It’s Mail Time!

It’s mail time! This afternoon I asked you all to send your most pressing Flyers-related questions. I’m not a Flyers insider, so all of the answers here are pure opinion and speculation based on my knowledge of the team and the organization as a fan.

@MisterMedia24: Which young guy was most wronged by Hak last year and which young guy must not be wronged this year?

This is seriously a great question, and I’m super excited to dive into this one. To narrow the field a bit and clarify “young guy,” I’m going to set the age limit at 25 and the experience limit at 4 years.

I think there are two stand-out stars for last season’s wrong-doings. The first, and most egregious, is Travis Sanheim, who only played 49 games despite not having any long-term injury issues that would have affected his playing time. Sanheim is one of the organization’s top young defensemen, and has the skills and talent to be an impact player on this roster for the next decade. His treatment this season not only impacted his own development, but also impacted the greater good of the team. There’s absolutely no way that Brandon Manning should have played more games (65) than him. Sanheim is exactly what NHL defensemen need to be in order to succeed in this league. He’s smart, he moves the puck extremely well, especially when clearing the defensive zone, and he has tremendous potential both offensively and defensively. He did make some major mistakes this year, but that’s expected out of any rookie and the important thing was that he showed that he’s capable of learning from those mistakes. His treatment was an absolute travesty and quite frankly an insult to the way this game has developed over the past few years.

The second stand-out star for last season’s wrong-doings is a little more unconventional, but one that I strongly stand by. Taylor Leier played a grand total of 39 games last season, including a giant goose egg in the playoffs. Leier might not be the player everyone thinks of right away when talking about increasing playing time, but the reality is with only 55 career games we don’t really know what he’s capable of at the NHL level. So it’s hard to know if he deserved more playing time or not. I know that’s a little bizarre to say, since I’m claiming now that he deserved to be treated better, but hear me out. Dale Weise played 46 games, Jori Lehtera played 62 games, and Valtteri Filppula played 81 games. These three guys were mediocre at best and, quite frankly, downright horrific at times. Maybe Leier isn’t the greatest replacement possible, but he certainly couldn’t have been much worse. Now he’s a full season into his NHL career and we still don’t know what he’s fully capable of at this level.

The other part of this question is where the answer gets a little trickier. Who must not be wronged this year? To be honest, the correct answer is probably all of them. Travis Konecny needs to be given the vote of confidence and needs to stay on the top line with Giroux and Couturier. Oskar Lindblom needs better line mates and more power play time. Robert Hagg should be given more trust late in the game. Ivan Provorov is the only young guy who hasn’t really been wronged yet, so Hak shouldn’t start now. Plus there’s the question of potential prospects making the roster. If someone like Morgan Frost or Philippe Myers makes the team, they definitely shouldn’t be wronged the way some of these guys have been.

However, the number one guy I think must not be wronged this year is Nolan Patrick. He was handled with kid gloves last year, and while I know there are people in this fan base who believe he should have been given more responsibilities early on, I actually do agree with the way he was treated. Patrick had a major core surgery last summer and because of that, wasn’t at his best. Because of my experiences as both an athlete and an athletic trainer, I understand how important it is not to rush back into playing after something like that, especially considering it was also his first year playing pro hockey. I think it was very promising that throughout the season Patrick’s role increased, including his position on the power play. This year, though, the kid gloves have to be left behind from the very beginning. Patrick is without a doubt one of the key members of this roster, now and for the foreseeable future. If this organization wants to win a Stanley Cup anytime soon, he must be given the opportunity to step into a bigger role both on and off the ice.

@Trathan_nump: Dale Weise, 3000 words. Thanks.

This isn’t going to come close to 3000 words, but what I’m about to say certainly isn’t a popular opinion: Dale Weise isn’t a horrible player.

He’s far from great, and his salary is not at all ideal. But Weise himself isn’t a horrible person to have in the locker room. While it’s absolutely incredible that the Flyers have so much young talent rising in the ranks, there is a positive to having older, more experienced players on a team as well. He’s got that dreaded “veteran presence” that Hakstol seems to love so much. I’m not saying he should be playing 15 minutes a night or anything like that, but I do think there’s a positive to having someone like him around all these young guys.

Dale Weise has played for five different teams and has been in the playoffs six times. He’s made it as far as the conference finals. If the Flyers keep their roster exactly as it is right now, only four other players on the team have that distinction: Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Jori Lehtera and Brian Elliott.

In my opinion, Weise’s success with this team shouldn’t depend on how he performs on the ice. His role there should be very limited. But I think having someone like him at practices and in the locker room and on road trips is actually a good thing.

@mollcop_: Which prospects do you think will get a permanent roster spot?

To be honest with you, I’d love to sit here and list off a bunch of prospects who definitely will make the NHL roster this year. But this is one area where I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of surprises. Ron Hextall preaches and practices patience, which means any prospect who wants to make the team will have to prove 100% without a doubt that he deserves it. There are certainly guys who are in a better position going into camp than others.

As far as goalies go, I think the Flyers are locked in with Elliott and Neuvirth. Unless they make a trade or buy someone out, they will be the goalies for the season. At least, until Neuvirth gets hurt in November. And then again in February. When that happens, or if the Flyers do lose Elliott or Neuvirth, the backup goalie position will be Alex Lyon’s to lose. It’s possible that we’ll see Carter Hart at some point this year, depending on injuries and how he performs with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. But he definitely won’t have a permanent spot on this roster this season.

On defense, the most likely prospect to earn himself a permanent spot on this year’s roster is Philippe Myers. He’s a big, right-handed defensemen, which this team is desperately in need of. The Folin signing and his injury history might hinder his case, but with Brandon Manning’s departure, the spot is there for him to prove he deserves it.

The crop of forwards is where there’s a little bit of wiggle room for the prospects. The biggest question mark on this roster is the third line center role. Hextall didn’t get someone for that position through free agency, which means it will likely be filled by the talent already in the organization. Scott Laughton could fill that need, with Jordan Weal taking over the role of the forth line center. Or vice versa. But that position could also go to a prospect. The three most likely candidates in that scenario are Morgan Frost, Mike Vecchione, and Mikhail Vorobyev.

Of the three players, Vorobyev has the best shot at making the roster at some point during the season, if not right out of camp. Last year was his first season in North America, but was his third season of pro hockey overall, and he was one of the Phantoms’ most exciting centers at points during the season. If he shows up physically ready to play at the NHL level, he will definitely force Hextall and company to seriously consider giving him a shot to start the season with the Flyers.

Vecchione would be the safest choice here. He has the lowest ceiling of the three, but is the oldest and already has some experience in the NHL. If he makes the roster permanently, Laughton would likely be the third line center and he would be on the fourth.

Morgan Frost has the lowest chance of earning a permanent roster spot this season, but he’s also the most exciting possibility. Frost is by far one of the top prospects in the organization and is probably one of the top prospects in all of hockey. His potential in the NHL is endless. But that’s exactly why he’s going to have the hardest time proving to Hextall, who has a record of being ultra conservative with his top prospects, that he deserves to be a Philadelphia Flyer this year. His size is the most common concern, though at 185 pounds he’s far from unable to play in the NHL. The Flyers had seven players in the 175-195 range last season, including Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Wayne Simmonds. Frost also has the unique distinction of being the only prospect in the position to make the roster who’s still playing in juniors. The Flyers don’t like sending players back to juniors after a few games in the NHL, so if he does make the roster out of camp, it will absolutely be a permanent position rather than a short stint.

@ImbrognoChris: Is a hot dog a sandwich? Given that I have 0 confidence Hak lets Sanheim play regularly, how do you feel about packaging him with a prospect/pick and sending him to WPG for Jacob Trouba? RHD to play with Provorov and would move Ghost to the second pair w/Hagg. 47/3 as 3rd pair.

I don’t like this idea, and the main reason is I think Sanheim has too much potential to let go this early in his career. Hakstol absolutely needs to play him more regularly. And I think if Hextall is as serious about putting together a winning team as he seems, this year he will make sure that it happens. Especially since Manning is now gone.

I do like the idea of getting Trouba, though. Adding him would be game-changing. But I think if they’re going to go out and get him, they can do so without giving up Sanheim. I actually think it’s very possible that the Flyers are going to try to trade Gudas this season. Package him with a first and a second, or a first and someone like Sam Morin, and I think they could get it done.

And no, a hot dog is not a sandwich. It’s a hot dog.

@rob_sweeten: Is Hak the robot getting a new CPU with maybe some hockey knowledge or are they sticking with the current 1 with the lone doofy face setting?

While I don’t entirely agree with your obvious distaste for his stoic personality, I do think this is the year Hakstol has to prove he’s got what it takes to coach a team deep into the playoffs. Because a Stanley Cup is what we’re aiming for, hopefully in the next few years. The Flyers have so much talent on this roster, I think anything less than winning a playoff series will be a disappointment. Every single member of this organization needs to be better, starting at the very top and including the entire coaching staff and all the players. Even those coming off incredible seasons, like Couturier and Giroux, can play better day-to-day. If you stay the same while the teams around you get better, you end up getting worse. Hakstol needs to prove that he can get better as a coach.

@pbraxmeier: Wayne Simmonds- will the Flyers re-sign him (for how long/how much), trade him (who might be interested/expected return) or let him walk…

This is a loaded question that I think really depends on how Simmonds performs this year and where the team is at when the trade deadline comes around. Let’s start with the giant elephant in the room: Wayne Simmonds had a bad year. His laundry list of injuries dating back to the first month of the season made it impossible for him to produce the way we’ve come to expect from him. But the reality is he still had 24 goals, including 11 on the power play, and almost 50 points. If we were talking about anyone other than Wayne Simmonds, this would be considered a pretty good season. Flyers fans have been quick to write him off because of the season he had, and it’s easy to say “just trade him,” but he is still Wayne Simmonds. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best in the world at what he does.

I’ll put this out there right now, I don’t think the Flyers are going to trade him. This team has so much talent that they will be in the playoff mix when the trade deadline comes around, and assuming he bounces back and is healthy, they’re not going to want to trade away one of the biggest and most important pieces of their core. If he isn’t healthy, it’s unlikely they’re going to get a good enough return to justify getting rid of him.

The only way they will trade him is if, by some disaster, he’s healthy but they have no shot at making the playoffs. If that happens, the teams that will be likely to want him will be the teams that have the best shot at winning the Cup this year. Tampa Bay and Vegas are the two teams that stand out the most to me, primarily because out of the teams the Flyers have a history of working with, I think they have the best odds of being Cup contenders. The return would have to be absolutely worth it, though. The Flyers were able to get two first round picks for Brayden Schenn (plus taking on Lehtera), who was in no way as valuable to the organization as Simmonds is. Simmonds should at least bring in two first round picks, if not more.

The real question with Simmonds, I think, is if they’ll re-sign him or not. It partly depends on how healthy he is, but it also depends on his willingness to stay in Philly. If Simmonds isn’t healthy again, I think they let him walk. But if he bounces back the way that Claude Giroux did this season, they should absolutely try to sign him. The tricky part is finding a team-friendly contract that will also entice him to stay here. Over the next three years, the Flyers will have ten entry-level contracts expire. While it’s unlikely that they will all be re-signed to huge contracts, that list does include some of the top young players in the organization, including Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick. Ron Hextall has worked magic to create cap space, which means they do have the money to spend. But in order to keep themselves out of Cap Hell, they’re going to have to sign smart. Simmonds will turn 30 this month, which probably means he only has a few good years left in him. I think a three-year deal is the best option for the team, and I think they could afford $7-8 million per year. They could even raise that if he’s willing to load most of the salary to the front end of the contract so that when the time comes, they’ll have the cap space to re-sign their younger stars. The question, though, is if Simmonds is willing to work with the team to find a happy medium between getting paid and allowing the organization to have cap space freedom.

 

Thank you all so much for sending in your questions! This was a lot of fun. If you disagree with anything, let me know! I’d love to hear your opinions as well.

Unless you think a hot dog is a sandwich. Then you’re just wrong.

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