The Philadelphia Flyers were a weird team with a weird roster last season. The team finished with a bottom-10 Goals For percentage at even strength but a top-10 Corsi For percentage. That would generally indicate that they were on the wrong side of some poor luck. But is that actually the case?
Their goaltenders had a terrible time, posting a 91.7 even strength save percentage. A lot of that can be pinned on the defence, as the Flyers blueline was largely a nightmare, allowing many high danger chances and giving up turnovers at inopportune times. Then there’s their 6.6 even strength shooting percentage, which is much more confusing. The Flyers have a load of skilled forwards, but struggled immensely to finish.
All in all you have a roster with upside and a lot of holes and flaws that ultimately performed as you’d expect. For their efforts, though, the Flyers were rewarded nicely at the draft lottery. They moved all the way up from No. 12 to No. 2, giving them a massive boost in their rebuild that already features an interesting core of young talent.
Up front both Claude Giroux and Jakob Voracek had somewhat disappointing seasons. They drove possession, each finishing with positive figures in the shot attempt differential column, and finished third and first respectively on the team in shots, but combined for just 34 goals. It isn’t terrible but it also isn’t great for two players who pull $16.525 million combined.
Brayden Schenn had what appeared to be a good season, scoring 25 goals and 30 assists, but when you dig deeper some issues arise. Schenn scored 17 of his goals on the power play and had a poor 49.3 Corsi For percentage despite being fed offensive minutes. Among forwards who logged 1000 minutes, only Joe Thornton scored at a lower rate than Schenn did. Travis Konecny had a nice start to his rookie season, but finished poorly, seeing his minutes slashed massively in the second half.
Wayne Simmonds had another good season, scoring 30 goals for the second year in a row. His crash and bang style has been welcomed in Philadelphia, and his production has remained consistent. Sean Couturier took a step forward in becoming one of the NHL’s truly elite defensive forwards last season. He was 55.1 per cent on draws and had excellent possession numbers based largely on strong shot suppression.
Otherwise? The depth forwards were pretty underwhelming. Dale Weise predictably took a step back in production, but plays a hard, physical game and boasted strong possession numbers. Matt Read and Michael Raffl didn’t produce much and battled injuries all season. Valtteri Filppula was acquired at the trade deadline as a cap dump from Tampa Bay, but didn’t do much, scoring eight points in 20 games.
The blueline, as previously stated, was kind of a disaster for the Flyers.The biggest disappointment was lies with Shayne Gostisbehere. He wasn’t terrible or anything, as his underlying numbers were strong, but he came nowhere near producing at the level he did in his torrid rookie season. His defensive game was also poor, resulting in him being scratched from the lineup on multiple occasions.
Andrew MacDonald was terrible, as you’d expect. Surely if the Flyers played him less than 20 minutes a game he wouldn’t be exposed so aggressively, but his 48.0 Corsi For was the lowest of any regular defenceman. Michael Del Zotto was also disappointing, as his offence wasn’t able to make up for the terrible mistakes that resulted in the return of the Del Zaster nickname.
The bright spots on the blueline were rookie Ivan Provorov, who stepped in as a 19-year-old and logged 22 minutes a game. Radko Gudas was also very good, especially in the underlying numbers department. The Flyers badly need help on defence, but some reinforcements are coming up through the system, as Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg could join Provorov, Gostisbehere, and Gudas, making a formadable group.
And finally, in net, both Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth had disappointing seasons, though a lot of that comes down to the team’s defence hanging them out to dry frequently.
The Flyers have a pretty loaded roster with 11 forwards, four defencemen, and one goalie from last season’s team already under contract. They have roughly $60 million committed to the cap for 2017-18 and figure to have a few spots filled internally as prospects like German Rubtsov, Travis Sanheim, and whoever they draft second overall, Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick, could work their way onto the team.
In terms of free agents, the Flyers have a couple of UFAs coming off poor seasons, Michael Del Zotto and Steve Mason, that they need to make decisions on. They’ll also have to figure out what’s going on with Shayne Gostisbhere, who’s entry-level deal will come to an end on July 1.
Offseason Game Plan
the Flyers winning the Draft Lottery is so much better with Titanic music pic.twitter.com/m1iqoxR34L
— Yeeehaw, I’m cowboy (@ItsCount) May 2, 2017
At the expansion draft, the Flyers will most likely lose a depth player like Nick Cousins or Michael Raffl. In a perfect world, Vegas figures they want to pay MacDonald $5 million a year for three more years to help them lose hockey games, but that won’t happen unless the Flyers sweeten the pot with a draft pick.
Then comes the entry draft, where Philadelphia will add one of this year’s two top prospects to their pool. New Jersey, who also had incredible lottery fortune, is choosing first overall. Whoever the Devils don’t pick between Hischier and Patrick will be a welcomed addition to the Flyers and is likely to crack the roster and make a difference as early as next season.
An interesting thing to watch will be Gostisbehere’s next contract. He was amazing as a rookie, potting 46 points in 64 games, but his production took a step back this season. He’s under team control for three more seasons before he can become a UFA, so I’m guessing we see a bridge deal rather than anything long-term.
I doubt that the Flyers will be particularly aggressive in free agency this summer. We could see them try to dump MacDonald’s contract, but they have the cap room just to eat it for now. As bad as he is, he can munch minutes, which could be valuable for a team likely to have a bunch of rookies and sophomores on the blueline.
One thing the Flyers do need is a goalie. They’ve already committed two years to Michael Neuvirth, but he isn’t going to be their No. 1 goalie. They could bring back Mason, who had been excellent before the 2016-17 disaster, or they could bring in a veteran like Brian Elliott or Ryan Miller. Anthony Stolarz seems to be the future in net, but I imagine the Flyers would rather have him starting in the AHL than getting sporadic playing time in the NHL.
Regardless, expect a quiet offseason from the Flyers as they continue to build a team through the draft.
Previously in this series…
30. Colorado Avalanche, 29. Vancouver Canucks, 28. Arizona Coyotes, 27. New Jersey Devils, 26. Buffalo Sabres, 25. Detroit Red Wings, 24. Dallas Stars, 23. Florida Panthers, 22. Los Angeles Kings, 21. Carolina Hurricanes, 20. Winnipeg Jets