The Philadelphia Flyers had a rough year last season in the realigned MassMutual East Division, finishing sixth out of eight. They had high hopes after their 2019-20 season where they finished sixth in the entire league. A successful season would entail not only returning to the postseason, but doing some damage once in and pushing on to at least the second round. It’s not a lot to ask to qualify for the playoffs, but getting to that point is a start and shows the team is moving in the right direction after last season.
This drop-off had to do with multiple things factoring in, from goaltender performance, stars not showing up, and opponents. They will look to bounce back in a major way after failing to make the playoffs. An interesting point to follow is that the Flyers have flip flopped between making and missing the playoffs the following year in 10 consecutive seasons now. Following the trend, 2021-22 is the season where they bounce back and qualify for postseason action.
Something went horribly wrong with Hart last season and it didn’t help the Flyers one bit. After seeming like the savior in net after so long, everything blew up. His first two seasons saw him record a .917 and .914 save percentage (SV%) with a combined 11.5 goals saves above average (GSAA). A disastrous 2020-21 saw the stats plummet to a .877 SV% and -22.5 GSAA, the worst in the league.
Hart will need to be much better this season if the Flyers have any chance of competing in the Metropolitan Division, along with another return to form in recently acquired Martin Jones. What will help both goalies will be the defensive corps that the Flyers have reassembled in order to not repeat last season. With the additions of Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen, it will help the team defensively. The Flyers also held onto their No. 1 defenceman Ivan Provorov, defensive defenceman Justin Braun, and gifted young Travis Sanheim. This should result in a better look than Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Philippe Myers, and Erik Gustafsson gave them, as the general thought was about scoring more than protecting.
Hart’s contract shows that the Flyers have hope that he will turn out to be the goalie they have seen in the past. A fair deal after how he performed over his first three seasons in the NHL. For both the team and player’s sake, he will figure it out and help the Flyers compete for a Stanley Cup while their window is open.
A Return to the Playoffs
As mentioned earlier, qualifying for the playoffs won’t just be enough to have confidence in this team moving forward. It is a good start after missing out last year, though. Everyone knows that anything can happen once the postseason starts, and it is essentially a new season. Misfortunes can happen to any team, but a team can always create the opportunity for success. This is what the Flyers have to do in 2021-22.
With one of the most spread out lineups in the NHL, threats can come from anywhere on the ice at any time. The Flyers’ deep team should give them an advantage most nights, and if everyone holds their own, many hockey games will be won this season. The division will be tough once again with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils expected to be even more competitive and enter the fray.
New Faces & Better Results
Hart isn’t the only one who the Flyers need better results from this season. A few other names that come to mind are Jones, Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, and Travis Konecny. The first three names mentioned are hoping that a change in scenery bodes well, while Konecny looks to once again play like a first-line player and be a 20-goal scorer for the fourth time in his career.
Jones fell off after an excellent first five seasons in the NHL. He has failed to exceed a .896 SV% with the San Jose Sharks in the three seasons following. What hasn’t helped with that is a combined -49.6 GSAA on an aging team that is on the decline. A new opportunity presents itself as a backup and also a chance to compete for a spot with Hart if last season’s struggles carry over.
Ristolainen’s entire career has been played on a team that has been at the bottom of the standings. As a result, confidence in his game has been low over the past couple of seasons. Being a part of this great group should build his confidence back up and provide the Flyers with another point-producing defenceman who can eat minutes.
A player known to take his game to the next level come playoff time, the addition of Atkinson can be key to a deeper playoff run. In 35 postseason games, he has recorded 10 goals and 26 points on a Columbus team that was heavily defensive-minded. The past two seasons have been tough during the regular season, though. A regressing team and lack of cast around stunted the production. However, with the emergence of Joel Farabee and the stellar two-way game of Kevin Hayes, they should form a formidable line and be a force in 2021-22.
After a breakout campaign in 2019-20 with just under a point per game, Konecny struggled last season. He was a streaky player and disappeared at times. The Flyers need the player that they had gotten used to and compete at a high level to earn his top-line minutes.
After much needed changes to the team, the Flyers hope that this is the season to take the next step and have success. They will have their work cut out for them, but if the team is firing on all cylinders, it will be an entertaining one to watch and keep up with. The goal should be to win the Stanley Cup, as they don’t have too many more solid years ahead from their captain Claude Giroux and last season’s leading scorer on the team, James van Riemsdyk.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he will be informing you on the best weekly options for your matchups to begin the week and mid-way. He will also keep you in the loop for weekly news and updates on the Oilers & Flyers.