Somehow, despite the terrible hockey and suffering the 2022-23 season has brought, it’s only half over. The ultimate example of the old phrase “ten pounds of sh*t in a five pound bag.” Even through the underwhelming on-ice play, we have learned a lot about the new-look Flyers so far. They’re a resilient, well-coached bunch that just doesn’t have enough talent to win games with regularity. But there are still things to figure out as the Tortorella era builds, the Fletcher era may be fizzling out, and the future of the club will come under heavy scrutiny during 2023 with the moves that do… or do not… get made.
Number 5: Where Do They Draft?
The Flyers aren’t tanking, or at least theoretically not trying to tank, and because of that, they continue to hover in the “bad but not quite terrible” territory. If the season were to end today, the Flyers would pick seventh (before the draft lottery.)
Not quite the Bedard-winning position they’re hoping for.
At this point, falling into the bottom three naturally seems unlikely as Chicago, Columbus and Anaheim are starting to fall away from the pack, and it’s just a matter of how many wins John Tortorella can manufacture the rest of the season. A few more than expected and just like that- their odds in the lottery go from minuscule to flat out impossible. If they walk away with one of their patented picks at seven to ten, it could be a blow to their rebuild-not-rebuild. But some good luck in the lottery and walking away with Connor Bedard could be the lifeline this franchise so desperately needs.
Number 4: Future at LHD
One of the few areas the Flyers have any internal depth at all in left-handed defenseman, yet it’s also the position that seems to have the least amount of assured direction for the future. Travis Sanheim’s eight-year extension signed on opening day threw a rather large wrench in a situation that seemed relatively easy to navigate. Now, the questions about Ivan Provorov’s and Cam York’s future rise to the forefront of the docket when talking about the direction of this defense.
Provorov has struggled to hold down the fort as the team’s de facto number one defenseman, and, while Cam York seems promising and oozing with talent, the logjam ahead of him on the depth chart is going to keep his role on the team hindered until some proper space is opened for him to shine. Not to mention Egor Zamula in Lehigh and potentially Emil Andrae making his North American jump in the not-too-distant future, they’ve got quite a line forming for a main roster left-handed defenseman opening.
So many questions, so few answers.
Number 3: What More can Tortorella Teach?
The name of the game going into the season (after abandoning the “aggressive retool” stance) was “stabilization”. In that sense, even though the season is only half over it sure feels like things have worked themselves out in that sense. Tortorella has brought a lot of positives out of this roster and instilled a very basic, hockey 101-esque approach that has for the time being resulted in drastic improvements to their on-ice performance. A lot of the shortcoming of the roster are talent based instead of structure based like in seasons past. So how much further can Torts take things by himself? It’s going to be up to the general manager, whoever that may be, to finally bring on some outside talent to finally let this team take a step forward.
Number 2: Sean Couturier’s Return
Sean Couturier’s timeline still puts him back on the ice for the Flyers before the end of this season, and what version of the former Selke winner they get upon his return is the big question. Most fans seem to think he’s going to walk out of a time machine and still play like the 2017 version of Couts, but there’s a more than likely chance that that’s not the case. He turned 30 in early December and is coming off two back surgeries that have kept him on the shelf since the end of 2021. If he returns at 75% of the player he once was, it could be a major blow to the cache Fletcher and the Flyers are hoping they’re sitting on. Not to mention he’s got seven years left on his current contract.
Number 1: Is This the Real Konecny?
One of the few bright spots during the 2022-23 campaign has been the play of soon-to-be 26-year-old Travis Konecny. His 19 goals and 37 points in 32 games both lead the team and have easily put him on pace for the best statistical season of his career. While it’s generally positive, when something sticks out as an outlier to this degree, one has to wonder how legitimate it actually is. Konecny is seven seasons into his career and other than a 24-goal, 61-point outing in 2019-20, he’s always been a relatively underwhelming producer. He scored just 35 goals in the previous 132 games before the start of the 2022-23 campaign. Has he finally broken out? Has Tortorella unlocked some hidden magic? On a positive note, he’s doing this more or less by himself. He’s not mooching off of Couturier and Giroux like he did earlier in his career. He’s the lone spark on the offense and we’ll just have to wait and see whether he can keep this pace up for the rest of the season and beyond.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com