Following another first-round playoff exit, the Flyers enter a new season in Las Vegas against the defending Western Conference Champion Knights. During the offseason, the Flyers made some changes, both personnel wise and culturally. From adding the viral sensation of a mascot in “Gritty”, to the return of James Van Riemsdyk and the increased role for players like Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny, the Flyers have a lot to look forward to this season.
For so long, the Flyers have been stuck in hockey purgatory. With these changes, the organization hopes to finally climb out of the depths of mediocrity to become one of the NHL’s best. Following the Phantoms making the Calder Cup, the potential of this youth is as ample as ever. With their combination of veterans and young guys, are the Flyers ready to take that step into serious contention this year? Here are a few keys to ensuring that happens.
Forget about last season:
After watching key players like Wayne Simmonds and goaltender Brian Elliot struggle last season, it’s imperative that they have bounce back seasons in 2018. With pressure for a new contract on both players and the constantly improving youth, the friendly competition will only lead to good things for the Broad Street Bullies. Captain Claude Giroux came around last season with 102 points, which was good enough for second most in the league, only behind Connor McDavid of the Oilers. Some of these veterans should take a page out of his book if they want to remain on the roster after this season.
Golatending has been a struggle with the Flyers for as long as I can remember. But, it finally looks like the Flyers may have found their answer. Both Alex Lyon and Carter Hart of the Phantoms have been all the buzz amongst fans this Summer. Flyers fans have been clammering for a solid goaltender for nearly 30 years, really since Hextall left. Elliott had his fair share of ups and down last season with a .909 save percentage for the season, so hopefully this injection of youth will help the goaltending situation. With the recent success of the goaltending in Lehigh Valley, fans are eager to see when Hextall finally brings up one of the young guns.
Hakstol and company:
Ever since the new regime took over the Flyers, it has been a slow and steady approach. Hextall was welcomed with open arms, as he brought in current coach Dave Hakstol along with him. Following his college success, he hasn’t really lived up to the hype in the NHL. While the front office has been committed to both since they’ve joined the team, the clock is ticking, and Philly fans aren’t exactly the most patient fan base.
Every season, fans deal with the same inconsistency as the year prior. It’s becoming a vicious cycle that the Flyers need to desperately get out of. Hextall was quoted saying this over the summer
“[T]his is a bit of a slow process. Four years ago, again, when we started…really Ivan and Travis were the starts of the kind of the turnover. It’s only two years ago. So it sorta took two years to kinda get wheels in motion, and we’re…we’re on plan.”
Obviously, nothing is going to happen in a day, but it’s going on 4 years now. If Hextall and company cannot find a way to get out of this constant cycle of fighting for the final playoff spot, change may be coming sooner rather than later.
The return of JVR:
The Flyers second overall pick from 2007 is back after trading him away for defenseman Luke Schenn back in 2012. He didn’t necessarily turn out the way the team wanted, and they moved him for a team need at the time. After playing in Toronto for the past few years, he seems to be a much-improved player and can bring much-needed scoring to the Flyers’ offensive attack. He put up a solid 54 points last season, and the Flyers are hoping he can provide them with similar production this season.
At the end of the day, the Flyers must take that next step this season. They have been working toward this moment for years, and with their farm system finally paying dividends, it’s now or never for the Flyers. No matter what happens, we’re in for an exciting season in the competitive Atlantic division.