Our Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The Flyers continued their pattern of good year bad year last year. Last year was a bad year. I actually thought they’d break the pattern because on paper they looked like a contender, having finished second in the metro in 2019-2020. They ended up with a 25-23-8 record and 58 points, which placed them at 6th in the East Division. This team really flip flops between years from looking amazing and looking god awful. Last year was the latter.
Goals for was middle of the pack at 163 goals for and 16th in the league, however the goals against was 201 and 31st in the league. They were the worst in the league in this regard. Special teams also was an issue. The powerplay was only 19.16% effective and the penalty kill was 73.05%. Both below league average. The powerplay was pretty run of the mill placing 18th in the league, but that penalty kill was 30th in the league. This speaks to an issue of the team not being able to outscore their problems.
Defense and goaltending were the real issues for the team. Brian Elliott actually made the most starts, 26, had 15 wins, a 3.06 goals against average, and a 0.889 save percentage. Carter Hart really struggled. He made 25 starts, only 9 wins, a 3.67 goals against average, and a 0.877 save percentage. They also had Alex Lyon who made 6 appearances and was also at 3.33 goals against per game, and a 0.893 save percentage. So all the goalies of the team were sub 900 save percentage and above 3 goals against per game. Not a great look. Some of this is explained by a shaky defense, but Hart had a goals saved above average of -22.6 and Elliot -14.0. So they both were not good enough at the end of the day.
The defense was shaky and the goaltending was poor. So good thing the team overhauled the blueline and brought in a new backup for Carter Hart right?
The team made a bunch of trades. They acquired Ryan Ellis from Nashville for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick (who was flipped to Vegas). They traded out Shayne Gostisbehere and his contract to the Arizona Coyotes, alongside a 2022 2nd, and a 2022 7th for nothing coming back. They acquired Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo for Robert Hagg, a 2021 1st, and a 2023 2nd. Lastly they traded out Jakub Voracek to Columbus in a one for one trade for Cam Atkinson.
They also signed free agent Martin Jones to bring some stability to the crease…
I’m not kidding they actually signed him.
- Ryan Ellis
- Rasmus Ristolainen
- Martin Jones
- Cam Atkinson
- Keith Yandle
- Nate Thompson
- Derick Brassard
- Adam Clendening
- Shayne Gostisbehere
- Nolan Patrick
- Brian Elliot
- Philippe Myers
- Jakub Voracek
- Robert Hagg
- Carsen Twarynski
- Alex Lyon
I see the Flyers as having a strong forward group, which is good because there is some definite uncertainty in the defense and goaltending again this season. However, there are still a few questions going into the season. How will the lines be drawn up by Alain Vigneault this season?
James van Reimsdyk, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek all led the team in points with 43 last season. Sean Couturier had 41, and Joel Farabee 38. With Voracek gone a spot opens up in the top six. Does the man he was traded for take that spot on a line with Giroux and Couturier? Cam Atkinson would defintely bring some speed to that line, and he has hit the 40 goal mark before, although that was in 2018-2019. Anyone who can score 41 goals on a team coached by John Tortorella should definitely be considered as a gifted offensive player. He should earn a spot in the top six somewhere.
Joel Farabee had himself a great season, hitting the 20 goal mark in 55 games. The young winger should see time within the top six, but there are a lot of other players looking for that ice time. James van Reimsdyk had a great season, definitely improving on his points pace from previous seasons.
The top six will likely be some sort of combination of James van Reimsdyk, Claude Giroux, Cam Atkinson, Sean Couterier, Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny. Kevin Hayes is out 6-8 weeks for the start of the season after abdominal surgery, but once he’s back he might enter the top 6 also. If he keeps that rolling he makes a strong case to play the net front spot in the middle six. Travis Konecny had a great 2019-2020 season with 61 points in 66 games. Last season he only had 34 in 50. He didn’t really have a consistent home on a line all season. Does he crack the top six now on this team? Does Giroux move into a centre spot or does the young Morgan Frost who’s still looking to impress at the NHL level fill in?
Whatever the head coach decides to go with for lines, nobody can say the talent isn’t there to create a very strong top 9 and a hard working fourth line. The team has Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard as options on the third line. They’ve also got Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and Nate Thompson for fourth liners. They’ve also got Wade Allison who filled in pretty well last season who is looking for a permanent spot.
The team really struggled to provide defense and keep pucks out of the net. They bid farewell to Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers. They added Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle. Is this a blueline that will do a better job of keeping pucks out of the net? It’s tough to tell. Yandle seems like an almost one for one replacement of Gostisbehere, but has a much more palatable contract. Ristolainen has had terrible defensive advanced stat numbers throughout his career in Buffalo. How will he look on a new team?
Ryan Ellis will be a great addition to the blueline. This is the no questions asked great move. He should really add stability here. He and Ivan Provorov could make for an amazing first pairing.
Travis Sanheim and Justin Braun remain on the team, and will be on the second and third pairing respectively. I’m guessing that Ristolainen plays with Sanheim and Yandle with Braun on the third pairing.
Samuel Morin, Adam Clendening and 20 year old Cam York could all see time in the lineup as well.
This blueline should provide a tonne of offense, so it could be fun to watch in the attacking zone, but in the defensive zone we will have to wait and see.
This is where it can really go off the rails for Philly. Carter Hart’s numbers from last year hurt to look at, he had a rough season and needs to bounce back. His numbers from a season before were pretty good though. Through all of this it’s difficult to remember he’s only 23 years old. He’s got time to find his game. He’s talented enough to bounce back and I think he does. He’ll get the bulk of starts this season, and he won’t have Brian Elliott around to help him out.
Instead, he’ll have Martin Jones. Jones’ numbers were actually better than Hart’s last season. Over 34 games he posted a 3.28 goals against and a 0.896 save percentage on the San Jose Sharks. What is worrying about Jones over Hart though, is Jones’ last three seasons have a sub 900 save percentage and a goals against average of around 3 goals per game. Hart is only one season removed from good numbers, whereas Jones last looked like an NHL caliber starter in 2018-2019. I think that’s what is the important takeaway here, starter. Jones needed to get out of San Jose, and I think he needed to move into a backup role to find his game. In Philly he may be relied upon for 30-35 starts or so over a full season for the team instead of almost every game like he had been doing in San Jose.
I hope both Jones and Hart find their games this season. If they do, Philly looks like a genius for holding on with Hart and signing Jones. If they don’t, well the streak of one good year and one bad year could break.
Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 Prediction
4th-6th Metro Division
Philly alternates good and bad seasons. They missed playoffs last season so they are due for a good season and a playoff berth. They’ve tweaked the offense slightly adding Atkinson and Brassard, and have totally revamped the blueline with Ellis, Ristolainen and Yandle. I’m not sure if the blueline is any better at defending, but they should be able to provide more offense. since they were league worst at goals against last season they really can’t go anywhere but up (unless they go from 31st to 32nd). The goaltending situation is tenuous at best, looking for bounce backs in not one, but two goalies. Despite all of this Philly’s strong forward core could sneak them into a playoff spot. They’ll need to boost powerplay production and to get some timely saves from their dup in net, but I think they’ll be a competitive team this season.
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