Are the Philadelphia Flyers a playoff team? They traded away Scott Hartnell, are without Kimmo Timonen, and will rely on Steve Mason to put together a second strong season in a row. There are a lot of questions to answer here – which is why we have them on the outside looking in.
2013-14 record: 42-30-10
Acquisitions: Ryan White, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Zack Stortini, Andrew Gordon, Blair Jones, R.J. Umberger
Departures: Adam Hall, Ben Holmstrom, Kris Newbury, Steve Downie, The McGinn, Scott Hartnell
Top five fantasy players: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Mark Streit, Matt Read
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Once Claude Giroux got on track last season, the Flyers were mint. He had just seven points in the first 15 games – none of them goals – and the Flyers went 5-9-1. Beginning with his tally in a win over Edmonton, Giroux steered his troops to a 37-21-9 record the rest of the way.
Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds both shattered their previous career-highs for points, and there’s no reason to believe they will falter in 2014-15. Sean Couturier and Matt Read continue to grow as two-way players who can take on tough defensive assignments (despite their relative youth) and drive possession in the right direction while also contributing heavily to an effective penalty kill. Read even ranked third in the NHL with four shorthanded goals.
In net, Steve Mason was a rock when the Flyers needed him, especially early on when the offense sputtered. If he’s truly found his form again, Philadelphia can make a push for home-ice advantage, which they could have used in Round 1 against the Rangers.
Bust: The blueline went from metaphorically tragic to almost actually tragic this summer when Kimmo Timonen was treated in Finland for blood clots in his right leg and both lungs. He wants to return for another season, but he’ll have to take it slowly and carefully now. Without Timonen, a lot of pressure will be put on Braydon Coburn and Mark Streit.
To help them out, Philly brought in Michael Del Zotto, who had been shunned by the Nashville Predators, but he comes with question marks. Streit and Del Zotto will be the only offensive options from the back end unless rookie Shayne Gostisbehere lands a job.
The Flyers also made a confounding trade with Columbus, acquiring R.J. Umberger for Scott Hartnell, losing a fan favorite and better scorer in the process.
If last season was another one-year wonder for Mason, the Flyers will be trouble. With the exception of Carolina, every team that finished below them in the Metro improved.
Bottom Line: A weak ‘D’ makes it tough for the Flyers to string together another hot run as they did last season. Timonen is the X-factor. Tomas Fleischmann has dealt with blood clots in Florida and is fine, yet Tomas Vokoun missed the entire regular season with Pittsburgh due to the same affliction. The Flyers were a below-average possession team, and the loss of Timonen and Hartnell hurts that metric even more. Don’t bet on another post-season appearance.
Prospect To Watch: Scott Laughton, the 20th overall pick from 2012, is coming off a 40-goal, 87-point season with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and has a chance to make this team. There’s a possible opening at center for the 20-year-old to win with a good showing in camp. Laughton got a taste of professional life two years ago, when he spent five scoreless games with the Flyers, but managed to get three points in six games with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms. He’s grown as a player since then and was captain of Canada’s WJC team last winter.
THN’s Prediction for 2014-14: Fifth in the Metro Division
Contributors: Ryan Kennedy, Rory Boylen