By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
With the 2017-18 NHL season quickly approaching, for the first time in years I’m looking forward to Philadelphia Flyers hockey. Coming off a lackluster season and with Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Samuel Morin, and Robert Hagg all scheduled to make their full-time NHL debuts, there’s nowhere to go but up.
I’m going to borrow a bit from Al Morganti and Bill Clement; here are the keys to success for a winning season for the Flyers:
1) Consistent Goal Scoring
The one thing that has troubled the Flyers for years now is failing to have players that can consistently find the back of the net. With Giroux on the decline and no true snipers on the team, finding a player that can score at a consistent pace has been difficult. Even Wayne Simmonds, who nets most of his goals by deflection, usually goes multiple games without any sign of life.
With multiple young, talented offensive players ready to take a bigger role, hopefully, this problem can sort itself out. Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Jordan Weal and Oskar Lindblom should all contribute solid numbers and be able to help veterans like Giroux and Simmonds pick up their pace as well.
2) Consistent Goaltending
With Steve Mason leaving town, the Flyers are left with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth to defend the crease. Both goalies are coming off less-than-stellar seasons, but have positive track records, which could mean things may not be as bad as they seem.
The tandem style needs to work, simple as that. Ron Hextall took a big risk deciding to not find (or keep) a true starting goaltender, so the Flyers have to hope one or both of Elliott and Neuvirth have a good season.
3) Special Teams
It was a miserable season for the special teams unit. The powerplay started off hot, a major reason for the 10 game win streak in December of 2016. The lack of powerplay success as the season progressed hurt them bad. The Flyers finished 14th on the PP and a rancid 21st on the penalty kill (PK).
With more weapons and some of the dead weight cut off, both categories should organically improve. No more Bellemare or VandeVelde on the PK, and hopefully no more Couturier or Weise on the PP. The team has done a great job of cutting down the number of penalties they take during games, and if they can keep that trend with an improved roster, they should find themselves back in the top 10 of each category.
4) Put Some Heart In It
Something that became all too common last season: the Flyers falling down by a goal or two and seeming to just give up. They would lose all momentum and skate aimlessly around the ice until they had a chance for a comeback with three minutes left, only for the rally to fall short.
There are two solutions. One, don’t fall behind in every game, and two, play a full 60 minutes. This is probably the most frustrating part of the Flyers 2016-17 season. I can count on one hand the number of times they played a full 60-minute game, which isn’t good. If they put in the effort all game, they won’t have to be the comeback kids.
There is a lot of promise going into the season. With multiple talented young players ready to take the NHL by storm, there should be a sign of good things to come. The Flyers are going to have to fight even harder to make the playoffs this season, as the rest of the Metropolitan division has improved as well, but if they follow these keys to success, a winning season isn’t out of reach.
photo credit- zimbio.com