game changing. Hell, we didn’t even talk about someone like Bedard falling into their laps. As long as this season is treated like a transition year at the NHL level and the weak are finally weeded out, a few more talented prospects claim NHL spots next season and a big name free agent or two are brought in to insulate the blossoming youngsters, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. The Flyers once again could be a competitive hockey team and perennial playoff cintneder provided they stick to a very simple script; the question is- do you trust them to do so?
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com