We’re just 10 games into the 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers season and things are already a roller coaster. From Carter Hart standing on his head and stealing games they’ve got no business winning, to a rickety foundation that John Tortorella is crafting is being pushed to its absolute limits already. One thing they certainly haven’t been is boring, which has sparked some interest in a team that was projected to be terrible, but there are some major questions that the team still has to answer that could dictate how the rest of the season plays out.
Number 5: Are the Special Teams Good Enough?
The Flyers had an absolutely atrocious powerplay and penalty kill last season, and even though the early results haven’t been terrible, visually the setup still isn’t great. The powerplay, which has fallen under 20% after going three for their last 21. They registered four PP goals in the first four games, which was a great start, but the man advantage is where the lack of high-end talent on the roster really gets exposed. On the other hand, the penalty kill is currently ranked 16th in the league (they were seventh before allowing two to the Maple Leafs) going 27/34 so far this season. The penalty kill for the most part has been a surprising upside, but they can mainly thank Carter Hart for that. Though as the season goes on, it could be an area that struggles once the high energy John Tortorella demands starts to sag.
Number 4: Can the Injuries Subside Please?
In recent years, the Flyers have become all too familiar with the injury bug wreaking havoc on their roster, and while it hasn’t been quite as comically bad as last year, they are still missing some key players for undetermined amounts of time. Sean Couturier is more than likely done for the season with a back injury, Cam Atkinson is M.I.A. for an undisclosed amount of time with a upper body injury, JVR broke his finger, Bobby Brink is recovering from hip surgery, Ryan Ellis’ career is probably over, and Artem Anisimov, who was on a PTO and seems like a lock to sign with the club eventually, has missed time dating back to the preseason, and Tippett and Ristolainen have already missed time to start the season. Hopefully that list doesn’t grow any bigger as the season goes forward, but that may be a pipe dream for the Flyers, who just haven’t been able to avoid disaster lately.
Number 3: Vets vs Youth on Defense
For the most part, the Flyers have stuck to their mantra of playing the kids, but there was some concern going into the season about how the defense would shake out in a battle between the young and veterans. At first, it seemed like Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard would make the roster, which Zamula ultimately did, but when Rasmus Ristolainen returned from injury, Nick Seeler remained int he lineup and forced Zamula to the press box while both Cam York and Attard wound up in the AHL. While Seeler hasn’t been terrible, there’s no reason he should be playing over Zamula when preaching development. Torts seems confident a short break will do Zamula good, so we’ll see how this situation shakes out, but relying on a veteran defense with so many youngsters being pushed aside is completely counter productive right now.
Number 2: Playing Prospects
The very young Phantoms roster has been a bit of a hot mess to start the season, and even though Tortorella promised an open road between the NHL and AHL, there’s some skepticism that he’s being fully honest. He’s all but said most of the youngsters would be in the AHL if the health of the veterans was in their favor. Especially with the forward corps demolished by injuries, Torts will probably not get his wish, but if the trend of veterans regaining ice time from the young ramps up paired with more losses on the horizon, there’s going to be some serious backlash from the fanbase that has primarily accepted him so far.
Number 1: Can the Winning be Sustained?
The fact the Flyers have made it though ten games with a 5-3-2 pretty amazing to see. But the Ws aren’t being racked up because they’re playing great, they’re defying God himself and stealing victory from the jaws of defeat. You’d think the other shoe is going to drop eventually and the against-all-odds victories won’t continue forever, and that will be the most interesting development. It’s easy to buy in to a hard-nosed scheme when the wins are rolling in, but it’s going to be much more difficult to press on with an energized approach if the losses start to add up. It’s going to be a huge test for coach and players alike, especially from a roster with a track record of giving up on coaches and Charmin soft play.
Joel Farabee’s Ceiling
It feels wrong to judge Joel Farabee yet considering he’s coming back from a serious neck surgery at the early end of his projected timeline, but at the same time, he’s supposed to be the top forward on the team and it’s been a couple years since he really felt fit for that role. He was the only Flyers’ forward to hit the 20-goal plateau during the 2020-21 season, but thanks to injuries and a lackluster team around him, he hasn’t come close to being that player over the last season-plus. He does have six points in 10 games, but all six points have come in just three contests. We’ll reserve judgment for now, but it would be great to see Farabee trend in a positive direction as the season goes on.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com