When the Flyers recalled rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere on November 14th, about six weeks into the season, the team was 5-8-3 and had just passed through a 6-game losing streak and lost the previous two games before the recall and things were looking somewhat bleak. Arguably, the recall was the turning point of the season, no matter how early it was.
A late-season injury to number two (or 1B) goalie, Michal Neuvirth, also really cast a spotlight on Steve Mason and he was the backstop to their run to the playoffs as well, which was quite notable, as the scoring prowess, which in previous years has been fairly substantial, dropped off noticeably in the 2016 season. The Flyers were really starting to win games from the back end out and then the offense kicked in. In the end, they were playing just that extra little bit better than their closest rivals for that playoff spot.
The Flyers have a knack of staying within themselves and keeping with the status quo, year over year. Their methods of building through trades and free agency has worked for them quite well, but they continue to fall short in the playoffs after some rocky regular seasons and they are in need of something that really brings together and solidifies their core. Will Gostisbehere be that guy?
The Flyers were not all that popular at this past year's draft, as only 12 were taken in September and no 1st round picks came out of Philadelphia, suggesting that there wasn't much faith that the Flyers were going to win a bundle of games. They did, however, offer up three 2nd round picks, which meant they were not going to be that bad. Week Nine saw a couple drops and a couple of picks, including Gostisbehere, which was a key turn in the pool. At Week Eighteen, the Flyers saw a drop and a pick, continuing to stay level. Still, somehow, the Flyers finished with 11 players on active teams.
It was a down year for Claude Giroux, finishing with only 67 points in 78 games for the Flyers, but he still led the team in pool points. Overall, he ranked 31st in scoring, which aptly made him into a 2nd round pick, if the draft was redone. Giroux was mired in a very big slump to start the season, but did finish strong to get where he was in the end.
Including Giroux, the Flyers had 10 players that were pool worthy, which meant that the pool was close to being bang-on for how much participation it needed in the year. After Giroux, Wayne Simoonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl all had worthy seasons and all of which were taken in the year. Simmonds had an excellent year, scoring 32 goals to lead the way.
On defense, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mark Streit were the only notable blueliners, finishing 17th and 70th in the positional scoring, which makes for a glaring problem in the team's depth and something that may need to be addressed in the off-season.
Both goalies, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, were deemed worthy, splitting the better part of the season and finishing 19th and 29th among all goalies, which is pretty good for one team. With this tandem signed on for another year, there is an expectation that we'll see much of the same in 2017.
What I Said Last Year, At This Time...
As for my prediction on their 2016 season, you might think that I would be a bit more hesitant with this team going forward, but I still think they have a lot of good pieces in play and maybe the coaching change would go a long way into moving some of these players further up the ranks. Vincent Lecavalier being the number one guy, who probably suffered the most, and was most vocal about it, might be looking to rebound next season, if he's still around. I think with this core group of guys: Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Couturier, Streit and Mason, this team can work their way back into the playoff picture in 2016 and they would be a good team to pick from again.
Well, a good team to pick from would be more in the 14-to-16 players range, so I dare say, they may have fallen short of being that team. Some key injuries may have kept some pool teams away from looking at the Flyers mid-season, plus their overall record was a bit sketchy, through the year. Maybe if there was another Waiver Draft after the trade deadline, it would have been a bit different.
2017 Pool Outlook
|Claude Giroux||8.275||Mark Streit||5.250||Steve Mason||4.100|
|Jakub Voracek||8.250||Shayne Gostisbehere||0.925||Michal Neuvirth||1.625|
|R.J. Umberger||4.600||Andrew MacDonald||5.000||Alex Lyon||0.925|
|Matt Read||3.625||Michael Del Zotto||3.875||Anthony Stolarz||0.753|
|Travis Konecny||0.925||Nick Schultz||2.250|
|Scott Laughton||0.863||Robert Hagg||0.925|
|Taylor Leier||0.780||Ivan Provorov||0.925|
|Nicolas Aube-Kubel||0.734||Travis Sanheim||0.925|
|Pierre-Edouard Bellemare||0.713||Samuel Morin||0.894|
|Chris VandeVelde||0.713||Christian Marti||0.793|
|Radel Fazleev||0.703||Reece Willcox||0.680|
|Cole Bardreau||0.680||Jesper Pettersson||0.645|
|Danick Martel||0.680||Philippe Myers||0.637|
The ususal suspects are all signed on and ready to go and I think we should expect that Michael Del Zotto should be able to return to the top portion of the table next season after his injury-filled 2016, so as a team to pick from, the Flyers should be good again next season. You'll have to work pretty hard to find a sleeper here, but if everything comes around, they might have one or two sneaky picks in there somewhere.
The Philadelphia Flyers could try to address their needs on the blueline with their youth, but their best prospects are still 19 or 20 years old, which may be a tad on the young side to make that jump. If there is one that we're really waiting to make a jump for the Flyers, it would be Ivan Provorov, who is currently taking his Brandon Wheat Kings to the Memorial Cup, as he has the most offensive upside of the bunch, but it could still be a bit early to jump on his stock. Keep an eye on him, but be 100% that he's going to play, if you're going to pick him.
Needs at the 2016 Entry Draft
With a glutton of good defenseman prospects in their system, the Flyers would be well-advised to see if they can find some more talent for their forward group, possibly finding a good power winger to come up the ranks in a year or two. Riley Tufte sounds like the kind of kid that would make an excellent Flyer down the road. He's already got a 6'5" frame at 18 years old and likes to use that size all over the ice, according to the scouts.
Free Agency and the Salary Cap
There's lots of work to be done with the Flyers free agency situation, but there isn't a great deal of space to deal with to get it all done.
Brayden Schenn and Radko Gudas are both restricted free agents this Summer, looking for new deals, while Sam Gagner, Ryan White and Evgeny Medvedev are all qualifying for unrestricted free agency this year. Some negotiations will be tougher than others, some will look for higher cap hits than others, but with $39.2 million set among the pool worthy players already, not including the lump contracts of R.J. Umberger, Andrew MacDonald and Matt Read, these Flyers need to readjust a bit before making a whole lot of deals.
The coaching change in the off-season may have needed a top end defenseman to get everything moving in the right direction and it appears that the Flyers have another one now. Now, the question becomes whether or not their depth can support the top-billed cast of this team, especially if it takes a little while to get fired up. The core group of players already signed will always give this side a chance to win, but they still need a couple more pieces to really solidify their spot as a contender in the East. Right now, I see them doing much of the same next year, because their hands are tied by their cap restrictions, so until that's all taken care of, they'll continue to battle for that last wild card spot.