April 06, 2017
For the third time in the last five years, the Flyers are going to miss the playoffs. April without playoff hockey is like an entire year without college basketball, for me. And honestly, it isn’t such a bad thing.
Patience. That’s what Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has been preaching since he took over for Paul Holmgren, and to his credit, he has stuck to that.
It is always important for an organization to have a plan. Out of the four teams in Philadelphia, the Flyers and Sixers arguably have the most visible paths they are taking to winning.
While the Sixers have lost purposefully to get better, the Flyers have remained competitive while building a strong minor league system and not making any rash moves like the ones that have always come in the past. Calling R.J. Umberger …
2015-16 was an overachieving season for the Flyers, who snuck into the playoffs, only to lose to the top seeded Washington Capitals in six games.
My overall viewpoint on the Flyers as a whole this season was that they still are at least three players away from being reasonably above average. Right now, they stand at average. And despite a 10 game win streak early in the season, they have been average all year, to me.
The defense lacks defensive-minded defensemen. The offense, most notably the top line of Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and a rotating cast of wings, has been horrible in even strength play. The goalie situation is still in flux.
So I ask you, why is this team a playoff team?
If based on solely last season, that’s poor logic. They should not have made the playoffs last year. They did, and they lost early. Was it worth losing a higher draft pick?
To me, Dave Hakstol has done a phenomenal job in two years as head coach of the Flyers, keeping them competitive while visibly not having much to work with. And I cringe when I see Flyers fans on social media, or hear them on talk radio, that want Hakstol fired because of missing the playoffs this year.
Again, that is incredibly flawed logic that mirror the thought process of the organization (and the fan base) for the past 40-plus years without a Stanley Cup title. That old logic is gone. A new “Flyer way” has been instituted.
While he’s made some questionable lineup decisions, Hak isn’t going anywhere.
So, in this upcoming offseason, here are some of the things I would do to reshape the Flyers.
First off, let me point out the four players I would have as untouchable within the Flyers NHL roster right now: Wayne Simmonds, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Nick Cousins.
That being said, I would be more than willing to dangle a vast majority of the team on the trade market, including Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.
Simmonds provides the most value in return, but I view him as a future captain in two or three years. He is itching toward the 30 year old plateau, but his leadership, effort, power play ability and grit make him untouchable for me.
In terms of Giroux, he carries an $8.275 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season. That’s a difficult spot for the Flyers. I’ll be the first to say that I have a soft spot for the captain. He’s provided me with some of my favorite hockey moments early in my life, but we have to look at this objectively.
Any team that has a clue, that has done their homework and watched Giroux the past two seasons can see that he’s lost a step. To take on an $8.275 million cap hit with having the Flyers, on the other end, expecting a fortune in return, likely won’t happen.
The Flyers currently have 16 players under contract for 2017-18. Looking ahead, I am hoping that Matt Read, while under contract, does not return next season. He could be an interesting option for the expansion franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, to go after in the expansion draft, assuming that the Flyers do not protect him.
I would be doing whatever possible to make sure that, if developed and ready, Sam Morin, Oskar Lindblom, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim all have spots on the roster if they can make the team better.
Goalie Anthony Stolarz should also have a spot on the roster, which would likely mean not resigning Steve Mason this summer.
With wiggle room thin, Hextall is going to have to be creative in this upcoming offseason.
Missing the playoffs is never acceptable and patience cords are beginning to run thin throughout the fan base, so this offseason is the time to flip the switch, and turn towards becoming a legitimate team for years to come.