We now move to the eastern portion of Pennsylvania, a state which answers the question “Hey, what if we had TWO St. Louises?”. An entire state arguing over which gas station has better food. A state so in love with college football that it is willing to overlook decades of systemic child abuse in the name of a statue. A state with the two most horrific English language accents imaginable. A state whose Appalachian hilljackery was the nail in the electoral coffin a year ago. And Philadelphia is its crown jewel, with the Flyers bearing no small responsibility in fueling the city’s long standing sports psychosis. And based on their current trajectory, the Flyera aren’t going ameliorate that any time soon despite there kind of being a plan.
’16-’17 Season: 39W – 33L – 10OT – 88 Points – 6th in Metropolitan
Team Stats: 51.1% CF (9th) – 50.95% SF (10th) – 50.48% SCF (16th) – 6.65% SH (25th) – .916 SV% (26th)
Special Teams: 18.9% PP (11th) – 80.5% PK (20th)
Goaltending: While the Cold Ones were a surprise entrant into the 2016 Playoffs built on the backs of stellar goaltending from Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth that season with even strength save percentages of .934 and .932 respectively that year, both of them dropped precipitously last season with Mason falling to .920, and Neuvirth absolutely wetting himself at .901. Curiously, this caused Ron Hextall to cut bait with Mason, who was an unrestricted free agent still believing he deserves to be a #1, and retaining Neuvirth and giving him a raise. Enter Brian Elliott, coming off a year in Calgary of .919 at evens and .910 overall and being exposed as both aging as well as being a product of Jiminy Glick Hitchcock’s risk averse ways in the defensive zone. Both Neuvirth and Elliott have shown the ability to have success in the past, as well as coexist in a platoon situation, and overall the investment of $5.25 mildo against the cap between them is reasonable, but it’s a gamble, and one that Hextall could very well be sandbagging given the youth elsewhere on his roster and the trajectory they’re on.
Forwards: It’s been covered before, but under Hextall, the Flyers have shown a newfound patience with their current crop of skaters rather than their old ways of just throwing bad money at aging veterans. And though Claude Giroux will be 30 in January, he and Jakub Voracek can still produce, and Wayne “Meat Train” Simmonds will always be a fun watch as long as his body holds up as he approaching 30 playing the style he does. Gone is Schenn the younger for whatever the fuck it is Jori Lehtera does for $4.7 per, and Valtteri Filppula is here basically for his expiring contract. But with Sean Coutourier still only 24 and one of the best two way centers in the game, and with the arrival of Nolan Patrick who possesses the prototypical size of a #1 center off of producing in the WHL, along with Travis Konecny’s creativity on the wing, this could be a cohesive forward unit with clearly defined roles if Dave Hakstol gets things right, which the jury is still out on. Giroux still draws the most attention, and Coutourier can erase the other team’s top threat, leaving the hammock shifts against bums for Patrick to cut his teeth upon the flesh of.
Defense: The Flyera also have two exiting young blueliners in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, both of whom are electric puck movers and gifted in the offensive zone. Ghost took a bit of a step back after his breakout rookie year, dropping from 17 goals to only 7, but his his assist total jumped from 29 to 32. His shooting percentage cratering from 11.1% to 3.5% probably means that the truth is somewhere in the middle, as he put more shots on goal per game this past year than his Calder finalist campagn- 2.35 to 2.57. He also was solid on the possession ledger as well, boasting a 52.86 share, up from his even 50 the year previous. Provorov produced tremendous offensive numbers for a 20 year old rookie with 6 goals and 24 assists, but was underwater in attempts, so it appears that he’ll need to be sheltered a bit more than Ghost will for the time being. Past that however, things get a little rough. Radko Gudas is more competent than his on-ice bullshit would lead one to believe, but he’s certainly not a top pairing guy by any stretch of the imagination. The albatross of Andrew McDonald’s contract sill hangs over this team for another two years of $5.0 per while producing jack and shit, and when Brandon Manning isn’t injuring Connor McDavid, he’s not much use to the Flyers or really anyone else.
Outlook: While this team currently projects to be a flirting with a wild card spot if everything breaks right, including progression from Patrick, Ghost, and Provorov, this team is still a true #1 defenseman and a reliable #1 goalie away from truly being able to stand up to Washington or Pittsburgh within its own division and thusly the first two rounds of the playoffs. As much as it may pain weird Flyers twitter, a move may be forthcoming with either Voracek or Simmonds to procure those necessary parts to get the Flyera at least a step closer to where they’re trying to get.
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