2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers Season Preview
By: Matt Giusti
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol
2015-16 Record: 41-27-14 ( 5th in the Metropolitan Division )
Playoff Result: Eliminated in the 1st Round by the Washington Capitals in 6 games
Team Stats: 2.6 goals per game ( 22nd in the NHL), 2.6 goals against ( 12th in the NHL ), 18.9 power play % ( 11th in the NHL ), 80.5 penalty kill % ( 2oth in the NHL )
Top Scorers: 1. Claude Giroux C ( 78 GP-22 G-45 A ), 2. Wayne Simmonds RW ( 81 GP-32 G-28 A ), 3. Brayden Schenn C ( 80 GP-26 G-33 A ), 4. Jakub Voracek RW ( 73 GP-11 G-44 A ), 5. Shayne Gostisbehere D ( 64 GP-17 G-29 A )
Goaltending: Steve Mason ( 54 GP-23-19-10 OTL-2.51 GAA-.918 SV%-4 SO ), Michal Neuvirth ( 32 GP-18 W-8 L-4 OTL-2.27 GAA-.924 SV%-3 SO )
Top Prospects: 1. Ivan Provorov D, 2. Travis Konecny C, 3. Travis Sanheim D, 4. Samuel Morin D, 5. Robert Hagg D
Key Additions: Dale Weise RW, Boyd Gordon C
Key Departures: Sam Gagner C, Ryan White C, RJ Umberger C, Evgeny Medvedev D
Forwards: There were some rough moments in the beginning for most of the Flyers forwards trying get used to a new system implemented by new head coach Dave Hakstol. But by the time the playoff push came, the Flyers forwards began to score more on a consistent basis than the beginning of the season. Even with the improvement down the stretch, the Flyers still finished 22nd in the league goals per game and if they hope to return to the playoffs in 2016-17, they must improve on that ranking.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux led the Flyers in scoring 2015-16 with 67 points in 78 games played. I feel that Giroux could be a little better in terms of point production, but in his defense he doesn’t have that sniper on the wing that could finish the plays he creates. After having a career season in 2014-15, right wing Jakub Voracek took a step back in his production in 2015-16, but you can attribute most of that to Voracek battling injuries. There is no reason to not think that if healthy, Voracek will return to his 75 plus point form. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 25-year old Brayden Schenn put up career numbers across the board in 2015-16. Many people around the NHL have been waiting for the former 5th overall pick in 2009 to have this kind of season and the Flyers hope that he continue this kind of production. Right wing Wayne Simmonds has continued to show that he may be the biggest acquisition in recent memory for the Flyers. The 28-year old Simmonds established a career high with 32 goals to go with 28 assists, in 81 games played.
The Flyers didn’t do much of anything in the free-agent market besides adding RW Dale Weise and journeymen center Boyd Gordon. The Flyers are banking on a bounce back year from Voracek and maybe a breakout offensive season from 23-year old Sean Couturier. Maybe Travis Konecny will crack the opening night roster after ripping up the Ontario Hockey League with the Ottawa 67’s and the Sarnia Sting. The Flyers still lack a true sniper on their unit, but I don’t see how they won’t improve on that 22nd ranking in goals per game from the year before.
Defense: While the Flyers ranked near the bottom of the NHL in goals, they ranked near the top 10 in goals against. The Flyers would finish 12th in goals against, but would finish near the bottom in penalty kill % ( 20th ). Still there is a lot to be excited about with this defense for the present and the future.
The Flyers were in need of a spark after a rough start to the seasonal and that spark came in the form of former Union College standout Shayne Gostisbehere. The 23-year old would finish the 2015-16 season with 17 goals and 29 assists, while only playing in 64 of the 82 games. For his efforts, “Ghost” would finish 2nd in the Calder Trophy voting behind Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin and was named to Team North America for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Imagine what Gostisbehere will do playing a full season in the NHL. The Flyers hoping that injured defensemen Michael Del Zotto will be able to come back strong from the wrist injury he suffered in February that sidelined him for about 4 months. When Del Zotto has played, he has been a productive offensive defensemen for the Flyers. Its no secret that Flyers defensemen Radko Gudas likes to hit and mix it up, but he showed at time that he can put the puck in the net as well. The 26-year old Gudas put in what looks like a modest 5 goals, but for the way Gudas plays that is a lot.
While the Flyers still have veteran leader Mark Streit back there, we may finally get a glimpse of the future of the Flyers defense if they decide to include Ivan Provorov on their opening night roster. There really isn’t much left for the 19-year old Provorov to prove in the Western Hockey League, after finishing with 21 goals and 52 assists, in 62 games played for the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Flyers have the potential to have possibly three great offensive threats from the backend. The one thing I would say the Flyers defense lacks is a shutdown defender who can consistently play against the opponents best player. As a whole unit, the Flyers and their fans have a lot to be excited about with this defense for the present and the future.
Goalies: Philadelphia Flyers starting goalie Steve Mason took a little bit of a step back in 2015-16 compared to his numbers from 2014-15. The 28-year old finished his season with a record of 23-19-10, a 2.51 GAA and a .918 SV%. In defense of Mason, he played in front of a Flyers defense that gave up 30.7 shots per game ( 8th most in the NHL ) and a penalty kill that finished 2oth in the NHL. So given those circumstances, the numbers suggest that Mason had a pretty solid year.
The Flyers could not have asked for more out of backup goalie Michal Neuvirth during the 2015-16 season. Not only did Neuvirth put up a great regular season ( 32 GP-18-8-4-2.27 GAA-.924% ) but he also was insane versus the Washington Capitals in the playoffs. Neuvirth went 2-1, had a goals against average of .067 and a .981 save percentage. The Flyers goaltending could end up being a major factor of whether the Flyers will return to the postseason for the 2nd straight season under Dave Hakstol
Season Prediction: The Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders are pretty much locks to make the playoffs and the New York Rangers not too far behind, the Flyers are going to have their work cut out for them in a loaded Metropolitan Division. The New Jersey Devils got a lot better and the Columbus Blue Jackets should be much improved if they remain healthy, the Flyers I believe will take a step back this season but the future is very bright in Philly.
6th in the Metropolitan Division