The Philadelphia Flyers forward corps had plenty of highlights in the 2017-18 season, most notably Claude Giroux’s 102 points — the first time a Flyer had broke the 100-point barrier since Eric Lindros in 1995-96.
Giving a Giroux a grade was easy. Some of his offensive teammates weren’t that simple. Read on to find out where each Philly forward that played at least 20 games this year graded out.
Let’s run through some of Couturier’s accolades this season: career high in goals, assists, points, promoted to first-line center and first power play unit and earned his first Selke Trophy nomination. The discussion around the 25 year old went from debates over whether he was a second or third line center before the season to being a clear cut number one. Mix that all in with his impressive postseason play and legendary Game 6 performance and this grade is easy.
Filppula is a tough one because he was in a role that he shouldn’t have been in because of coaching tendencies and lack of depth. He started out the year as the second-line center mainly because Nolan Patrick wasn’t ready for it. By the time he was, Filppula was hardly a third-line pivot, but that’s where he played most of the season, besides a two-game playoff stint on the first line. He actually started the year on a strong scoring pace (8 points in first 12 games) and was good in Game 5 against the Pens, which saves his grade just a tad.
Before the season, Giroux said he believed he could score 80 points again. I didn’t believe him after multiple years of decline starting from the 2014-15 season. Turns out, we were both wrong. Giroux scored 102 points, a career high, and was easily deserving of a Hart Trophy nomination (though the voters either didn’t think so or ignored it). The move to left wing opened more room for the captain in the offensive zone and limited defensive responsibility, helping the scoring outburst. Giroux wasn’t bad in the playoffs, but does need to do more for the team to go deep.
I think outside Philly, Konecny was seen as a little bit of a question mark after last season. He showed some skill and pestiness, but not on the offensive levels that other diminutive youngsters like Brayden Point or Mitch Marner showcased. That changed this year. Konecny was a force on the first line and not just because of his teammates. He drove play and scored some impressive goals on his way to 47 points. The 21 year old did slow down a little in the playoffs, but never should have been moved off the top line.
Due to the improvements by Giroux, Couturier and Konecny, Laughton’s year got a little overshadowed in Philadelphia. Last season, it looked entirely possible that Laughton was going to end up as a bust after playing just two games with the Flyers. This season, he scored 10 goals and 10 assists and was a great fourth liner. I’d still like to see a little more offensive contributions/skill for Laughton to be a third-line center, but he’s a player that can be in your bottom six for years.
I honestly thought Lehtera took too much heat from the Philly fan base during the year — but that’s mainly because he took a lot of flack. The Finn was better along the boards and on the penalty kill than most of his roster competition including Jordan Weal, Dale Weise and Taylor Leier. Despite that, Lehtera is too slow for today’s game and has lost any offensive acumen that once made him a 44-point scorer.
Leier started out the year great by finding chemistry and bringing speed to the fourth line with Laughton and Michael Raffl. But before long, Leier was taken off the penalty kill units and his offensive ability never blossomed showing that he may just be an AHL/NHL tweener. He did not play a game after March 4th.
The Swedish rookie played just 27 games for the Flyers between the regular season and playoffs and scored two goals. If luck was even just a little more on Lindblom’s side, he probably could have had five more. The stats don’t tell the story for the 21 year old, who worked himself up to the second line after his call-up.
Patrick’s season was one of two halfs. In the first portion, he started out the year poorly, frequently losing matchup battles and struggling to produce on the score sheet. He also dealt with a concussion that cost him nine games in October/November. The second half was a much better one that saw Patrick grow into a top six forward and show the potential that came with being the second overall pick. Although, he had just two points in the playoffs, he never quit in any of the games. Still, we’re grading the entire season, so Patrick’s grade is hurt a little.
Raffl has become a jack-of-all-trades guy with the Flyers really since his sophomore season. This year was no different. He played all over the lineup, including the first line at the end of the season, on the penalty kill and some second power play unit at times. If it wasn’t already clear, Raffl’s reliable and every team needs that in its bottom six. He scored 22 points, but Philadelphia could have used a little more from him.
Read eclipsed the 20-game cut off by playing in every game of the playoffs. Before March, the veteran had played just four games in the NHL. He was recalled at the trade deadline and immediately helped the penalty kill when he checked back into the lineup. That led to a spot for him on the fourth line. However, by the playoffs, Read was making more mistakes and showing why he fell out of favor with the Flyers brass.
Maybe if the “warrior” culture in hockey wasn’t so serious, Simmonds would have a better grade. It was obvious that the former King was dealing with injuries since late October, yet he only missed seven games. Unfortunately, the Flyers were never good enough during the year for Simmonds to reason with himself to take some time off. The 29 year old scored 24 goals, but was a non-factor in the postseason — and even worse at even strength for most of the year.
Much like Laughton, Voracek’s rebound season was lost in the season by Giroux’s resurgence. After two seasons of 55 and 61 points, Voracek hit over a point-per-game for the first time in his career with 85 points. The Czech formed chemistry with Nolan Patrick and added some much needed depth scoring beyond the top trio. I held back from an ‘A’ grade because Voracek still needs to work on turnovers and not forcing plays, especially on the man advantage.
Weal was one of the bigger disappointments on the Flyers roster. After scoring 12 points in 23 games last season, he managed just 21 in 69 this year. He usually didn’t have great linemates and his best were a first-half Patrick and an ailing Simmonds, but the board work and ability to create chances in tight spaces weren’t there. Weal shouldn’t have sat for Lehtera against the skilled Pens, but he also didn’t force Hakstol’s hand enough.
If you thought the 2016-17 season was a bad one for Weise, you were even more disappointed in his 2017-18. Again, Weise was lackluster on the forecheck and weak every time he touched the puck, lacking the skill that made him a 14 goal scorer in Montreal. He even fell out of favor with Hakstol, who played him for just 46 regular season games and two playoff games when he was scrounging for some form of a winning lineup. The former Canuck has two more years left on his contract, but it’s hard imagining him playing both of them in Philly.