By now it’s no secret the that 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers season is going to feature a lot of losing. This is supposed to be a “transition year” for the Flyers. We’ve already talked about what a successful outcome to that transition year could look like, but after a rough preseason, where the suspected squabbles this lackluster roster would endure were on full display, it raises more than a few red flags as to why the players were left to flounder with now real help from the front office.
The idea for the 2022-23 season seems to be giving as many players NHL ice time as possible and seeing which ones sink and which ones swim. It’s a fine starting point, especially considering the Flyers have two teams worth of random middle-six players to sort through. But icing a team full of middle six wingers with zero top end talent and just hoping one or two naturally rise above the rest means everybody could fail as a result.
Are they doing more damage by giving everybody a turn rather than focusing on one or two players to elevate?
If you’re a regular Brotherly Puck reader, you know we were big proponents of acquiring Alex DeBrincat during the 2022 offseason. While adding a two-time 40-goal scorer may seem counter productive to the end goal, it’s quite the opposite. Adding one 24-year-old with a proven track record for scoring is pretty high on the list of things the doctor ordered for this team.
If you were against adding Johnny Gaudreau due to his age or contract, that’s one thing. Making another long term commitment to a 29-year-old isn’t the best decision for a team that is struggling with contracts. But someone like DeBrincat, who is right in line with the age of the rest of the youngsters made a lot of sense.
It would’ve provided a spark plug for the rest of the team. If someone like Tyson Foerster makes the team, would you rather he play with a perennial 30-40 goal, 60-70 point guy like DeBrincat or a 40-point nobody like James Van Riemsdyk?
Yes, it may lead to a few extra wins, which is contradictory towards the end goal of a top three pick, but if it means that one or two of the prospects actually develop properly and becomes stars in their own right, shouldn’t that have been worth it in the long run?
It’s a rhetoric fans have used for someone like Morgan Frost a lot over the last few seasons, ignoring his lackluster results when he was deployed without Claude Giroux. Why? Well because Frost rose to the occasion with Giroux, elevating his game to a different level when he was paired with the former captain.
While, to a certain extent, it is a cheesy excuse, especially for someone like Frost who is deep into his professional career when those excuses were made, it does hold water for younger guys who are just getting their feet wet in the NHL. But this year there is no Giroux, no Voracek, and potentially not even a Sean Couturier, who’s many levels down from the previous two in terms of creating offense.
Guys like Konecny, Atkinson and Farabee will be thrust into offensive leadership roles this season despite not being true producers themselves.
It could be part of the overall test to see whether Farabee and Konecny are legitimate pieces moving forward, which is, again, fine as part of the bigger future, but if they end up being nothing more than high-end beneficiary players and not leading stars, the offense could run dry in a hurry this season.
“Isn’t the lack of goal scoring a good thing?” A phrase that has popped up on Flyers social media during the preseason. The answer is both yes and no. In the short term, no scoring means no winning which means a high draft pick in 2023. Great! But it also means a vast majority of the prospects that are supposed to make up the long-term future of this team are nothing more than random depth fill ins. That’s a rather alarming cause for concern when a vast majority of their prospect depth are expected to play in the NHL during the 2022-23 season.
If this season is actually a transition year and the Flyers have one or two of their own players show a glimmer of hope, does the organization insulate them next summer, or do they rely on the two players with a slight bit of potential to carry the rest of the team? If Owen Tippett and Wade Allison appear to be on the rise, do they dip their toes in the deep 2023 free agency pool and look for bonafide talent to continue to elevate them, or do they go “hey, these two are kinda good, we don’t need to make any additions, run it back again!”
The reason this is such a concern is because it’s a problem that has been plaguing the Flyers since the early days of the Ron Hextall era and his original rebuild in 2014. Ivan Provorov spent his early days in the NHL playing alongside Andrew MacDonald and folks wonder why he never developed into a true number one defenseman. Carter Hart is wasting his talents behind this piss poor excuse for a hockey team and we’re going to wonder why he never turned into the next Carey Price.
Imagine what Provorov could’ve been if he had a top right-handed defense partner his entire career? Imagine how good Carter Hart could be if he was on a competent hockey team right now?
It’s no mystery why Travis Konecny was an all-star playing alongside a 100-point player in Claude Giroux and Selke-winning center Sean Couturier and he’s just a 45-point winger when he’s tasked with leading the team on his own. Some players can be great beneficiaries in certain scenarios but can’t be the leading star in others.
Time will tell what exactly the Flyers are dealing with from a roster perspective once the 2022-23 season gets underway later this month, but the preseason has renewed cause for concern. If the front office’s end game is to waste another season and the individual results don’t matter, they’re in luck! If they want this current team to actually lay a foundation for future prospects and success, it could be a complete disaster, and at the end of the day, the front office is responsible for the any on-ice failures this team takes because they refused to help along a group of players they supposedly believe in.
Negative losing environments are a key to long term success. I believe Sun Tzu said something like that. It’s possible the Flyers can blossom without any help this season, but it’s also unlikely. If things don’t magically improve this season and the mediocrity extends for years to come, don’t say Brotherly Puck didn’t warn you.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com