The Philadelphia Flyers’ season is coming to an end, and it’s next to impossible that we will see them in playoff action this season. They have 16 games remaining and are 31 points back of the Washington Capitals, who hold the final wild-card spot.
They still have a chance to play spoiler and mess up teams’ bids for better positioning come playoff time, but other than developing young players and forming chemistry, there’s not much left for the remainder of the regular season. If you are one who still enjoys playoff hockey but is stuck on who to cheer for, there are some good options that have ties to the Flyers and are exciting to watch.
Of course, the first team on this list is the Florida Panthers. They acquired longtime captain Claude Giroux at the trade deadline after his 1000th game with the Flyers. He recorded two assists in each of his first two games with the team and is enjoying racking up more points alongside Aleksander Barkov on the top line on the league’s best offensive team.
Many, if not all fans, want to see Giroux win a Stanley Cup. It would have been great if he could’ve done it with the Flyers, but he was never surrounded with the right cast to finish the job. The one and only time he’s been to the Cup Final was 2009-10 when he had yet to really break out.
Related: Flyers: Giroux’s Comments About Farabee Point to a Bright Future
Not only could you choose the Panthers as the team to cheer for this playoffs because of Giroux, but also since it’s exciting to see new teams in the mix. Three of the final four teams from last season are currently out of a playoff spot by points percentage, and the Panthers will likely have to get through the two-time defending champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, to reach their goal. The Panthers have a legitimate shot at winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
New York Rangers
I know the New York Rangers are considered an archrival of the Flyers, but hear me out on this one. They are likely going head to head with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. Now, who would you rather move on out of those teams? I’m guessing not the Penguins, who have constantly beaten the Flyers, especially Sidney Crosby. The Penguins’ core already has a couple of Cups.
The second is that Justin Braun was sent over to the Rangers after two and a half years of service for the Flyers in which he did solid work. He was counted on to step up and fill the void that Ryan Ellis’ season-ending injury created just four games into the season. He joins a group of young and talented players that may win a Stanley Cup sooner or later. From a Flyers fan perspective, you might as well get it out of the way when they don’t have to go through the Flyers.
Finally, there is so much young talent on the Rangers that is fun to watch each night. They may not be the best at defending, but possible Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin does an amazing job almost every night. Combined with the reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider, who is having an incredible year, there is plenty of excitement (from ‘An inside look at how NY Rangers’ All-Star Chris Kreider continues to get better’, lohud, Feb. 4, 2022). But if you can’t bring yourself to cheer for this team past the first round, there are two more options.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Despite just mentioning some choices to cheer for past the first round, funny enough, we come to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2003-04 and have lost in the first round five seasons in a row. They are in the toughest division in hockey if you look at the top teams year after year, so it’s partially understandable. With potential matchups against the Lightning and the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs would likely be the team of choice here for fans.
The Maple Leafs have a star-studded young team led by Auston Matthews, who is tied for the league lead in goals and may become the first 60-goal scorer since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. The team also has Mitch Marner, who just became the third-fastest primary winger to record 300 assists in NHL history.
The Maple Leafs also have former Flyer fan favourite Wayne Simmonds, who still plays a physical brand of hockey in the bottom-six. He has bounced around a bit since leaving the Flyers, but you should still remember what he did for the team and consider backing him in these playoffs.
Heading over to the Western Conference, if you’d like to get right out of the Flyers’ conference because it’s too close to home, then a solid team to cheer for is the Edmonton Oilers. They have the NHL’s leading scorer, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl, who is tied for the league lead in goals.
They have a very high-powered offence, scoring five or more goals in a game 26 times already this season and the fourth-most since 1998. By the look of things, the Oilers will finish either second or third in the division. Wouldn’t you love to see a playoff series of the Battle of Alberta? That could very well happen in round two, and picking a side would make it that much more fun to watch.
The Oilers and Flyers had two good battles this season, as the Flyers were the only team to defeat the Oilers in their first 10 games of the season. The season series ended 1-1 after the Oilers recently shut them out in Philadelphia (from ‘Player grades: McDavid, Draisaitl and Koskinen lead Edmonton Oilers to 3-0 win over Philadelphia Flyers’, Edmonton Journal, March 2, 2022). These teams did business at the trade deadline, sending Derick Brassard to the Oilers for a 2023 fourth-round pick in return. Though his tenure was short, he performed very well for the Flyers and gave them some life early on when there were key injuries in the lineup.
Enjoy some playoff hockey even though your favourite team may not be a part of the action. All you can hope for is a turnaround next season with a healthy lineup and to get the chance to watch the Flyers this time next season in meaningful games.