April 25, 2018
Outside, beer cans, water bottles, towels and t-shirts that were just picked up off the ice filled the plastic trash bins surrounding the rink. Inside, locker cabinets were slammed and hallowed expressions were everywhere. Ivan Provorov’s welled-up, bloodshot eyes spoke volumes.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ season was over — and though this enigmatic team drove the far superior, two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to six games in the first round of the NHL playoffs, no one in the Flyers’ dressing room was in any mood to hear anything — especially anything positive.
Reflecting back, this is a team and a franchise that took a forward step during the 2017-18 season. Considering the Flyers once lugged around a 10-game winless streak back in late-November and sat at the bottom of the Eastern Conference's Metropolitan Division at 8-11-7, recovering to go 34-25-7 the rest of the way and make the playoffs is quite an accomplishment. And the the Flyers seem poised for more growth over the next few years.
But right now, we’re going to conduct a little poll, breaking it down and putting it out there as to what players, coaches and management you feel should stay or go. Off the top, we’re excluding the young stars of this team, like Provorov, rising star Nolan Patrick, one-legged wonder Sean Couturier, pesky Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom and Robert Hagg.
That seems to be the core group moving forward. The rest is up to speculation, and we’re going to take a look at some of those names now. After, vote in our poll to let us know if you agree.
Do they stay ... or do they go?
Hextall became general manager of his former team in May of 2014. And in the time since, the Flyers have finished sixth twice, and the other two times suffered first-round playoff losses. The fact is Hextall inherited a mess, and gradually, is building the kind of winner he helped create in Los Angeles, restructuring organically through the draft. The Flyers’ farm system was rated No. 1 by ESPN entering the season, and with prime talent like 2017 first-rounder Morgan Frost and young goalie sensation Carter Hart, the Flyers’ 2016 second-round pick, on the way, the future looks bright. Flyers’ fans will just need to be patient.
The Flyers finished with 98 points this year, their highest total since they last won a playoff series and reached the conference semifinals in 2012. This is a team that could have bailed when it was sitting in the basement in late November — and didn’t. It could have bailed down 3-1 in the playoff series against Pittsburgh — and didn’t. Couturier was playing with torn MCL in his right knee, something that would take almost a month to recover from, still, he was playing two days after he got hurt. Provorov played with one arm in Game 6 against Penguins, only able to use his right hand. This team, could have bagged it if they didn’t have some belief in their coach. That has to say something about Hakstol, whose line changes resulted in the best years of Couturier and Claude Giroux’s careers.
He only finished with the Flyers’ first 100-point season in more than 20 years, since Eric Lindros had 115 in 1995-96. He only became 11th player in NHL history to have his first 100-point season at the age 30 or older. He only scored his first career regular-season hat trick in the clinching game that sent the Flyers to the playoffs. He’s a Hart Trophy contender and, at times, has carried this team. So he had a bad playoff series against Pittsburgh. The Flyers wouldn’t have even made the playoffs without their captain. The real tragedy will be Giroux’s prime years going to waste while the young nucleus matures as his skills deteriorate.
Simmer is a heart-and-soul guy. He’s the kind everyone likes on their team, and hates to go against. But his price tag (around $4 million in cap space) and his diminishing skills could make him expendable. By the end of the season, Simmonds just didn’t look right — on or off the ice. His teeth were knocked out earlier in the season, and his wan appearance begged the question whether he was even close to 80-percent this season. It appears Nolan Patrick is more than capable of being the force around the net that the Flyers need on the power play, a role Simmonds has filled admirably in the years he has been a Flyer.
With his fuzzy red hair and beard, Voracek looks like Kris Kringle on skates. He’s a good “room” guy who brings a lot of levity and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s also a decent hockey player, coming off his most productive season in the NHL, possibly good enough to be trade bait. The fact is, he can sometimes be a puck hog and, like Giroux, jolly St. Jake turned into the Invisible Man during the playoffs. The Flyers may be able to get decent value for him. Regrettably, he holds a current cap hit of $8.5 million.
When healthy, Neuvirth can be decent. His main dilemma, however, is that he’s rarely healthy for long stretches which makes him unreliable. Unfortunately, he has one more year and holds a cap hit of $2.5 million.
He started well, then the Flyers found out why Detroit wanted to get rid of him. They got fleeced for a third-round pick.
Elliott had a good season, though finished with a 2.66 goals-against-average, his highest in seven years in the NHL. “Moose” is signed through next season as he warms the crease for Carter Hart. But his body began giving out this season and, at 33, you have to begin to wonder how much he's got left. It wouldn’t be a bad combination of Hart and Elliott next season.
It’s really not Mac’s fault the Flyers backed up the Brink’s truck for him. The Flyers offered and he signed. Is he overpaid? Yes. Was this past season his best as a Flyer? Yes to that, too. He’s well-liked and respected and is locked in to two more years, at a $5 million cap hit. Even if the Flyers wanted to get rid of him, who would take him for that high price tag?
He may have the best hair on the team. But a great coiffure doesn’t translate into goals. Filppula had his flashes, though when his minutes increased, he was terribly exposed. He is also a free agent. Goodbye.
He and Hagg were the two most physical players the Flyers had on defense this year. It’s enough to really think about keeping him around. But he is a turnover machine. His inability to clear the puck in the second period of Game 6 led to the Penguins scoring the tying goal. He is signed through 2020, with a $3.5 million cap hit. He finished the season with a plus-minus rating of zero. The Flyers could see what his worth is, though the more likely scenario is that he reluctantly stays.
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