By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Now that the 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers season has come to an end, its time to sift through the ashes and reflect on what could have been done differently. Here are the top 5 areas the Flyers could improve on heading into the 2018-19 season.
Number 5- Passing
Where do I even begin with this one? While finding official stats are tough, it doesn’t take a genius to watch a game and tell how often over-passing or cross-ice passing does them in. Voracek, Simmonds, and Gudas are guilty of bad turnovers from ill-advised passes on a game-to-game basis. If you watch the Vegas Golden Knights during the playoffs, you’re sure to notice that they execute short, simple passes extremely effectively. Maybe that’s one of the many thing the Flyers could learn from the Golden Knights.
Number 4- Dave Hakstol
I’m not going to completely unload on Hakstol here, but there is certainly a good portion of blood on his hands after another lackluster season. Hakstol could have a chance to redeem himself next season after a few of his go-to players were informed they would not return. If Hakstol can learn to optimize his player usage, give the kids a chance, and for goodness sake stop playing Lehtera in critical points during the game, he may fall back in favor and save his job as head coach.
Number 3- Goaltending
One of the bigger issues the team faced throughout the 2017-18 season is their lack of NHL caliber goaltending. With Neuvirth oft-injured, Elliott playing pedestrian at best, Stolarz out for basically the entire season, Mrazek with waves of hot and cold, and Lyon not quite ready to make the leap, the goaltending carousel had no end.
While there are multiple layers to the goalie issue, the main problem is they don’t have a goaltender that has a proven NHL track record. Neuvirth has a well documented injury history, a problem that reared its head once again this season and Elliott has never been able to truly claim the starting reigns throughout his career, playing 50 games just once almost a decade ago. It’s almost a guarantee Elliott comes back next season. But for everyone else, it could be up in the air. The free agent market is saturated with backup goalies this offseason so if Hexy plays his cards right, there could be a new face in Philadelphia’s net to start next season.
Number 2- Depth scoring
This is something the Flyers are hoping sorts itself out naturally as the young prospects continue to pour in. In the meantime, this really needs to be addressed in the offseason either via trade or free agency. Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise, Scott Laughton, Jordan Weal, and Michael Raffl combined for 79 points, which is fairly mediocre at best. Valtteri Filppula managed 33 points, good enough for eighth on the team and with the possibility he doesn’t return, the Flyers really need to address the lack of scoring from the bottom-six. They might find some help if Wayne Simmonds comes into next season healthy and takes leadership of the third line.
Number 1- Penalty killing
Penalty killing was the Flyers biggest bugaboo this season, and has been for quite some time now. Their PK finished 29th in the league this season with a measly 75.8%, only the Canadiens and Islanders finished lower. With Ian Laperriere coming back, the system will stay the same. So now it comes back to Hextall to provide the coaches with a couple talented penalty killers. With notable free agents including Tyler Bozak, Paul Stastny and Michael Grabner, Hextall has no excuse to not address the dire need of players to fix the penalty kill.
photo credit: nbcsports.com