Disappointing. That single word perfectly describes the Flyers season thus far. A summer of hope and promise quickly turned into a similar feeling of depression for fans of the orange and black. The season is likely a loss leaving room for only one question. What now?
General manager Chuck Fletcher will have a busy second half of the season. His goal isn’t to salvage this season and gear the team up for a playoff run, but put the Flyers in the best possible position for next season. Think of this as an extended off season for the newly appointed captain of the ship.
The biggest decision facing Fletcher is what to do with forward Wayne Simmonds. The Simmonds debate in Philadelphia has been going for well over a year now. To trade or not to trade. That is the question. It all boils down to whether or not the Flyers want to give Simmonds a new contract this offseason. Following back to back 30 goal seasons, Simmonds had an injury plagued 2017-18 season that greatly hindered his play on the ice. The money dishes out by teams in the NHL offseason is usually inflated, as is the case in most sports. A new Simmonds contract would likely be similar to the one Washington gave Tom Wilson last summer. Simmonds, 30, has 22 points in 47 games this season. His 15 goals rank second on the Flyers just under Claude Giroux. Another 30 goal season isn’t out of the question for the power forward who we’ve seen score goals in bunches late in seasons. That’s what gives him such a high trade value. On a team where he wouldn’t have to be a main contributor Simmonds would likely flourish even more. Toronto is a team to look out for in the Simmonds sweepstakes. They are in need of an edgy forward who can put the puck in the net. The leafs are firmly in the hunt for their first Stanley Cup in five decades, and would likely be looking to add at the deadline to better their odds even more. The Flyers could seek a first or second round pick which is a drop in the bucket for a contender like Toronto. Simmonds value will peak at the deadline and it seems likely that Simmonds’ time in Philadelphia is coming to an end.
Aside from Simmonds there are plenty of other moves Fletcher could seek to improve the future. There’s no reason for the Flyers to make moves that would attempt to salvage this season. Draft picks and prospects are gonna be the sought after compensation. Jake Voracek is another player that could bring the Flyers a valuable return. Voracek has been a core player in Philadelphia since his arrival in 2011. The biggest hang up in a potential deal is Voracek’s contract. In 2015 he inked a deal that pays him just over $8 million a year through 2024 when he’ll be 34. He’s never been a shoot first player who hunts for the back of the net and has never scored more than 23 goals in a season, but his ability to set up his teammates can boot a team’s offense if they have the scorers. A trade partner for Voreck would be tough to find, but a team on the cusp of contention could be willing to take a risk.
Aside from trades the biggest thing to watch for in the second half is in house player development. This season has been notably disappointing for second year player Nolan Patrick. He’s only managed to score seven goals so far this season, two of them coming Monday night against Minnesota. If his two goal performance is a sign of things to come then fans should be excited. The fans have begun to question aspects of Patrick’s game and a big second half would ease some of those concerns. Oskar Lindblom is another player that needs to improve his play once the season starts back up. He’s shown flashes of the player he was in the younger levels, but has mostly been ineffective on the ice. These two players are poised to be part of the next core for the Flyers. It’ll be interesting to see how these two players react to the season down the stretch. There’s still a chance the Flyers can make the playoffs, and I’m sure the players are going full throttle. If the season continues to slip away, will the play of these young players do the same? Games that are meaningless can weigh on a young player. Hopefully they are mature enough to play their best possible game anyway.
It is time for Phil Myers to be in Philadelphia. When things go bad it’s common for fans to yell for call ups. Often times those demands are not met by the front office, and honestly not smart. In the case of Myers the demands are warranted. Having to endure watching Andrew MacDonald play defense when you have a younger more talented replacement available is cruel. Myers possesses extremely good offensive skills. A call up would put him in the mix on a blue line that already has talented offensive defenseman. It’s long been time for Myers to be with the Flyers. He outplayed Christian Folin coming out of training camp and should have began the season in the NHL. Going into what will be a pivots off season it’s important for the Flyers to know what they have in their young players. A Myers call up is something that could happen at anytime. I believe he will be in the NHL soon and when he is he will continue to impress.
If you’re speaking about finding out what your young players have then you have to include Sam Morin. Probably the most polarizing Flyers prospect, Morin appears to be close to coming off the injured list. He won’t be eligible to go to the Phantoms so the Flyers will have a decision to make. His play down the stretch will help bring Chuck Fletcher into focus on how to proceed with Morin. His trade value for the off season will hinge on how he performs on the ice. It’s overdue for us to see Sam Morin playing consistently with the Flyers. No matter how the Morin saga plays out the rest of this season, I think we will finally be putting his future into focus.
Finally, and probably the most important player to watch is goaltender Carter Hart. Since joining the team in December Hart has brought a spark and stability to his position that the Flyers had seriously lacked. The Flyers have been a different team since Hart has become the starter in the wake of another Michal Neuvirth injury. They have taken a three game winning streak into the break and a lot of that is because of Hart. His phenomenal play in net has kept the Flyers in close games and made up for defensive mistakes in front of him. Hart’s quickness and positioning are incredible, but they may not be his post impressive attribute. When you watch Hart under pressure it’s hard to not notice how calm he is. It’s been well documented that he has been seeing a sports psychologist since he was very young. Hart never loses his cool or gets out of control. If you hooked him up heart monitor mid game his heartbeat would likely be the same under pressure as it is when he’s at rest. His poise and maturity are years ahead of most twenty year olds. Simply put there aren’t enough good things to say about Carter Hart. The return timetable for Brian Elliot and the prior mentioned Neuvirth is unclear. Hart will start the second half of the season as the guy with Mike McKenna serving as his back up. The exciting part for Flyers fans is they literally get the future play in front of their eyes.
Of course we will also have to keep an eye on Claude Giroux. He has been elite as usual and just his presence on the team is enough to draw eyes to the team. We are truly lucky to have a player like Giroux in our city and his pursuit of his second consecutive 100 point season is something to watch for.
In a season full disappointment and change there are still exciting reasons to watch the Flyers in the second half. More changes are on the horizon but at the moment there’s no telling what they are. Chuck Fletcher has an opportunity to begin to shape this team in his image, and I believe he will seize that opportunity. Though I believe the season is lost and the playoffs are unlikely the development of young players and potential roster changes have me hopeful for an exciting finish to the season.
PHOTO CREDIT: NBCSPORTS.COM