The Philadelphia Flyers are what they are. As of now, they’re not a very good hockey team that’s struggled in their first two games. They lost their first game in overtime and were just blown out 7-1 against the Florida Panthers. Later today the Flyers have their shot at redemption as their home opener at 7:00 is against the Panthers once again.
But expectations need to be clarified for this team. How many people are expecting them to make the playoffs? I’m certainly not, at least not yet.
General manager Ron Hextall has done some fantastic work with the situation he took over. The Flyers are a much better team than they were just a calendar year ago and it’s because Hextall is willing to do what very few GMs are willing to do. He is willing to put the best team on the ice, regardless of their salaries.
Just consider some of the contracts that were already signed when he took over.
How to lose your GM job in 4 years:
Bryzgalov 2011 – 9yr, $51m
Lecavalier 2013 – 5yr, $22.5m
MacDonald 2014 – 6yr, $30m
— Ryan Bright (@philabright) October 5, 2015
Hextall has shown a willingness to work closely with head coach Dave Hakstol and make moves that are best for their club. Andrew MacDonald was waived and not because the $950,000 in cap space significantly helps, but so there is no pressure to play the underwhelming defender. The Flyers didn’t need to trade Chris Pronger’s contract, but when presented with the opportunity to acquire the polarizing, but talented Sam Ganger, Hextall took the chance.
Hakstol’s Flyers Are Still Adjusting
Through two games, the Flyers have yet to play the exact same lineup and it won’t start later today. Sam Gagner and Radko Gudas were healthy scratches in the first two games, but they will have the chance to suit up tonight. It’s a continuation of the Flyers doing what’s best for the team and that’s not necessarily according to their salary cap.
Vincent Lecavalier has had a phenomenal career and will be a legend in Tampa Bay Lightning history, but since signing his five-year/$22.5 million contract, he’s been awful. However, through two games, Lecavalier has yet to step onto the ice. There are theories about how the Flyers can jump-start his production, but he needs to be on the ice first.
Regardless of his contract or his reputation, this is just another example of Hextall and Hakstol doing what’s necessary to improve their hockey team, regardless of public perception.
As of now, do the Flyers look like a playoff team? No they do not, but with the crafty moves their GM and coach have been making it’s not impossible to consider that they are a dark horse to capture a wild-card. The Flyers certainly aren’t the best team within the deep Metropolitan division, but they have a chance to make the playoffs as a wild card team. Much of their season will depend on how well goaltender Steve Mason performs. He was one of the best goaltenders in the league last season, without any defense being played in front of him. Mason won’t play later today due to a personal family matter, but as the season progresses, look for his play to dramatically improve.
The Flyers don’t have a great chance to make the playoffs, but they have a chance and that’s enough for Hextall and Hakstol to do everything in their power to make this a reality.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave your comments below or tweet me anytime @MPityk
Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers