Hop into your Flyers time machine and head back to the summer of 2007. The team was coming off their worst season in franchise history, but they knew they had a core in place to propel them into the future.
That core was composed of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne. They had Claude Giroux in the pipeline and James vanReimsdyk was their prized second overall pick. They stayed around while Paul Holmgren took this team and redesigned them.
The Flyers went out and got the biggest free agent on the market in Danny Briere, they traded for Joffery Lupul, and they signed Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. A few other signings here and there, and guess what? The Flyers found themselves right back in the thick of things. In fact, just one season after being the worst team in the NHL, they were in the Conference Finals. Two seasons after that, they were in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Of course, we all know how that story ends, and what happened in the ‘doomsday’ summer of 2011. Those trades worked out very much in the Flyers favor. They inherited Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn. Ok, so in 2012 we started over. The Flyers once again looked poised to be a force in the future. They walloped the Penguins in 2012, only to fall to the Devils, but that’s ok, growing pains.
Only it wasn’t growing pains.
Constantly Falling Short
You’d think that with the core the Flyers have in place, and the draft picks they have made, that they would have at least made some deep playoff runs since that summer of 2011. But that isn’t the case.
Instead, the team has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and when they do make the playoffs, they’ve failed to make it out of the first round.
The 2013 season was shortened by a lockout, so the Flyers didn’t really have much time to regroup after a slow start. That’s fine, they missed the playoffs by a few points but it was a relatively small sample size to assess a team that had only truly been together for one season.
The 2014 season saw the Flyers make the playoffs again, and despite some questionable trades and signings, they really played a hard-fought series against the Rangers. It was a series that the Flyers could have easily taken had Steve Mason not been injured in the dying games of the season.
The next two times the Flyers saw the post-season (2016, 2018), they were grossly outplayed and didn’t even looked like they belonged in the series. Washington, by all means, should have swept the Flyers, but a miraculous showing by Michal Neuvirth took the series to 6 games.
These past playoffs saw a very weak defensive Penguins team come into town and essentially nullify the scoring of the Flyers and it included a game 1 in which the Flyers looked completely flat and got shelled 7-0.
So what has that gotten this team? Since the big trades to revamp the core of this team in 2012, the Flyers have essentially regressed. Sure, they finished 3rd in the division this year, but that was masked by 14 OTL. The Flyers had the least wins out of any playoff team in the NHL this season, that is what I like to call impressive mediocrity.
Where does that leave the team now?
It leaves them with an offensive core that boasts massive talent, a defense that has top tier prospects already making an impact, and management that is still in a cycle of prioritizing draft picks overbuilding around the talent that’s already in place.
That won’t work.
Time to Bolster the Troops
You’ve probably heard John Tavares’ name thrown around for awhile now. Where’s he going? Is he going to re-sign on Long Island? Will he come to the Metro? Could the Flyers be in the running?
Well, to be frank, I don’t know the answers to all of those questions. I do know that he isn’t who the Flyers should be looking at in free agency, mainly because they have too many centers.
Ok, so a pass on Tavares.
The Flyers have $17 million in cap space. Of course, some of that will need to go to Provorov, whether the Flyers sign him this year or at the end of next season remains to be seen. Other than that, the Flyers have room to sign an impact player, and they need to.
No more taking in bad contracts, no more slow veterans, no more bad defensemen.
Claude Giroux proved last season that he is still very much an elite player in this league. He’s already 30 years old and certainly isn’t going to be able to produce at that level for much longer. Jake Voracek has been a consistent producer for a few years now but is also getting up there in age. The Flyers need to surround these players with depth and guys that can not only anchor the 3rd and 4th line but guys that can pose a threat to score on those lines as well.
Think about it, if you were playing the Flyers this year, you only had to worry about 2 lines. That’s it. Things got so bad that when Filppula’s line was on the ice, it was considered a successful shift if they were able to neutralize the other team in their own end. There was never any threat of scoring from the bottom lines.
That’s where teams like Vegas, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Chicago (in years past) have excelled at wearing down their opponents and creating scoring chances. The deadweight contracts the Flyers have been taking in essentially have left them with 2 great lines and 2 lines. That has led to a fringe playoff team that can’t come close to competing with depth.
That needs to be addressed this summer, and it isn’t going to be fixed if the Flyers don’t go out and spend some money.
Even the recent news today that Artemi Panarin is on the market is something that should get Ron Hextall on the phone immediately. The Flyers have more than enough assets to trade for a guy like that, and doing so would put them in a position where they could roll Giroux, Couturier, Konecny on the first line. Voracek, Patrick, and Panarin on the second line.
A trade like that would still leave the Flyers with plenty of cap space to fill out the bottom six with impact players. That’s without even considering that maybe the Flyers could package one of their bad contracts (Lehtera, Weise, MacDonald) and send them to Columbus as part of the deal.
That isn’t even considering that the Flyers have plenty of other options to explore in free agency such as James vanRiemsdyk, David Perron, or Tyler Bozak, among many others.
Now, of course, the Flyers do have a very valuable asset in the form of Wayne Simmonds. Given that there is one year left on his contract, and re-signing him seems to be up in the air, the Flyers could package him at the draft for a package of speedy youngsters that could complement the core the Flyers have in place.
Of course, all of this is wishful thinking right now. The only notable news we have heard is that Ron Hextall would be open to bringing back Valtteri Filppula. He was one of the worst defensive players on the team this season.
The other notable news what that the Flyers have an interest in Paul Stastny, which in my own opinion would be a complete disaster. A signing like that would bring in an aging player who has below average speed and stats that were padded by a very good Winnipeg team and two great linemates. Almost eerily similar to Jori Lehtera.
The bottom line is that if the Flyers don’t want to be “four years away” from being a contender for the rest of their existence, then they need to stop being timid and bring in players who will support the guys they have in place right now.
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