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Will Flyers Improve From Last Season? Yes, And Here’s Why



Owen Tippett (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Owen Tippett (AP photo/Matt Slocum)

Received an email asking how many points I thought the Philadelphia Flyers would finish with next season. It’s still two months until training camp, but here’s a way-too-early swing at the season’s possibilities.

Let’s start with last season. The Philadelphia Flyers were 31-38-13 for 75 points. They missed the playoffs by 17 points. And last season was a 14-point improvement from the season before.

Can they reach 75 points in 2023-24? My guess is yes. It’s possible, and not in an “anything-is-possible” world.

The Flyers lost Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux. Like them or not, they are players with talent who no longer fit the locker room, or the culture, or what general manager Daniel Briere wants to accomplish.

The Flyers added Garnet Hathaway, Ryan Poehling, Marc Staal, Sean Walker, Cal Petersen, Victor Mete and Helge Grans. Players who should contribute, yes. (Grans might be a year away.)

The real wild card for the Flyers is Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, both of whom missed last season with injuries. If they return and play to their capabilities, the Flyers should improve from last season’s record. Staying healthy might be a big ask. Whatever the Flyers get from these two players will be a nice bonus.

Another wild card is how well their young forwards play. We’re talking Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, Morgan Frost. Those five, plus veterans Couturier, Atkinson and Scott Laughton, give the Flyers eight solid forwards without any of the newly acquired players or prospects who might get a chance.

The Biggest Factor

The key to everything? What the defense does. Can Cam York continue his growth? Will Travis Sanheim bounce back? Rasmus Ristolainen played better in the second half of last season. Can he sustain that good play?

Will youngsters Egor Zamula and Emil Andrae be ready for the NHL’s rigors and physical play? Does 36-year-old Marc Staal have another productive season in him? Will another defensive prospect grab a spot? Ronnie Attard? Adam Ginning?

Hockey is a long season, 82 games with lots of travel. Under John Tortorella, the Flyers will play hard. Briere doesn’t believe in tanking. There is an organizational confidence about the Flyers’ direction.

Briere is off to a strong start as GM. The rebuild has been announced and the unwanted players have been moved. Everyone seems happy with the draft. There is only one unsigned player.

Let’s figure Carter Hart provides quality goaltending in front of an improved defense. Another wild card is special teams. For the Flyers to improve, their special teams must improve. Their power play was last in the league. Their penalty-kill was 26th in the league.

Losing wears on a team, especially a young team. That’s when leadership and coaching are needed to soothe nerves, or fray them if that’s what it takes.

If you lean toward glass half-full, you can see the young players continue to improve and put up good numbers. You can see the young players show they are not just NHL players, but winning ones.

If you lean toward glass half-empty, there are any number of circumstances that can derail a hockey team.

Realistically, there will be growth and setbacks. Unexpected wins, horrific losses. That happens on veteran teams, too.

Better than 75 points? Yes. The Flyers improved last season and they will do the same next season. They aren’t a playoff team, but they aren’t the worst team in the league, either.

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