Understanding Expectations

It has only been a few days since the NHL Draft Lottery and the Flyers fan-base is still buzzing. After a roller-coaster season of emotions last season, it is great to finally have something to be excited about. 

Knowing we will pick either Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick is a great feeling. From 13th to 2nd, draft excitement was raised to a new level. Maybe the Eagles sent the Flyers some good-luck for hosting such a successful NFL Draft.

Nonetheless, we need to discuss expectations. I know what you are thinking… it is May 3rd, are you crazy? Well yes, I may be, but with all this excitement, we need to logically think about what next season will bring. 

Obviously, from now until the beginning of next season, a ton of moves could be made, but regardless, the process will be the same. 

We will be watching a lot more youth take the ice next season. Training camp is going to be filled with roster competitions. There are some areas of the team that must be addressed this Summer.

NEEDS:

  • A bridge-goalie
  • Solidified bottom six
  • Better effort from the core 
  • Change in system

 

Goalie Situation

During exit interviews, Hextall did not seem to thrilled about the idea of a Neuvrith-Stolarz pairing, which I also would not be thrilled with. Neuvirth has proved he cannot stay healthy and that we will have to rely heavily on a back-up.

With the expansion draft a little more than a month away, we might as well speculate on what will take place. 

If a forward like Raffl is not taken by Vegas, my next guess is Neuvrith. 

The Flyers will need to sign a bridge-goalie to a two-year deal. A goalie such as Jonathan Bernier, Ryan Miller, Brian Elliot, etc.

Stolarz was great for the minimal amount of games he played, but lets not get carried away, it was not enough to warrant an automatic starting role for next season. He has the potential to be a quality starter, but he needs more starts under his belt before he becomes an everyday goalie.

In a sense, I feel as if Stolarz is a type of bridge-goalie, specifically for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Obviously he could have a successful career as a starter in this league, but with the Flyers, I do not see that happening, only because of all of the talent we have in the system at the positon.

Bottom Six

Statistically, Filppula may not have provided much, but when it comes to creating depth, it was a great signing.  Filppula centering the 2nd line creates depth at a position that has been lacking on the Philadelphia Flyers. Ironic though, a few seasons ago we were talking about a log-jam at the center position, now we are desperately trying to fill those voids.

A 3rd line with a scoring touch is exactly what the Flyers need. Filppula on the 2nd line allows Couturier to be a 3rd line center, which is usually a mismatch for opposing teams. This is the perfect positoin for Couturier to be in, and drafting a quaity center only solidifes that more.

A huge problem with the bottom six not being able to produce. This could be part of the over-usage that Dave Hakstol has implemented. When the 4th line is being overused, of course it is going to look worse production wise. 

The Core

Another huge problem the Flyers had this past season was production from the core group of players with 5-on-5 play. Claude Giroux has admitted that lingering effects of his hip surgery have hindered his game lately, but as the season came to a close, Giroux and his play started to elevate, which is a good sign. 

On the power-play, Claude Giroux is always a threat, but he MUST translate that to his even-strength game. 

It could be argued that the revolving door on the 1st line was a factor. For parts of the season, players like Matt Read and Chris Vandevelde were exposed to 1st line minutes. With a more suitable play-making or scoring line-mate, I think we will see Claude Giroux elevate his game. 

Players such as Brayden Schenn and Jacob Voracek need to be more consistent in their scoring abilities at even strength. Schenn scored 25 goals, but 17 were on the power-play. 

5-on-5 scoring is the most important aspect of the core and what they need to improve on.

The System

The system is a factor that could be tied into all categories of why this team isn’t producing, from the core to the 4th line. Until about 50 games into this previous season, I started noticing a bit of a shift in the game-plan. The main plan was to get pucks to the point and create shots from outside and hope for a rebound, but as the season started to wind-down, I noticed the Flyers creating chances from the middle of the ice in the high-slot area, along with controlling the puck behind the net. 

The system is a grey area because the roster we have could be a reason why it may not be as successful as it should be. We do not have a cycling type of roster. We are more of a gritty team that likes to crash the net and create chances there.

Comparing next year to last year

A problem with this past season was the argument of what this team should have been able to accomplish. We watched Provorov have to step-up and lead another defender who makes 5 million a season… A 20-year-old rookie had to be the veteran of the pairing. 

The difference between last year and this year is we EXPECT mistakes and will be okay with them because mistakes are part of the growing process.  I just hope our coach does a better job of dealing with the younger talent. 

Travis Konecny would be benched for taking a penalty, the problem is a veteran would take that same penalty and not be held accountable to those standards. I do not think that is the way to handle mistakes. For example, early on the in season, specifically against Chicago, Provorov had a terrible game. Hakstol could have benched him and killed his confidence, but he let him continue to play and figure out how to improve upon those mistakes.

With Konecny, if he makes a mistake, he is benched, hell…Konecny was scratched after a solid game where he was a plus-2 and had an assist.

With a handful of prospects potentially making the team, we should encourage mistakes. Make them early, learn from them early, work to perfect them earlier on.

That will be the beauty of this upcoming season. We will get to witness young players make their mistakes, perfect them, and become better because of that.

Conclusion

With all of this being said, I do think the Flyers make the playoffs. However, it will be a bumpy ride filled with rookie mistakes. The fans know and should be completely on board with this idea before the season starts. I encourage this, we need the rookies and younger talent to play and learn the game at the professional level. It will be exciting to watch the great young players develop.

Let me make this clear, making the playoffs does not mean I think we make a crazy run and end up in the finals, but just getting into the postseason with the young roster is good enough.

The youth movement and excitement is exactly what the core may need to help elevate their game as well.

Making the playoffs with such an abundance of young talent will only help this franchise in the long-run.

Follow me on twitter at @antgratzi

[Photo Source: NHL.com]

 

 

Anthony DiGrazio

I am currently a student at West Chester University studying Marketing/Management. I have been playing ice hockey for almost 20 years now. I am nothing short of a Flyers fanatic and I am hoping to spread my knowledge and love of the game to all Flyers fans.

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