The Philadelphia Flyers have found themselves on a treadmill for just about a decade now with the idea of building through the draft, but time and time again those picks fail to materialize into the expected player they were hoping to get. Though the 2022-23 season has blossomed hope anew as there have been quite a few younger players that have finally stepped up and led the way as the organization takes their first step into the post-Giroux era.
It’s a shame the Flyers blew their draft positioning this season, more or less taking themselves out of the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, but it happened because so many of the youngsters on the roster emerged as capable NHL-caliber players and helped commit to win games, which at the end of the day is a very good thing, potentially even better than bottoming out for a single top draft pick.
Because of their unexpected success, it has spilt the fanbase when it comes to the direction the organization should take. Some think it’s time to add talent and finally become a perennial playoff team again, while others are afraid to move on from the masochistic losing they’ve grown accustomed to. Maybe there’s a way to spend one more season in a psudo-rebuild that could actually lead to the Flyers having a successful young team in the very near future.
If the front office voluntarily (or involuntarily) doesn’t make any worthwhile veteran upgrades this season and because of it push for the continuation of a youth movement, there’s an avenue where it just might work.
The key? Get rid of as many veterans as possible. Not necessarily for the purposes of clearing cap space (though it’s an added benefit) but rather to clear as many roster spots as possible to allow more youth to play at the NHL level next season. If the deal the vets for even more draft picks and young prospects, there could even be another wave of youth in a few year’s time as well to refill the pipeline and keeping young talent available on their entry-level deals to help out financially when the current batch of kids all get paid. A cycle that most successful teams deploy.
Trade Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton, Cam Atkinson and Tony DeAngleo and fill their roster spots with a new wave of youth.
Olle Lycksell, Bobby Brink, Elliot Desnoyers, Tyson Foerster and Cutter Gauthier highlight the names at forward that could all reasonably be in the hunt for a main roster forward slot next season, as well as defensemen Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard plus Cam York who is getting his feet wet in the NHL this season.
The players that navigated their way through the NHL this season- Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, Cam York and Wade Allison become the new “young veteran core” and the new rookies go through the trial and tribulations of their first full NHL season next year.
At the conclusion of the 2023-34 season, they’ll have a roster quite literally full of players in their early 20’s and will know exactly which ones to build around and which ones can be moved on from, then attack the summer of 2024 both via trade and free agency to fill any holes with established high-end talent.
Now, There’s a potential problem with all this and it’s the lack of leadership on the roster. We’ve seen teams in the past tear down too far and struggle to rebuild because there’s no veterans to light the way forward for the youth. But with Tortorella at the helm, who, let’s face it, has been the true leader this season, there may not be that internal leadership gap teams like the Sabres and Oilers have gone through over the years.
Sooner or later the Flyers are going to have to add high-end veteran talent whether it be in 2023 or 2024, especially because their lottery odds are practically non-existent now. But if they balk at a price tag for Dylan Larkin and other top veterans find new homes, they could reasonably squeak one more season just like this one and it could help clear the way for the future knowing for sure what building blocks are there.
For the first time since Ron Hextall took over and sent the Flyers down the path of his twisted version of a “rebuild” there appears to be actual hope on the horizon that the Flyers could have a roster composed mainly of younger, talented players that just need a boost of outside high-end talent. With only a few exceptions, both the Flyers and Phantoms have done a good job playing the kids and John Tortorella and Ian Laperriere deserve credit for that. All they have to do is keep the train on the straight and narrow for one more season and they could finally reap the rewards of a young, competitive hockey team. It may not be ideal for ticket sales or what most people want to see, but spending another season in the “not good enough to win but not bad enough to tank” grotesque in-between could set the organization on the right path for years to come.
Then the ball will be in Chuck Fletcher’s court to secure the finishing exterior pieces to push the team to the promised land. Good luck with that.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: Getty Images