Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pool Outlook for Philadelphia

With the Philadelphia Flyers, you really don't know what you're going to end up getting from one season to the next, it seems.  The Flyers were not a great team last season, but with only a few minor changes, they improved dramatically, heading back to the playoffs and losing out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round.

The Flyers, for the most part, kept the same core group of players up front and on defense, took the 2nd overall selection at the entry draft, added a new number one goalie and were also buyers at the NHL trade deadline.  Okay, you're right... those are more significant changes than just minor.  It wasn't a complete overhaul, but the team's management did really well to make things happen.

All in all, the Flyers finished 3rd in the Metropolitan Division, which is arguably the toughest division to play in, they had a pretty decent road record and they were a huge boost to the hockey pool in a year where everyone was scoring like mad.  It was a good year and I think the fans of the team are excited once again and so they should be.

It was a top notch year for Flyers captain Claude Giroux, as he finished 3rd overall in hockey pool scoring, 2nd among all forwards, with 34 goals and 102 points in all 82 games this season.  After two mediocre seasons in 2016 and 2017, Giroux bounced back and showed everyone that he isn't quite finished with this game just yet and proved to everyone that he's still an elite point producer.

In total, the Flyers had 12 players that were considered pool worthy in the 2018 season, including Giroux, and the best of the rest included Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula up front and Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning on the back end.  Their number one goalie for the better part of the year, Brian Elliott, had his ups and downs in the season, but still finished 25th among goalies and Petr Mrazek, their trade deadline acquisition, while their other keepers were hurt, also finished among the pool's best, 36th.  If you invested well in the Flyers, you probably finished pretty well in the standings this past season.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The Flyers should have been better than what they have been over the last couple of seasons and I think you can make an argument that they have overpaid for a few of their mistakes. It does look like they'll continue to struggle with their cap issues, unless they can somehow offload a big contract through trade or via the expansion draft. I am looking for the Flyers to try and swing a shrewd move somewhere along the line and that would be what I'd pin their 2018 successes and/or failures on. Right now, the way it stands, even the number two pick in the draft isn't going to help this team into the playoffs, but a combination of moves will get this to work. As long as they're not overpaying again this Summer, they at least have the chance to make the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers were able to shift around a little bit of their cap woes in the off-season, off-loading Brayden Schenn to the Blues and losing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the expansion draft and some of that cap shifting did pay off for the Flyers, as they played a little leaner and their best players were certainly that again in 2018.  They had some very good stretches in the year and those are what ended up getting them into a good playoff position this past season.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

Nolan Patrick was my pick last year for the 1st overall selection, but he dropped into the Flyers lap in the 2nd overall position and it took him quite a while to get his legs going at the NHL level, but he did finish strong, ending up with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 games.  He didn't really break out this season, but he did feature prominently down the stretch, finding 5 points in his last four games of the regular season.

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Claude Giroux 8.275 Andrew MacDonald 5.000 Brian Elliott 2.750
Jakub Voracek 8.250 Shayne Gostisbehere 4.500 Michal Neuvirth 2.500
Jori Lehtera 4.700 Radko Gudas 3.350
Sean Couturier 4.450 Ivan Provorov 0.894
Wayne Simmonds 3.975 Travis Sanheim 0.863
Michael Raffl 2.350 TJ Brennan 0.675
Dale Weise 2.350
Jordan Weal 1.750
Scott Laughton 0.963
Nolan Patrick 0.925
Oskar Lindblom 0.925
Mike Vecchione 0.900
Travis Konecny 0.894
Corban Knight 0.650
Phil Varone 0.650

As you can see, the Flyers do have a good portion of their core already locked up for the 2019 season and their pool worthy players in green do feature quite prominently on my list of players to watch out for next season, especially on the blueline.  The combination of Gostisbehere and Provorov have many years of potential to fulfill and I think they will do so with flying colours.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Against the salary cap, the Flyers have seemed to have righted the ship in the last 12 months, as their flexibility has increased and they'll remain both competitive in the off-season, trying to sign key free agents, and on the ice as well, with a good core group signed up above at $62.5 million, so far. 

Valtteri Filppula and Brandon Manning are the only two pool worthy unrestricted free agents, possibly heading to market for the Flyers, while the team has to make a decision on Petr Mrazek, as he becomes a restricted free agent this summer as well.  Mrazek could be a good player to dangle at the draft, if they are looking to acquire some more assets, since he proved that he still has some game, upon his arrival in Philadelphia.

One guy that could possibly crack this roster next season is Oskar Lindblom, who had a very productive year in the AHL, including a stop at the All-Star Game in Utica, as a player replacement.  He still got to go and that still means something.  The 21-year old Swede did have a cup of coffee with the Flyers, playing in 23 games and picking up 6 points, so if he can add a little bit more strength to his game, he could be a full-time player and likely be a productive one at that.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft
I kind of overlooked the fact that the Flyers actual pick, the 19th overall selection, is going to be their second pick in the draft.  They will likely be getting St. Louis' pick, where I had the Blues taking Jared McIssac, but for the time being, I will leave it as is and circle back to it before the full mock draft gets published.  So, the Flyers, at the 19th selection, I think they try to amp up their forwards a bit, taking Mississauga Steelheads centre Ryan McLeod, who will bring a lot of speed to the game and some good scoring numbers to go along with them.  Some of the reports suggest he tries to do a little too much at times, but at his age, those are the things that come along through development.

Flip a coin to decide which Flyers team we'll see in the 2019 season.  Can we trust a guy like Claude Giroux to have a big season again?  Has Shayne Gostisbehere really arrived now as a top level defenseman at the NHL level?  Maybe these two are tied together at the hip and each of their seasons will rely on one another.  That's a certain possibility too.  I like where the Flyers are headed next season, they do appear to have a fairly strong core, especially at the back, goaltending may still be a little bit of a question mark, but it's quite serviceable at the moment.  If this side can stay competitive, there's no reason why they couldn't go back to the playoffs, but much like Columbus, their path to the holy grail is paved with incredibly tough divisional opponents.
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