The Philadelphia Flyers have been locked in salary cap “jail” for the last few seasons, but general manager Ron Hextall has made some major strides. After just one season, it’s safe to say the Flyers are a vastly improved team and that is solely the work of Hextall. They still might have one of the priciest blue lines in the NHL today, but it’s certainly not one of the best in the league.
However, from where Philadelphia was a year ago, it’s easy to see they’re making a lot of progress. Scott Hartnell, Braydon Coburn and Zac Rinaldo have all been traded, as the Flyers attempt to get rid of their poor reputation of “goonery” on the ice. They made a big improvement in their head coach by firing Craig Berube and hiring Dave Hakstol.
The Takeaways From The Flyers 2014-15 Season
Let’s clear up a common misconception right away, the Flyers were a much better team than their 33-31-18 record showed. The biggest issue their team faced was actually during the shootout, as Philadelphia won three shootouts and lost 11. That’s an extra 11 points the team left on the ice because they faltered in a test of skill and assuming they win those, they finish the season with 95 points, three short of the last playoff team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This offseason Hextall has been taking care of business and showing that the Flyers are starting to “get it.” Both Sean couturier and Jakub Voracek have received lengthy contract extensions which solidifies their core for years to come. Goaltender Steve Mason was solid last season, they have the forward depth and adding Sam Gagner could be a bigger improvement than most realize.
There’s still a lot of work to be done and quite a bit of salary needs to be shredded before next offseason and the obvious candidate to move in a trade is defenseman Andrew MacDonald. The Flyers just signed him to a six-year/$30 million dollar contract last offseason, but that was not Hextall, it was his predecessor, Paul Holmgren’s work. It was a gross overpayment who’s statistics do not justify the kind of money he’s being paid.
Additionally, the Flyers currently have eight defensemen on their NHL roster, and that’s not counting first-round draft pick Ivan Provorov, who looks to make the team. Given MacDonald’s lack of a no-trade or no-movement clause, it’s easy to see he’s a prime candidate to be traded sooner rather than later. Considering the magic that Hextall pulled off by sending the contract of Chris Pronger to the Arizona Coyotes and returning Gagner, it’s not hard to consider the possibility that MacDonald is traded.
The good news for Flyers fans is that management is finally getting it and is in the middle of a very strong offseason, but the bad news is their work has just begun. Could Philadelphia compete for the playoffs during the upcoming season? From where we sit, it looks like they’ve got a great chance to make the playoffs under Hextall and Hakstol’s leadership.
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