Yabba Dabba Do! Hockey is back!! That’s right. Nine months of speed, physicality, passion, honor, and grit begins tonight.
I’m not so positive those adjectives will be used to describe the Flyer’s season – but I’m hoping for maybe 3 of the 5. The Flyers are stuck in a strange area for hockey teams. They are still aiming to compete, so it’s not a rebuild. But they are not a contending team, so don’t expect to see an Eastern Conference Final this season. The Flyers, since Dave Hakstol has become head coach, have seemed to entertain the goal of just getting to the playoffs. Sure, that may be every teams regular season ‘goal’, but it’s just odd to feel that way about your squad when you never really had a complete ‘rebuild’.
We all know Shayne Gostisbehere’s call-up magic lead the Flyers to the playoffs during Hakstol’s first season. And we all know how, regardless of a ten-game winning streak last season, the team fell just short of the post season. This season is different. It may have some bumps in the beginning, but injuries pending, I think this team will make the playoffs this season. So here we go, another optimistic Flyers preview that will probably blow up in my face…
What we can expect from, and why they will be better…
- Our 4th line alone is a sign of offensive expectations to rise this season. Chris Vandevelde and Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare being replaced by the likes of Taylor Leier and Scott Laughton is a fabulous sight to see. And they really don’t have to perform that well to surpass what Vandy and Belly brought to the team (a combined 23 total points in 2016-2017 to be exact!)
- Nolan Patrick! The Flyers were blessed with punching the lottery ticket to obtain the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. This potential top NHL talent was handed to us for free’99. He’ll be centering the 2nd line and will aim to make a name for himself in this rookie season.
- Giroux at the wing!? I liked what I saw from Giroux during the preseason. His speed seems to be back (or at least improved from last season), and his decision making seems to be aligned with Couturier’s on ice positioning. Plus, people have been saying for years now that if Couturier could just get some solid wingers, he would be able to produce more offensively. You can’t ask for better linemate’s on this squad, so look for an improvement on his end as well.
- Brian Elliot is Steve Mason. That is all
- Our defense will look much different this season…eventually. The opening roster doesn’t show much of a change, with only Robert Hagg being the new addition. But throughout the season, with inevitable injuries and possible daily scratches, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim should see a decent amount of time up on the Flyers this season.
- PP2! Our second power play unit looked leaps and bounds better this preseason then how it looked in seasons of late. Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, and Jordan Weal…are you kidding me!? Just looking at that 5-man set is arousing. With this year’s rule changes in the faceoff circle, increased attention to slashing, and the coaches challenge, we could be seeing a lot more of our power play units. And with two solid units, the chances of us capitalizing increase. Stay woke non-analytics people.
- #BounceBackSZN – this is the year some people on the team will have the oppurtuntiy for that bounce back. Claude Giroux highlight’s this list, but others include Vorcek (recurring), Dale Weise, and even Valterri Filppula.
Overall, this team is better on paper. If we just fell short of the playoffs last season, it is reasonable to say that with the improved squad, we should have a solid chance at making the playoffs this season. Will we have another ten-game winning streak to boost our numbers? Probably not. Will all aspects of this team turn out to be better than last year’s squad? Probably not.
With the tough opening schedule, and the new additions to the roster – don’t be surprised if this club starts out below .500 for the first quarter of the season. I think they will be able to adapt quicker than that, but I just want to throw out the PSA not to show up at the Wells Fargo Center with pitchfork’s calling for the team to sell, sell, sell if they start out slow. The talent is here, and the chemistry will evolve as the season progress’s.
Opening Lineup and Individual Season Predictions:
Claude Giroux (16G, 52A, 68P) – Sean Couturier (28G, 24A, 52P) – Jake Voracek (22G, 38A, 60P)
Jordan Weal (20G, 25A, 45P) – Nolan Patrick (23G, 36A, 58P) – Wayne Simmonds (29G, 27A, 56P)
Dale Weise (13G, 20A, 33P) – Valtteri Filppula (18G, 22A, 40P) – Travis Konecny (22G, 26A, 48P)
Taylor Leier (11G, 17A, 28P) – Scott Laughton (8G, 19A, 27P) – Michael Raffl (10G, 21A, 31P)
Ivan Provorov (10G, 32A, 42P) – Andrew Maconald (5G, 22A, 27P)
Shayne Gostisbehere (12G, 30A, 42P) – Robert Hagg (7G, 25A, 32P)
Brandon Manning (5G, 15A, 20P) – Radko Gudas (6G, 22A, 28P)
Brian Elliot (30W, .916 SV%)
Michael Nuevirth (14W, .897 SV%)
Philadelphia Flyers: 41-28-13
Happy Hockey Day everyone, Go Flyers!