Thanks to head coach John Tortorella and goaltender Carter Hart standing on his head, the Flyers have scratched and clawed their way to a 7-6-2 record to open the season, which despite coming off as mediocre at face value, is much better than many projected during the summer. Though the struggles to produce are still obvious with many of their victories coming in “dogfights” as Tortorella put it, meaning hard fought efforts from their depth players and a bit of good luck versus winning games through skill. Many of the forwards are just not flashing enough offensive potential and the de facto top guys are struggling to share the wealth of the few points they are collecting.
Chuck Fletcher and the rest of the loose stool in the front office sat on their hands during the 2022 offseason after promising an aggressive retool to the fans. Now, whether that was intentional as some unspoken master plan or their incompetence won the day, we may never know for sure, but it left the Flyers shorthanded in the talent department heading into the 2022-23 NHL season.
As of this writing, the Flyers are only 15 games into the season, but John Tortorella has already got this team playing much better hockey, even if the wins aren’t rolling in just yet. The fundamentals which were missing last season have returned and the team is playing about as well as they can given the lack of talent they have to work with. If the Flyers continue this positive trend for the rest of the season, the front office should feel an exponentially higher pressure to make big time additions during the 2023 offseason to put a real competitive team in the ice next season, but will they?
Essentially, the lack of additions during the 2022 offseason boiled down to an absence of funds financially to do so. They didn’t shed much cap naturally, and Fletcher froze when it came time to make decisions, like parting ways with James Van Riemsdyk or paying up for Alex DeBrincat via trade.
The problem is, that’s not really changing in 2023. Even if the flat cap era comes to an end and the cap jumps its projected $4.5 million, outside of JVR and Braun, there still aren’t any contracts of significance coming off the books, and a portion of JVR’s freed up money is already going to Sanheim’s extension.
So they’re entering the 2023 offseason in a similar scenario to last season with the same goal of adding top-end talent and a general manager who crumbled under the same pressure last season. What could possibly go wrong?
The team needs to completely overhaul their center depth as well as adding a few wingers that can rack up offense. Ya know, just some of the hardest pieces to add from the outside. Fletcher couldn’t carve out the necessary funds for someone like Johnny Gaudreau who wanted to play here, what are the odds that he can make these big time moves where he has to go out into the free agent market and actually convince players to come to Philly?
For the most part, fans have accepted the current state of the team. A few surprise wins early in the season helps swallow that pill, but also most people just wanted some semblance of a plan, and the organization finally gave it to them (despite flat out lying to their faces during the days leading up to the offseason).
The thing is, fans may be willing to buy in to a lackluster product this season, but it’s important the front office doesn’t test their luck with this one. After Ron Hextall’s endless rebuild resulted in nothing but wasted time, Fletcher really can’t extend this “retool” beyond the 2022-23 season without a serious fan backlash, and this organization can’t take another mass exodus of paying customers.
Even if they don’t compose a Stanley Cup roster next season, palpable progress will have to be made during the offseason and the record needs to improve next season. They just can’t run it back once again with a nearly identical roster for the umpteenth year in a row.
The failures of the 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers lie explicitly at the feet of Chuck Fletcher and it will be his job to give the team all the help it needs during the 2023 offseason, but there’s obvious and warranted skepticism considering his failures during the summer of 2022. Is this the year he turns it around, puts in his big boy pants and does his job as general manager of the Flyers? If the organization ever wants to be competitive again, the 2023 offseason is the time to strike but his track record doesn’t inspire much hope that the renaissance of the once-great Philadelphia Flyers is on the horizon.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: sportsnet, bleachreport, inqurier.com