No one said it was going to be easy, but the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers fulfilled late owner Ed Snider’s final wish: to make the playoffs. A .500 team on January 1st of 2016, the Flyers played .600 hockey the rest of the way and roared into the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Washington Capitals in 6 games.
Much of the same group that took the Flyers to the postseason is back again for the 2016-17 campaign, along with some new additions. Here’s Overtime’s comprehensive Philadelphia Flyers season preview.
When one thinks of the Philadelphia Flyers, they think of a blend of physicality and finesse that makes the team so tough to play against. That rhetoric remained true for the Flyers last season, as they utilized the skill of players such as Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek in tandem with the power forward game of Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.
Overall though, the Flyers’ offense was merely middle-of-the-pack in goal scoring last season. Look for Head Coach Dave Hakstol to try some different things to coax more offense out of his skilled group of forwards, particularly Voracek, who struggled a bit last year.
Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, and Matt Read are all back as secondary scoring options, and veteran acquisitions Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon will help in varying ways. Weise is a power forward who can score 15 goals and clog up the front of the net, while Gordon is a defensive specialist who will center the fourth line.
One X-Factor could be rookie Travis Konecny. The Flyers’ 2015 first round draft pick, Konecny has taken the league by storm this preseason and looks like a future superstar. Konecny can play all three forward positions, but will start on the left wing. Look for Konecny to provide some scoring punch that the Flyers badly needed last season.
Last season, it was all about Shayne Gostisbehere. This season, it’s all about Ivan Provorov. It’s no secret that the Flyers have a glut of top defense prospects waiting in the wings, and now it’s time to unleash the beasts. Gostisbehere’s blend of offensive panache, defensive expertise, and clutch instantly won over the fan base, earning him a second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Gostisbehere is still a little rough around the edges defensively, which is where veterans Michael Del Zotto, Mark Streit, and Nick Schultz help out. Del Zotto will miss the first five weeks of the season due to a lower-body injury, which will increase Provorov’s minutes. Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Manning are also all back, which creates an effective bottom pairing of defensemen.
The Flyers’ defense may not yet look elite on paper, but it is passable as of now. They began to feed off of each other late last season and will look to continue their rise into this season.
Ironic as it may sound, the Philadelphia Flyers have one of the league’s best goalie situations. Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are both stud goalies that could be a number one for any team, but they are comfortable splitting time in Philadelphia. Mason has the higher ceiling (and salary) than Neuvirth, but Neuvirth is arguably more consistent night in and night out.
Mason had a horrible showing in last year’s playoffs, but I wouldn’t expect that to rattle him coming into this season. Interestingly, neither goalie is signed past this season, and with the Flyers having a fair amount of good goaltending prospects, it could be argued that Mason and Neuvirth are dueling each other for next year’s job.
Expect Mason to start about 60% of the games, with Neuvirth spelling Mason for the remaining 40% of the time. Both goalies are more than capable, putting the Flyers in the best position in net that they’ve been in since Ron Hextall’s prime.
The Flyers have kept the core of last year’s playoff team intact, while adding in some strategic new pieces, both young and experienced. The Flyers have the looks of a wild card team on paper, with the potential for more if everyone stays healthy. It’s always tough to snag a wild card spot down the stretch run, but the Flyers have a chance to do some damage this season.