Team Overview: PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Philadelphia Flyers

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: By the Numbers

2014-2015
Overall Record: 33-31-18-84
Standings: Metropolitan Division: 6, Eastern Conference: 12, League: 24
Playoff Result: Did not make the playoffs

2015-2016
Overall Record: 7-10-5-19
Home Record: 4-4-3
Away Record: 3-6-2
Shootout Record: 1-1
Standings: Metropolitan Division: 7, Eastern Conference: 13, League: 24
Goals For: 38 (NHL rank: 30)
Goals Against: 62 (NHL rank: 7)
Power Play Percentage: 15.9 percent (NHL rank: 23)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 79.7 percent (NHL rank: 17)
Leading Scorer: Claude Giroux (8-9-17)
 

2015-2016 Overview:

The Philadelphia Flyers came into this season with some question marks but with an overall sense of optimism. There were some new faces, some youth injected in the lineup, a new coach and a strong core ready to take things to the next level. Unfortunately, the Flyers’ season has not been a pretty one so far. There have been flashes of true “Flyers hockey,” that tough, never-give-up, electric hockey the team has been known to play over the years, but the flashes have been few and far between. The general understanding in Philadelphia is that the team is in a gradual re-build, though obviously there are still key pieces in the lineup that are capable of competing at the highest level, namely Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. The goaltending situation is more stable than it has been in decades, with Steve Mason playing fairly well and, at times, exceptionally well. The Flyers signed a legitimate backup goalie in the offseason to share the load with Mason; in fact, Michal Neuvirth has exceeded all expectations this season and has been the most impressive player on the team. The logjam at defense was somewhat alleviated by the offseason trade of Nicklas Grossmann to Arizona, and the hopes were high surrounding newly-acquired Yevgeni Medvedev, who looked brilliant in the preseason. Players like R.J. Umberger, who battled injuries last year and had career-low numbers, seemed to be in excellent shape and roaring to go in preseason. Things have not gone according to plan, however. At one point, the Flyers lost six games in a row, and the team’s offense has disappeared for long stretches of the season. The Flyers have scored two or fewer goals in 15 out of 22 games this season, and the team was shut out in two consecutive games. There are a few bright spots in the still-young 2015-2016 season, though, such as Brayden Schenn, who was demoted to fifth-line duties in training camp and in preseason but who now has six goals and has played very well, and the Flyers’ penalty kill, which has looked much better than last year’s atrocious performance.

The problem is that the Flyers have injuries, have too much cap space tied up in dead-weight contracts (i.e., Vinny Lecavalier, Andrew MacDonald, etc.) and are somewhat stuck between fighting and being a competitive team and taking the time to allow prospects to fully develop rather than rushing them into the NHL to make the Flyers better. Having said that, for the most part, general manager Ron Hextall has stayed the course in allowing players to develop. Even players who excelled in training camp were reassigned to their relative junior teams early on in training camp to send a message that no one would be rushed. Due to injuries and the poor play of Medvedev, Hextall recently called up one of the Flyers’ defensive prospects, Shayne Gostisbehere, who has played six games with the Flyers. Flyers fans have been very excited about Gostisbehere, or “Ghost,” for several years; he is considered to be a top prospect and is one of many of the Flyers’ prospects with incredible potential. The concerning thing for the Flyers this season is that the team has often had no life; there have been a few comeback games that were very exciting, but for the most part the desire, grit, finesse and work ethic haven’t been there across the board. It’s unclear what role new head coach Dave Hakstol is playing in all of this. He has implemented a new system that could account for some of the confusion and lack of confidence, but on the other hand, the team has shown some signs of greatness. Much like the up-and-down nature of the Flyers’ play, this season is bound to be a roller-coaster, with the team getting pulled in all directions. If the Flyers can’t find their offense soon, Hextall’s hand might be forced into making a move. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of whether Hakstol can make the most of it and whether the players are on board.

 
Last Game: November 25 vs. NY Islanders (Final: 3-1 L)
Next Game: November 27 vs. Nashville, 3:30pm EST
 

Line Combinations

There are many injured players on the Flyers roster at this time. Taking those injuries into account, here are the line combinations the Philadelphia Flyers used in the team’s most recent game:
 
Forwards
Raffl-Giroux-Schenn
Read-Couturier-Simmonds
Leier-Laughton-McDonald
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Voracek

Defensemen
Del Zotto-Gudas
Schultz-Schenn
Manning-Gostisbehere

Goalies
Mason
Neuvirth
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • 2015 1st-round pick (29) and 2015 2nd-round pick (61) to Toronto for 2015 1st-round pick (24)
  • D Nicklas Grossmann ($500,000 retained salary) and contract of D Chris Pronger to Arizona for F Sam Gagner and a conditional draft pick
  • F Zac Rinaldo to Boston for 2017 3rd-round pick
  • 2015 4th-round pick (99) to Los Angeles for 2015 4th-round pick (104) and a 2016 6th-round pick

Re-Signed:

  • D Michael Del Zotto (2-year deal with AAV* of $3.875 million)
  • F Ryan White (1-year contract at $800,000)
  • F Chris VandeVelde (2-year deal with AAV* of $715,500)
  • D Ivan Provorov (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • F Travis Konecny (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)

Free Agents Signed:

  • G Michal Neuvirth (2-year deal with AAV* of $1.625 million)
  • D Davis Drewiske (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Chris Connor (2-year deal with AAV* of $575,000)
  • G Jason LaBarbera (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • F Colin McDonald (1-year contract at $625,000)
  • F Chris Porter (1-year contract at $575,000)–later claimed on waivers by Minnesota
  • F Tim Brent (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • D Phil Myers (3-year ELC with AAV* of $636,666)

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (7) D Ivan Provorov
  • Round 1 (24) C Travis Konecny
  • Round 3 (70) G Felix Sandstrom
  • Round 3 (90) G Matej Tomek
  • Round 4 (98) LW Samuel Dove-McFalls
  • Round 4 (104) C Mikhail Vorobyov
  • Round 5 (128) RW David Kase
  • Round 6 (158) C Cooper Marody
  • Round 7 (188) G Ivan Fedotov

Notable Extensions:

  • F Sean Couturier (6-year deal with AAV* of $4.333 million)–starting next season
  • F Jake Voracek (8-year deal with AAV* of $8.25 million)–starting next season

Free Agents Lost:

  • F Jason Akeson–Buffalo
  • D Carlo Colaicovo–Buffalo
  • F Andrew Gordon–Linkopings HC (Sweden)
  • F Jay Rosehill–signed to minor league contract, later released)
  • F Blair Jones–Vancouver
  • G Rob Zepp–UFA
  • D Oliver Lauridsen–Frolunda HC (Sweden)
  • D Matt Konan–UFA
  • F Andrew Johnston–UFA
  • F Zack Stortini–Ottawa
  • G Ray Emery–UFA

Buyouts:
None

Organizational Changes:

  • Fired coach Craig Berube
  • Named Dave Hakstol coach

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here is an overview of some of the most significant moves made by the Philadelphia Flyers, and how the those moves will continue to affect the 2015-2016 season:

Hiring Dave Hakstol:

Philadelphia Flyers

AP


Philadelphia Flyers

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers fired head coach Craig Berube after last season, a season in which the Flyers failed to make the playoffs. There were many issues with the team, and it was clear that a change was on the horizon. What many people did not expect, however, was that Dave Hakstol would be the guy for the job. Hakstol, former head coach of the University of North Dakota for 11 years, coached many players at the college level who have now gone on to be NHL pros, including Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie and Travis Zajac (not to mention current Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde). Hakstol’s career numbers are impressive, but it’s a big leap to go from the NCAA’s to the NHL, a leap that not many coaches have made before. In fact, Hakstol is only the third coach ever to go directly from the NCAA to his first coaching job in the NHL. However, general manager Ron Hextall (yes, the names really are Hextall and Hakstol) had complete faith in Hakstol and believed he was the right man for the job. Now that the first few months of the season have elapsed, it’s unclear how to rate Hakstol’s coaching performance in Philadelphia so far. On the one hand, the Flyers seem to be in better physical shape than normal; though this was something that Hextall preached, Hakstol has been even more strict about players being in tip-top shape and working hard during practice. Practices were run at a very fast pace from the very beginning of training camp, which seems to have helped the Flyers compete late in games when the team might otherwise be tired. Hakstol is a very intense coach, both in his demeanor and in his expectations of his players; however, former players always say that Hakstol is “tough but fair,” which seems like a good balance for this team. Though all coaches are adjusting to the newly-implemented coach’s challenge, Hakstol has failed to use his timeout in certain situations that may have warranted it. The good news is that he openly admitted that one game in particular got out of hand because he did not use his timeout. That kind of honesty and accountability is refreshing. Unfortunately, the Flyers just haven’t played well for most of the season. The team has struggled to score goals, the power-play has struggled and the team has been very inconsistent in general. Hakstol needs to address a lot of issues, but it seems as though he is here to stay for at least a few years. Hextall and Hakstol obviously have a plan for the organization, so Flyers fans may have to endure some (more) hard times and tolerate the rebuild transition with faith and trust in Hextall.
 

Waiving Andrew MacDonald:

Philadelphia Flyers

Derik Hamilton-Icon Sportswire

Aside from a few blockbuster deals, one of the most surprising moves of the offseason and of the beginning of the regular season was when the Flyers waived defenseman Andrew MacDonald. The Flyers had eight defenseman signed on one-way contracts (MacDonald, Streit, Schultz, Del Zotto, Gudas, Manning, Medvedev, Schenn), which meant that at least one person had to go. The team needed to make more room on the roster and consolidate the blue line options. Even though MacDonald was signed to a massive six-year $30 million contract at the end of the 2013-2014 season, general manager Ron Hextall and (presumably) head coach Dave Hakstol decided that MacDonald was not a good fit for the team and was only getting in the way. Even though MacDonald was grossly overpaid and was generally awful for the Flyers, it is still a gutsy move to waive a player like that. Ideally, the Flyers were hoping that another team would claim him so that Philly could get his awful contract (signed by former general manager Paul Holmgren, not Hextall) off the books. There have been rumors that Luke Schenn is on his way out (he will be on his way out one way or another since his contract expires at the end of this season), and he and brother Brayden got the cold shoulder all throughout training camp and the preseason. Now that a quarter of the NHL season has come and gone, it’s interesting to see Hextall call up rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (because of injuries) rather than calling up an experienced veteran in MacDonald. Hextall has preached ever since he took this job that he wants to develop all the prospects and give them plenty of time to mature before putting them in at the NHL level. This included Gostisbehere. It says a lot about how the Flyers feel about Andrew MacDonald when they’d rather call up Gostisbehere than turn to MacDonald. Another issue that further complicates matters is that head coach Dave Hakstol appears to dislike 33-year-old Russian defenseman Yevgeni Medvedev. Medvedev was signed as a free agent in May after playing overseas for his entire career. He had an incredible training camp and preseason but has since regressed tremendously. He has been a healthy scratch for most of the season. At the end of the day, this shows that Hextall is committed to his philosophy and is not going to let big contracts affect how he runs his team. After all, Vinny Lecavalier ($4.5 million) has only played one or two games this season and has been a healthy scratch for most of the rest of the year. That’s almost $10 million in cap space right there between the two of them, so it shows that Hextall is willing to do what it takes to turn things around in Philadelphia.
 

Re-signing Key Pieces of Offense:

Philadelphia Flyers

Sean Couturier
Tom Mihalek-AP Photo


Philadelphia Flyers

Jake Voracek
Michael Perez-AP

The Philadelphia Flyers knew that multiple pieces of the team’s core would need to be resigned in the near future. Hextall signed the two most important pieces of the puzzle: Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. Though Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl will be free agents at the end of this season, there have been rumors about Schenn being on the block; these rumors were only intensified when Schenn was moved down to a fifth line in training camp, played in the bottom-six during the first part of the regular season and even got benched a few games ago. Now he is on the Flyers’ top line and has been the Flyers’ most consistent forward this season, aside from captain Claude Giroux. Hextall was smart to take care of the Couturier and Voracek extensions before the season was underway to avoid distraction and to make sure to secure two such valuable players. Even though neither player has played well so far this year, scoring has been an issue for the entire team; Couturier and Voracek are certainly not alone. Voracek’s 8-year contract with an average annual value of $8.25 million kicks in starting next season, as does Couturier’s 6-year deal with an average annual value of $4.333 million. The Couturier deal was an excellent signing given how much potential Couturier has. He has already proven that he is a top shutdown center in this league. The Flyers have tried to give him more offensive zone starts this season to spark his offensive abilities that haven’t come to the surface in his few years in the NHL. At the end of the day, signing a top shutdown center who can play all situations and who hasn’t even tapped into his great offensive potential for only $4.3 million is a steal. Voracek was given a hefty contract because his numbers have been improving every year, including last season in which he finished fourth overall in the NHL in points with 81. His chemistry with Giroux is something special, and he has proven himself as a valuable top-line winger. Even though he hasn’t performed well this year, it was a good signing to tie up such a great player, especially considering top players are making that kind of money these days.
 

The Grossmann/Gagner Move:

Philadelphia Flyers

Sam Gagner
Gavin Baker-Icon Sportswire

The Philadelphia Flyers completed a creative trade with the Arizona Coyotes at the end of June. The deal involved Arizona shipping F Sam Gagner, who has one year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $3.2 million, and a conditional draft pick to Philadelphia in exchange for D Nicklas Grossmann as well as the contract of Chris Pronger. Pronger has been placed on LTIR (long-term injured reserve) for the past several seasons after sustaining a career-ending injury in 2011. Pronger will never play another game in the NHL, and is even going to be working for the NHL this year (he was also elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year despite his contract status). The move allowed the Flyers to clear some cap space since Pronger’s $4.9 million cap hit couldn’t come off the books until the beginning of the season. The main draw for the Flyers was to get rid of a defenseman; the Flyers had way too many defensemen signed to one-way contracts, so moving Grossmann was a necessity. The Pronger aspect of the deal is more beneficial for the Coytoes but also gives the Flyers more cap flexibility, especially in the offseason. Though the Flyers contemplated buying out Sam Gagner’s contract, Hextall decided to keep him on the team since his contract expires at the end of this season. Gagner has shifted throughout the Flyers lineup so far this year; he most recently played on the third line with recent call-up Taylor Leier and Scott Laughton. Gagner only has five points through 18 games, but the entire Flyers’ offense has been unable to produce. All things considered, Gagner has played pretty well for the Flyers this year. Unfortunately, he sustained what might be a serious injury in a recent game against the Hurricanes, so he could be out for a while.
 

Trading Up For Pick #24:

Philadelphia Flyers

Travis Konecny
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

During the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers traded two picks to the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to move up from pick #29 to pick #24. Those two picks were the 29th pick, acquired in the Braydon Coburn deadline deal with Tampa Bay, and the 61st pick, acquired in the Kimmo Timonen deadline deal with Chicago. The Flyers supposedly had interest in two forwards on the board; when Toronto called and offered the deal, general manager Ron Hextall pulled the trigger and executed the move. The Flyers then selected center Travis Konecny with the 24th overall pick. This was an excellent move and selection.

Obviously, no one will know for sure what type of player Travis Konecny will be once he is NHL-ready. However, Flyers fans have a lot to be excited about after seeing him during training camp and in the preseason. Konecny was everywhere during every shift. He made plays out of nothing, worked hard, used his speed and showed his offensive abilities. The puck truly seemed to find him every time he was on the ice. While it is still way too early in his career to become overly and unnecessarily excited about him, he certainly has excellent hockey sense and skill. Though he is only 5’9″, Konecny is a feisty player and was able to make a difference every time he was out on the ice. Additionally, he has been tearing it up in the OHL ever since Hextall sent him down during the preseason. He has 35 points through 23 games this season with the Ottawa 67’s.

Philadelphia Flyers

Travis Konecny
Chris Hofley-Ottawa Sun


 

Final Thoughts

More than anything else, inconsistency is what has plagued the Flyers so far this season. The Philadelphia Flyers have always been a team that has gone out and done whatever necessary to take a run at the Cup. A lot of this has had to do with Flyers’ owner Ed Snider, who has not only essentially written a blank check for the Flyers but has also been open to anything and everything necessary to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, despite all the resources and Snider’s overwhelming and unquenchable desire to win, the Flyers have been unable to do so. The team has always been one of the most competitive teams in the league; in fact, over the past 20 NHL seasons (not including the 2005-2006 lockout), the Flyers have only missed the playoffs three times, two of which have come in the last three seasons. The Flyers have only missed the playoffs a total of 10 times since the team joined the NHL in the 1967 expansion; two of those failed seasons came in the franchise’s first five years. There have been many deep playoff runs, multiple Cup appearances and many great teams and players who have represented the orange and black over the years. It may not always be pretty, but the Flyers are known to fight their way into the playoffs and then fight until the end. Part of putting on the orange and black sweater is understanding that there is a certain type of pride in Flyers hockey; it’s disheartening to see the team lose sight of that, but fortunately it is not a permanent loss. Even if management has become more patient thanks to general manager Ron Hextall’s philosophy of building through the draft and through player development, the team still has plenty of skill and pride to perform on a much higher level than the current mediocrity that takes the ice every night. The Flyers have the talent and the necessary pieces to be a very good team, even with such a weak defense, but the team hasn’t stepped up to the plate yet. Only time will tell if this group of players is ready to turn things around and dig in for a playoff push or if inconsistent and lackadaisical play will be the flavor of the week in Philadelphia for the rest of the year.

 
 
Featured image credit: Patrick Smith-Getty Images