There are mixed feelings about how the Philadelphia Flyers are going to perform next season. With a healthier squad and a new head coach, things could be looking up. But at the same time, the team didn’t make any big additions up front to help their 31st-ranked offense. It should be a very interesting season and one that hinges on more than a few things going right. Here are three hot takes that would very much help their cause in returning to the playoffs in 2022-23.
Owen Tippett Breaks Out for 40-Plus Points
Owen Tippett will get handed a great opportunity next season with the lack of high-end acquisitions at forward to get in his way. He played 21 games for the Flyers to end the 2021-22 season and led the team in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) with 53.62 (among anyone who played 21 games or more). He may just start out on the third line playing alongside Morgan Frost and possibly Noah Cates since they formed a formidable trio last season.
There isn’t a ton of room to grow on the right side since the Flyers have Cam Atkinson and Travis Konecny, but Tippett could also force his way into the mix with a strong showing, as he is the youngest with arguably the most potential. The opportunity comes with no key additions up front and with the Flyers’ need to make changes to their power play in order to finish higher than last place in the league.
What will help the former first-round pick reach his potential is his ability to shoot the puck. Whether that is at five-on-five with decent matchups against opponents’ third lines and lower defense pairings or getting a chance on the power play. He must improve his shooting percentage, too, as he has been described as a natural goal-scorer. Shots haven’t been going in as easily for him with a shooting percentage of just 7.9 in his career, but he has scored at every level up to the NHL, so doubling his career goals and points isn’t out of the realm of possibility (from ‘Owen Tippett seizing chance for fresh start,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/26/2022).
Provorov Returns to No. 1 Form Under Tortorella
John Tortorella could help the Flyers in a major way, from changing the culture to getting the most out of a roster that is just mediocre but has potential. At the forefront of who needs to revert back to number one form is Ivan Provorov (from “Tocchet: Provorov has ‘capability to be a top defenseman in this league,” NBC Sports Philadelphia, 8/3/22). The last few seasons haven’t been kind to him as he’s gone from the Flyers’ number one defenseman to another top-four option who may not be a part of the solution.
The 25-year-old’s last good season came in 2019-20, the last time the Flyers qualified for the playoffs. He was trending up and had already finished two seasons with 13 or more goals. Provorov even received some Norris Trophy votes, as it seems as though his best two seasons have come in the two seasons the Flyers have been a playoff team. For the others, he struggled and got lost in the mix, receiving tons of criticism for not helping take the team back to the postseason.
Hockey is a team game, and one player cannot have that much of an impact to solely take a team to the postseason if everything else is going wrong. But a number one defenseman has a responsibility, and Provorov still plays on the top pairing no matter what and logs the most ice time in all situations. Tortorella should get more out of Provorov and hopefully give him the confidence he has lost to perform at his best; a real top-four defenseman alongside Provorov won’t hurt either.
The Flyers’ defenseman can shoot the puck and is still very skilled despite a couple of down seasons by his standards and the ones he’s been held to by the team and the fanbase. He will bounce back with 10-plus goals, have a positive plus/minus, and get back to the more physical game he played earlier in his career, whether the Flyers make the playoffs or not.
Flyers Finish as a Top 10 Team Defensively
It is a tough feat to be a good team defensively, but Tortorella has been able to shape his former teams into playing hard in their own end. It may start with the system and what the Flyers’ new head coach implements, but it also relies on the team staying healthy. Sean Couturier played just 29 games last season, and that hurts to lose the team’s top centerman and one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. The Flyers were also without Ryan Ellis for all but four games, while Kevin Hayes played 48 games. These other two may not have had as big of an impact defensively as Couturier, because there are few like him, but their absences still left a mark.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Flyers will improve defensively and allow much fewer goals in 2022-23, as there are not many places they can go but up after finishing 27th in 2021-22. Carter Hart took a step in the right direction last season after a disastrous 2019-20 and should get a big boost next season. Felix Sandstrom had an impressive showing in his short stint to end last season despite going winless in five starts. He will look to improve on that and prove himself in a big year.
The defense is also improved, even if Ellis misses the entire season once again. General manager Chuck Fletcher used the team’s available money to trade for Tony DeAngelo and sign him to a two-year contract. He also brought back Justin Braun, while Cam York has an NHL season under his belt and should only get better. When healthy, the Flyers’ top-six defensemen look very good as they have all the bases covered. Tortorella’s coaching will come into effect and hopefully elevate players like Provorov and Ristolainen, who had down seasons.
The Flyers will improve, but what remains to be seen is by how much. Will the team be able to climb their way out of the dumps and get back into playoff contention? One or more big things need to happen, and any of these hot takes coming true will play a major part in that.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.