The Philadelphia Flyers gained a new identity for the first time in 16 years, following the 2021-22 NHL trade deadline. Longtime forward and captain Claude Giroux, the centerpiece of the Flyers since being drafted 22nd overall in the 2006 Entry Draft, was no longer a member of the organization after being dealt ahead of Monday’s deadline. Giroux was traded to the Florida Panthers, along with Connor Bunnaman, German Rubtsov, and a 2024 fifth-round pick, in exchange for Owen Tippett, a 2024 first-round pick, and a 2023 third-round pick marking the end of his reign as captain of the Flyers.
Just days earlier, Giroux celebrated his 1000th career game.
“It was awesome,” Giroux said at the time. “I mean, the fans and the organization, my teammates, they’ve been so good to me for so many years. That’s one of the reasons why I was pretty emotional after the game.”
Now that Giroux is no longer at the helm of the Flyers’ ship, it is time for other players to step up and take on a bigger role. As difficult as this season has been, there is no better time to take charge, as the team is in desperate need of production and leadership from the young and veteran core heading into the next season. Regardless of where the team is in the standings there are still 20 games left to leave a positive impact on what has felt like a disaster of a season.
One of the more consistent and noteworthy points of this season, Carter Hart poured his heart and soul into improving over the course of the season. The 23-year-old franchise goaltender started 40 games this season, in which he posted 2.94 goals-against average (GAA) and .911 save percentage (SV%). Hart won 13 of the 41 games he played in so far, but that is not a reflection of his play this season. He is one of the hardest-working players on the team.
In his best start of the season, Hart set a new career-best with 47 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights two weeks ago. The record-setting game showed how hard he has worked all season to put the team in a better spot. He might not have won as many games as he would like, but that is not going to stop him from battling every single game.
“I think we’ve done a really good job these last couple of weeks of just sticking to the process, coming to work every day, and just battling,” Hart said. “And that’s all you can do — give your best, compete and work your nuts off.”
In the final 20 games of the season, he will look to build upon his recent success moving into next season. Hart will enter his fifth full season as the Flyers’ number one starter so the remainder of this season is more important than ever.
After being acquired by the Flyers at the deadline, Owen Tippett is the newest member of the team. The 23-year-old forward played 95 career games with the Florida Panthers, in which he posted 33 points (14 Goals and 19 Assists). Prior to being drafted 10th overall by the Panthers in the 2017 draft, he was thought to be one of the best overall forwards available in the draft.
Although he was the return for the beloved captain of the Flyers, Tippett has an opportunity for a fresh start with a new team. The Flyers believe is going to be a huge addition to their young core, as interim head coach Mike Yeo spoke highly of the newly added forward after his debut in Philadelphia Sunday against the New York Islanders.
“When we played against him earlier, I noticed a – I’ll use the terminology ‘weight,’ to his game in the sense that he’s strong on the puck, competitive with the puck,” Yeo said. “The kind of guy that can protect it and hang on to it and force you to be real strong in your checking game. He’s a shooter, he wants to shoot it and he has a great shot.”
The shoot first mentality is something the team lacked for quite some time, so he is the perfect addition to a struggling lineup. In a two-game sample with the team, he has impressed so far after putting up four quality scoring chances on net. Heading into next season, there will hopefully be a little bit of hype surrounding him as he will play a crucial role in making this team successful.
After missing a majority of the season due to an abdominal injury, forward Kevin Hayes finally returned to the Flyers lineup on March 5. Since returning, he has collected seven points (four goals and three assists). He was a huge part of the teams’ success over the last two seasons, so it is nice to have him fully healthy for the first time in more than a year (from ‘‘Kevin Hayes eager to return on Saturday vs. Blackhawks,’ The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/4/2022).
“I know I downplayed the previous surgeries, but I was just very frustrated that I couldn’t really get back to where I was at before and I’ve been dealing with it for a couple of years now,” Hayes said.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a while, and I can just feel it skating up the ice pre-practice,” he said. “When you’re striding and you don’t feel a tug in your leg or a pain in your upper groin, it’s nice. And when you actually skate full speed without pain, it feels nice.”
Having him back in the lineup is a huge addition for the team, especially now that Giroux has moved on. His leadership and goal-scoring abilities have always made him popular in the locker room. Though bouncing back from such a difficult injury can be tough, he is more than capable of putting up numbers down the stretch. Heading into next season, he will be looked at as one of the most important scorings forwards.
The remainder of the season is the perfect opportunity for the team to regroup heading into the offseason. While this season has already not gone as planned for the Flyers, this offseason will be as important as ever as expectations will be set higher than usual so hopefully, this team will be able to live up to it.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator and serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo in articles like this one.