After a season start of 10-6-4 in the first 20 games, it is understandable why Philadelphia Flyers fans might have a mixed reaction on the team’s progress. There are definitely some things that need to be worked on throughout the team and the rest of the organization. However, with Thanksgiving a week away and the first quarter of the NHL season in the rear-view mirror, I want to focus on the positives and what fans can be thankful for with their beloved sports team.
The Flyers have a good group of veteran leaders that can show the young ones how to work and carry themselves. In order for a team to have success, there has to be a bar set on how to represent the organization and on how these goals can be accomplished.
It all starts with the face of the veteran core, captain Claude Giroux. He represents what it means to be a Flyer through and through. It helps that he was homegrown by the organization, drafted 22nd overall in the 2006 NHL Draft. He has spent parts of 13 seasons representing the Orange and Black, putting up 241 goals and 534 assists for 775 points. In his last five seasons, he has posted the following numbers:
- 2014-15: 25 goals and 48 assists for 73 points in 81 games
- 2015-16: 22 goals and 45 assists for 67 points in 78 games
- 2016-17: 14 goals and 44 assists for 58 points in 82 games
- 2017-18: 34 goals and 68 assists for 102 points in 82 games
- 2018-19: 22 goals and 63 assists for 85 points in 82 games
In addition to this, he has five goals and eight assists through the first 20 games of this season.
The leadership role is not only on Giroux’s shoulders though. Other players such as Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk have quite a few seasons under their belts in the league, and with the Flyers organization.
Couturier is playing in his ninth NHL season, Voracek in his ninth with the Flyers after three with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and van Riemsdyk is in his second stint with the Flyers and currently in his fifth season with the organization (He played six with the Toronto Maple Leafs in between). They know the expectations that Flyer fans have for them individually, as well as for the team as a whole. This is especially with the case that the team missed the playoffs last year, and there is hope for a postseason return.
Other veteran leaders were added as well in this past offseason. Forwards Kevin Hayes, Chris Stewart, and defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun were brought in to help add locker room presence for the younger players, and more leadership voices.
Hayes knows all about the system that head coach Alain Vigneault has in place, Stewart brings toughness and over 660 games of experience playing for a few different NHL clubs, while Niskanen and Braun were brought in to contribute to the team’s success while also giving back to the youth, and helping grow the Flyers’ future defensive game.
I would say between the Philadelphia organization-bred players in guys like Giroux and Couturier, to the newcomer veterans in guys like Hayes and Braun, the team has a lot of direction within that locker room to make some noise for the youngsters, as well as on the ice in games.
While some of the younger players are already making an impact on the Flyers team themselves (Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom are two that immediately come to mind), there is organizational depth that fans should be excited about going forward. It starts with prospect and the American Hockey League’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Morgan Frost.
In his first sixteen games of the season for the Phantoms, Frost has five goals and seven assists. He recently was called up by the Flyers on Nov. 18, and just tallied his first NHL goal in a 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. He was called up by management to help spark the team, and give them that extra jump in these coming games.
Then, there’s young defenseman Philippe Myers, who already has three goals and five points in nine games this season for Philadelphia. The 22-year old has added solid organizational depth on the defensive end, and has been on a tear lately this season when he was with the Phantoms. He participated in six games for Lehigh Valley, posting four assists, almost a point-per-game percentage. He is another example of a younger defenseman on the Flyers looking to keep his spot and mold into an asset that can help improve the Flyers’ core.
There are other players who can make an impact as well from the club’s AHL affiliation. Cal O’Reilly, Andy Andreoff, Kyle Criscuolo, and Chris Bigras are a few players who have NHL experience under their belts from their time with other NHL teams.
There is also the expectation that other recent draft picks will be joining the organization soon to make their mark. The biggest example to point to is 2019 first-round selection, Cam York. York is currently playing for the Michigan Wolverines, after attending the boarding school Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a program known for many notable pro hockey player alumni (Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews, and Nathan MacKinnon are four examples).
The Wolverines have some notable alumni themselves as well, showing that York has been in good hands, and it will not be long before he is able to bring his experiences from both programs to the Flyers organization and prove what he can do. There is no doubt that reinforcements are on the way.
New Management Taking Charge
Last season, Flyers ownership decided that it was time to clean house in management and have new faces take the reins. Former Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was brought in under the same role, while former Vancouver Canuck and New York Ranger head coach Vigneault was signed to be the new bench boss.
Fletcher was responsible for bringing in some prominent players to the North Star State, such as Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jared Spurgeon, and Jason Zucker among others. Vigneault coached both the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final and has helped lead his teams to consistent playoff appearances. He has coached likes of the Sedin twins, Markus Naslund, Ryan Kesler, Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider.
They both are well-respected hockey men from around the league and have accomplished quite a bit in their other gigs. Yes, neither has won a Stanley Cup yet, but they can use what they have accomplished in order to build what could be a successful team and culture to Philadelphia. The direction that they want to take this organization and fanbase might take a little bit of patience and learning to get to, but I respect what these two men bring to the table, and I think the hard work these two have put in will pay off down the road.
There is much to be thankful for this holiday season, and when it comes to the state of the Flyers, I think fans have a few things that they can be grateful for as the team continues to build toward future success.