The Flyers entered the 2016 campaign as a team with some promise and good young players. In December, the team went on a sizzling 10 game win streak and it looked as though the team was going to be unstoppable; but then the Flyers, as they are accustomed to, became their own worst enemy. Goalie play became inconsistent, the defense went absent, and no one stepped up on the offense. It’s beginning to get quite frustrating as a Flyers fan to hear about all the talk about how promising the team is, when all they do is continually fall a part midseason. Come the 2017 offseason, the Flyers need to figure out who they are and what kind of future they want.
If you’ve kept up with the Flyers over the last few years, you’ve probably heard at least once that the team has a lot of young, strong talent in the minors and in the juniors. They do, and it’s no secret. The one area where the Flyers are weak, however, is having a legitimate scoring threat. Guys like Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers and Robert Hagg are all defenseman with a high ceiling. The Flyers could literally have an entirely new blueline in the coming years, but if they don’t find some scoring help, they’ll go nowhere.
The first hurdle the Flyers need to climb is determining who their goaltender will be going forward. No more of this Mason/Neuvirth controversy. It’s great to have two goalies who can platoon at a given time, but most teams have one guy that is the building block to the team. Look at the Capitals; Braden Holtby, the Rangers with Lundqvist, the Penguins with Matt Murray, and even the Wild with Devan Dubnyk. All of those teams have one, concrete goaltender who gets the job done night in and night out. The Flyers did just recently extend Michael Neuvirth, and with Steve Mason expected to hit free agency, I would expect them to make Neuvirth the guy going forward. That gives coach Dave Hackstol the chance to bring in youngster Andrew Stolarz from the Phantoms to ease into a starting role while playing behind Neuvirth for a year or two.
There have been arguments made for the Flyers to start moving guys like Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and even Wayne Simmonds; knowing that they will get a huge package in return. I would argue it’s time for the Flyers to start moving one or two of the young defenseman in the minors, maybe even a goalie, to start finding some capable scoring. Claude Giroux is not a scorer, he’s a world-class set up guy. Nothing wrong with that, he knows how to find the open player and usually leads the NHL in assists every season. Jake Voracek is not the kind of player who can take over a game himself, but like Giroux, he’s a capable teammate and plays really hard. Wayne Simmonds is a great scorer, but would benefit with another guy alongside him to take the defensive focus off of him. Trading off one of those guys just to get draft picks or cap space would seriously hinder the growth of the Flyers moving forward. They’re savvy veterans who need reinforcements on their given lines. Sure, calling up one or two of the young defenseman mentioned would help a lot for the team, but this team needs to find top-notch scoring.
The Flyers are in no position to make the playoffs this season. General manager Ron Hextall has a good challenge ahead of him this offseason with creating cap space and roster space for younger players to come up and maybe even a blockbuster free agent signing or trade. The Flyers have a lot of nice pieces, but in order for them to sustain with the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers and Blue Jackets in this division, they need to attack this upcoming offseason and add suitable reinforcements for their veteran nucleus.
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