Carchidi Column: Bravo, Flyers
With a new, hard-to-please coach and three of their best players sidelined this season, it hasn’t been easy for the Philadelphia Flyers.
But somehow, they go into the All-Star break at “hockey .500” and only six points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The young players — especially Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, and Cam York — have made major strides.
The veterans — especially Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, and Scott Laughton — have had strong seasons.
Defenseman Tony DeAngelo, at least on the offensive side, has been as good as advertised, and goalie Carter Hart has had a high-quality, bounce-back year.
Put it all together and the Flyers have overachieved. They have been harder to play against — yes, Nick Deslauiers has made a difference — and their active forecheck has given them an identity. They are 21-21-9 heading into the NHL’s bye week for the All-Star festivities.
“We’re feeling good about ourselves going into the break with a win,” said Hart, who lowered his GAA to 2.88 and raised his save percentage to .911 with a 40-save effort in Saturday’s 4-0 road victory over a very good Winnipeg team. “We’ve had a really good month here in January (8-4-2), and we’ve got a couple more big months coming down the stretch.”
What this team lacks in talent it has overcome with hard work. And with Tortorella getting everything out of them.
Before the 2022-23 campaign began, this space called the abrasive coach the Flyers’ biggest off-season addition. That feeling hasn’t changed.
And, remember, the Flyers have not had any games from Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson, and Ryan Ellis, three injured players who would have been a major part of the team’s nucleus.
The Big 3
Couturier is probably their best all-around player, Atkinson was the Flyers’ MVP last season, and Ellis would have been their top two-way defenseman.
With them, the Flyers would be in a playoff spot.
Without them, the Flyers have been entertaining, competitive, physical, and hard to play against.
Some fans are disappointed. Some believe the Flyers should have tanked and had a better chance for Connor Bedard, a generational center who will be the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.
Tanking, of course, is not in a professional team’s makeup, especially one directed by the driven Tortorella.
Instead, the Flyers have overcome an early-season 10-game losing streak, and are 10-4-2 in their last 16 games since Dec. 29.
Remarkably, with a patchwork lineup that is learning on the fly, they are tied for the most wins in the NHL in that span.
Again, bravo. Not many of us saw this coming.
So enjoy the final two and a half months. Enjoy the possibility of Philly being in an unexpected playoff race. Enjoy the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers’ young players are blossoming, that Joel Farabee could have a strong finish as he gets farther away from his neck surgery, that regardless of how the season ends, Philly is no longer an NHL laughing stock.
Baby steps, for sure.
But important steps for an organization that has three potential high scorers — wingers Cutter Gauthier, Tyson Foerster and Bobby Brink — who will be knocking on the NHL door next season.