In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last three years (and probably most of the last decade if we’re being honest,) the Philadelphia Flyers are going through a bit of a rough patch in their history. Back-to-back 25-win seasons followed by whatever it is they’re doing this season has led to the pressure on the organization boiling over.
While some sections of the fanbase continue to beg for a rebuild, which the organization treats as some forbidden word, what does a rebuild in this current climate even mean?
Despite the Flyers being in a psudo-rebuild since Ron Hextall took over in 2014, they’ve done very little actual rebuilding during that time. Hextall inherited a roster that had plenty of faults, but also had quite a bit of talent, especially at forward. Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn were all in their primes, yet none were ever dealt away. Three were eventually moved during the Chuck Fletcher era long past their peaks and Sean Couturier is still under contract to the team. Only Brayden Schenn was dealt high, garnering a pair of first round picks, though the questionable timing of that deal in 2017 is still felt by the roster today.
Instead, Hextall opted to ignore the main roster almost entirely, never tearing it down, but never building it up either. His idea of a rebuild failed from that moment right out of the gate.
But does this current version of the Flyers need a rebuild? No.
At this point in time there just isn’t enough value on the roster to sell off anyway. Outside of Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Carter Hart, there just isn’t anybody else that could demand a worthwhile return via trade, which totally kills the entire point of a rebuild.
If Konecny and the few others players that actually have positive trade value are off the table, it’s not a rebuild, it’s ridiculous.
Getting rid of bad players and replacing them with good players may be the goal, but if there’s no plan to get from point A to point B then it’s just a fantasy. Those players that get constantly buried by fans and media for not having any value yet expecting them to get dealt for a net positive doesn’t make sense. They would have to give value to get value, but those players are seemingly off limits for potential trades.
The biggest problem the Flyers have had and continue to have under Chuck Fletcher is simply their lack of direction. They refuse to add talent to the main roster year after year, but also refuse to cash out on the few player on the roster that have any trade value.
They didn’t pursue Johnny Gaudreau last summer because they were scared to rock the financial boat, but they also refuse to trade Travis Konecny who is having an uncharacteristically good season this year to get assets back for a plan who could regress at any moment.
While it’s been slow and painful, the Flyers’ roster is finally filled with young players. With Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson on the sidelines with injury, the average age of the team has dropped significantly. Eight of the 13 forwards are currently 25 years old or younger and they flaunt a goaltending duo of Carter Hart and Sam Ersson that’s 24 and 23 years old respectively.
The problem is, outside of the goaltenders, none of those young guy hold true star potential. They’re NHL-caliber players and will fill out the depth for years to come, but they’re not game changing bonafide top line skill, which has been the fairly obvious takeaway watching the team during the 2022-23 season. Some hard fought games, some positives in the losing, but very few actual wins thanks to the lack of high-end talent.
The 2023 offseason is going to be critical when it comes to the direction of the franchise. After wasting the 2022 offseason under the guise of stabilization, that goal has been achieved. Theoretically, that means that they enter the upcoming offseason and add some much needed top line players to the team to win some games next season and get the franchise back on track.
Though after Chuck Fletcher’s press conference where he strongly hinted at a rebuild without ever directly using that term, that’s a built in excuse to not pursue a player like Dylan Larkin if he makes it all the way to free agency this summer.
So if they’re not tearing down the roster by selling pieces of value and they’re also not going to do what’s necessary to bring in outside talent, how is the organization’s new idea of a rebuild any different than the path they’ve been on since Hextall took over? It’s not a rebuild, it’s a new way to attempt to brand the overwhelming negativity and terrible hockey into a positive so the incompetent folks in the front office don’t have to do their jobs.
The Flyers exist in the murky middle. A team that’s not bad enough to fail and tank, but also not good enough to win and make the playoffs. Rebuilding is a potential option still on the table, but it’s just unnecessary. If they plop even just three top players on this roster, it could be enough to jumpstart the team and bring out the best of the youth on the roster.
They’re closer to being competitive than it feels, but it’s a matter of whether or not Chuck Fletcher makes the necessary upgrades this summer, and not many people have believe he’s capable of that, for very good reason.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)