The Philadelphia Flyers have once again failed to meet expectations.
That’s not anything that hockey fans didn’t already know, as the Philadelphia Flyers have been out of the Playoff race for a while now. Unfortunately for Philly, this also isn’t anything new, as the franchise has been wildly inconsistent and underwhelming since reaching the Stanley Cup Final back in 2010.
With the Flyers concluding its season on Monday with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, the team’s final record in this 56-game campaign comes in at 25-23-8. The 58 points that accompany that record plants the Flyers in the MassMutual East Division’s sixth position after earning the top spot in the entire Eastern Conference only one year ago.
This marks the 11th consecutive season that Philadelphia has failed to reach the Eastern Conference Final (or the NHL Semi-Finals in this COVID-altered season).
Many had this team pegged as one of the elite clubs in the East Division, while some even believed that the Flyers could make a push for the Stanley Cup. Now that those visions for this team are distant memories, Philadelphia must turn its attention to the 2021-22 season if it hopes to right the ship and finally reach the heights that it should have ascended to at some point in the last decade.
Can the Philadelphia Flyers still salvage this unsuccessful era?
Philadelphia is an interesting team because for years it has felt like it is both very close to being a real championship threat, yet very far away at the same time. The dynamic core group of players that the organization boasts should make it a contender, as players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier have been playing at a high level for quite some time.
What makes the Flyers seem so far away from a Stanley Cup, however, is its inability to effectively fill out its roster and find consistency between the pipes.
That goaltender position is where the Flyers will really need to take a long hard look in the mirror this offseason, because, according to CapFriendly, Philadelphia has only four skaters that are due for new contracts. Meanwhile, the team’s top four netminders are all set to become free agents.
This is both good and bad for the Flyers, as it would be nice to have some more flexibility with skaters after a disappointing year, but goalie needs to be, and will be, the focus. That position can be entirely rebuilt if that’s what the team chooses to do, and that may not be a bad idea.
No Flyers goalie recorded a Save Percentage above .893 or a Goals Against Average below 3.06. I know that Carter Hart is young, but can Philadelphia afford to just sit around and hope he figures it out? Giroux is 33 and has two years left on his contract, and when that expires and he’s 35, Voracek, Couturier, Kevin Hayes, and James van Riemsdyk will all be older than 30 (if they aren’t already).
I’m not necessarily saying to get rid of Hart, but he probably ought to be the backup next year. Allowing Hart and another player to split time and creating a goalie controversy does nothing to fix the lack of consistency in goal, and retaining Hart, a player whose Save Percentage has decreased each year since entering the league, in his current role would show that there is no sense of urgency to pursue a championship. Given the fact that the last decade has been full of shortcomings, I’d say that that sense of urgency should exist.
The solution doesn’t have to be long-term either. Tuukka Rask is 34, but if he actually hits Free Agency, the Flyers should absolutely be interested. Rask, along with several other experienced goaltenders, should be the top priority this offseason for a Flyers team that ended the year as the only team in the entire NHL to surrender 200 goals or more. Unless Philly is going to uproot the entire defense, goalie better be the main focus over the summer.
As a hockey fan, it is frustrating to watch teams squander opportunities to be great. The Philadelphia Flyers, unfortunately, have done just that for 11 straight seasons. The opportunity still exists to make up for lost time, but that effort needs to be aggressive and immediate.