The Philadelphia Flyers currently sit at 21-11-5, which is good for third in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the league. This holiday freeze gives us a chance to look back over the 2019-20 NHL season and see how far this team has come.
It has become extremely clear that the Flyers are their own holiday gift this year. A strong, bonded team all working towards a collective goal has translated through the locker room into an incredible on-ice product. Even through devastating injuries, this team has been able to rally and fight through a laundry list of challenges.
Strong play from Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek has mixed with the infusion of Matt Niskanen and Kevin Hayes to produce a Flyers team that is undoubtedly bound for playoff success. A goaltending tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott has steadied the team and allowed for more dynamic play in all three zones. A team performing this well, at this point in the season, is surely looking to outside sources to improve the team, but I believe the Flyers would be more suited to stand pat.
The Guys Have Stepped Up
Take a look at the recent play of Hayes and James van Riemsdyk. These guys, both with huge contracts, have recently begun to dismantle opposing teams. “JVR” has put up 23 points in 37 games this year which isn’t exactly what you want from a guy making $7 million per year. However, over his last five games, van Riemsdyk has tallied eight points, with five being goals. In the wake of injuries and when the team needed it most, van Riemsdyk has stepped up to contribute.
In a similar vein, Hayes has also stepped up his level of play over the last few weeks. His best plays don’t always show up on the scoresheet, though. He is a monster in the faceoff dot and on the penalty kill, while also providing support to his wingers.
Related: Hayes shines against Former Team
Yet over Hayes’ last five games, he has scored three goals while tallying seven points. It seems that this Flyers team can lean on different players at different times. When the top guys aren’t producing, Hayes and van Riemsdyk are often the first to step up.
Spots Are Hard to Come By
This season, the Flyers have shown that almost anyone can have success when placed into the lineup. Head coach Alain Vigneault’s system has obviously worked, propelling this team to a winning record. Injuries have led this team to ice 28 different skaters, not including goalies. Whether it be rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel or wily vet Chris Stewart, this team has made do with the injuries they have suffered.
Every spot in the Flyers’ lineup this season is earned, not given. The depth on this team has shined at every turn which makes me wary about adding in a potential trade. Hayes has said before that this is the closest locker room he’s ever been in and I would hate for that to be broken up.
If They Had to Wish
In the interest of due diligence, there are a few players that could be acquired to propel this Flyers team into the lofty heights of the playoffs. Ottawa Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau is at the top of my list in terms of players to acquire – a steady two-way center who is dominant with the puck and is absolutely lighting up the scoresheet this season. His penchant for big playoff performances is also a huge upside and he could slot right into the Flyers’ third center spot.
Not that I think the Flyers could pry him from the Florida Panthers but Mike Hoffman is a perfect acquisition for the upcoming playoff race. With 24 points in 36 games, Hoffman could be the scoring winger that Hayes needs to solidify the third line.
The best thing the Flyers can do this holiday season is get healthy. Losing Oskar Lindblom to a cancer diagnosis first devastated the locker room, but has now galvanized the team into a singular unit with a singular goal. The team certainly has performed better since Lindblom went down and it has been a joy to see. The fans, the team, and even the league have rallied around Lindblom, and the Flyers just keep winning.
Related: Flyers’ Lindblom done for Season
Stepped up play from Hayes and van Riemsdyk will be key in the coming new year, as well as our depth players continuing their solid play. A trade seems like an interesting pathway for the Flyers to explore, but I believe the team should stay as is. They have shown that nothing will stop them in their pursuit of the postseason. The locker room is strong, their on-ice play is phenomenal, and I cannot see an easy way to improve this team. The Flyers remain the sole driver of their season and that is the best gift they can give to the fans as well as themselves.