Our Philadelphia Flyers 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
Philly is a team that alternates good seasons and bad seasons. Last year was good, so obviously they will have an off year this season. That’s it, write up over. I guess I owe it to the great fans of Philadelphia to continue, and if I didn’t I think Gritty would step in.
The Flyers were 7th in the league for both goals for and goals against ,which was a vast improvement over the 2018-2019 season where they were 17th in goals for and 29th in goals against. What was the reason for the improvement? I think it came down to a few things, but key amongst them were Kevin Hayes, Alain Vigneault and Carter Hart.
Kevin Hayes came in with what everyone thought was an overpayment signing, but he really added something the franchise was missing, a number two centre. Hayes instantly fit in with the club and also provided some solid leadership on the team. Hayes is known for keeping it loose, which has translated very well with the club, including his off ice relationship with Gritty.
Alain Vigneault had a successful first season with the Flyers. His staff of other fired head coaches, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien served him well. Having a competent head coach take the helm was important for this team and we could see the turn around in both ends of the ice compared to the squad’s performance the season before under Dave Hakstol and interim head coach Scott Gordon.
Carter Hart entered the season poised to take over the starter job full time from Brian Elliot. He didn’t disappoint the city of brotherly love. In 40 starts, Hart went 24-13-3 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.42 save percentage. His goals saved above average was 4.46. These may not seem like crazy good numbers, but you have to remember that Philadelphia has been cursed in net since Ron Hextall left the team as starting goaltender. At only 21 years old Carter Hart proved he is the future of the team and a valuable key piece of the team. Having a goaltender that you can rely upon keeps the team in close games and lets them steal a few hard earned victories. In the Metro Division last season that was crucial due to how competitive the division was.
Honorable mentions to the club’s success are Matt Niskanen and Travis Konecny. Niskanen came in exchange for Radko Gudas and he provided stability to the top defense pairing with Ivan Provorov. It seems like Niskanen’s history playing with other Russian Dmitry Orlov in Washington let him easily gel with Provorov. Niskanen was a stable defender for the team, and instantly improved the standard of play in front of Carter Hart. Travis Konecny set a career high of points in only 66 games. He was the team leader in points. The only blemish on his year was that he only had 7 points in the team’s 16 playoff games.
In December, Oskar Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. He was having a bit of a breakout season, with 11 goals and 18 points in 30 games. He hung the skates up for the season and began treatment. The support he got throughout the league was really heartwarming. You’d think hell would have to freeze over for the Pittsburgh Penguins to support a Philly player, but some things are bigger than the game, as the tweet below shows.
An amazing storyline was how Lindblom battled through to complete his treatment, became cancer free and returned to play with the team in the second round of playoffs. It reminded me a little bit of Mario Lemieux’s return speaking of the Penguins (okay last time I’ll reference them I swear).
The Flyers finished the season as on of the the hottest teams in the league. If the season kept going they likely would have surpassed the Capitals for first in the Metro Division. In February the team went 10-3-0 and in March before the break they went 4-1-0. I think the Flyers were really hit hard by the break and if they had rolled into playoffs like they were playing before the break who knows what would have happened. Instead they got knocked out in the second round by the New York Islanders in a game seven.
- Erik Gustafsson
- Matt Niskanen
- Tyler Pitlick
- Derek Grant
- Nate Thompson
Philadelphia Flyers Roster Preview
Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux formed the first line last season for Philly. These three were second, third and fourth on the team in points respectively. They all played every game for the team, and played the most minutes together 5on5 out of any line combinations for the team. Sean Couturier finally won a Selke trophy for the top defensive forward in the game after years of earning a few votes. These three will definitely comprise the top unit again.
The addition of Kevin Hayes really paid off for Philly. Adding him into the lineup meant Vigneault could keep that top unit together most of the time. His two way play allowed for Vigneault to have antother defensively sound forward in the top six along with Couturier. I’m thinking he will begin the season as the number two center with Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom on this flanks. James van Riemsdyk could crack the top six too.
Joel Farabee made his debut for the team and had 21 points in 52 games. In playoffs he looked pretty good tallying 5 points in 12 games. I’m thinking he will start the year on line 3 but could definitely move up in the lineup if he does well. Morgan Frost played in 20 games and had 7 points. We will likely get a better look at him this year.
The bottom six will be rounded out by Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aubé-Kubel.
One question on this roster is if Nolan Patrick will ever play hockey again. The poor guy is dealing with migraine issues and didn’t play at all last season. I know everyone is pulling for him to come back, and he would really provide some solid depth scoring on the team too.
Matt Niskanen seemed to retire out of nowhere. The loss of Niskanen sucks since he played so well with Ivan Provorov. Niskanen and Provorov played 933.28 minutes together 5on5. The next closest pairing was Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim at 545.25 minutes. How do you replace that short notice?
I guess the answer is Erik Gustafsson? If that’s the answer I don’t like it. Niskanen was always a defense first kind of guy and Gustafsson is barely a defenseman. He had a 60 point season in 2018-2019 and followed that up with 29 points last year. He should bring some offense to the blueline, but I’m unsure if he will have the same chemistry with Provorov as Nisky had. A good thing about Gustafsson is that he does play both sides of the ice, meaning he is a versatile addition. Also he had much better offense than one struggling defenseman on Philly, Shayne Gostisbehere.
Gostisbehere himself had a 65 point season in 2017-2018. Last season he had 12. He has slid down the depth chart in Philadelphia and with the addition of Gustafsson I wonder if he is trade bait at this point. He still has 3 seasons at $4.5 million per year left on his contract. His advanced stats are pretty decent, but he still had 57.1% offensive zone starts, which for a third pairing defenseman, kind of sucks. I think his contract stands out as one of the worst on the team and if he slides anymore down the depth charts he’ll be riding the pine. Oh, but he already is doing that. Vigneault scratched him for 11 playoff games and only dressed him for 5. Instead he opted into trusting Robert Hagg instead.
Since Sanheim and Myers have the second pairing locked down, Gostisbehere, Justin Braun and Robert Hagg will duke it out for the 5th and 6th spots in the lineup.
Carter Hart is the man for the team. He will likely play a lot of games because Brian Elliot has lost a step in his game. If Hart can keep up with the workload then the team could have Elliot play in a more manageable number of games. That is going to be hard to do this season with a compressed schedule. Elliot had a .899 save percentage and a -8.02 goals saved above average last season, so I think they’ll want to shelter the games he starts as much as possible.
Philadelphia Flyers 2020-2021 Prediction
1-3rd East Division
Philadelphia ended the season as one of the hottest teams around. They didn’t really shake things up too much this off season and will be looking to carry on where they left off. They’ve got a lot banking on Carter Hart playing like he did last year. With Brian Elliot as a backup, they really have no other options if that doesn’t pan out. That being said I think the Flyers will be extremely competitive in a tough division, and are one of my favourites to win the division.
That concludes our Philadelphia Flyers 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
Did you know we have a podcast? Click here to head to our episodes feed and see where you can listen to us talk hockey!