April 20, 2017
The senior members of the Flyers organization – that is, those who play for the big club – may have headed off for summer vacation early after finishing shy of a playoff birth, but there's still plenty to sift through following Dave Hakstol's second season at the helm.
After all, Year 1 ended with a late postseason push that saw the Flyers storm back to claim a wild-card spot, so Year 2 has to be considered a disappointment for a fan base still longing for its first Stanley Cup in over 40 years.
There's a fair amount of slack left of Hakstol's leash, especially considering he's a first-time NHL coach, so a learning period is to be expected. But without improvement in his third season, especially as you talent continues to rise through the farm system, it could tighten very quickly.
Not helping his case is what some of his players had to say during their exit interviews at the end of the season, including second-year defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. After finishing second to Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin in Calder voting last season, GhostBear, like the Flyers, saw a regression in 2016-17.
And Hakstol, at times, wasn't a fan of his blueliner's sometimes reckless style of play – the same style that saw huge offensive returns a year earlier. In fact, he listed Gostisbehere as a healthy scratch several times this season.
During his exit interview, the 24-year-old didn't seem to have any interest in changing his style to better suit his coach. Here's more from Kyle Phillippi of Metro:
“I’m going to make plays and I don’t care if I get yelled at but I’m going to play my game and make my plays,” Gostisbehere said at his exit interview. “People can look at is as risky but most of the time it works out for me.”
In other words, Ghost doesn’t care what the punishment may be from Hakstol because that’s who he is, and the risk that some “people” see in it is oftentimes outweighed by its positive impact. It was a not-so-subtle jab at Hakstol, showing that there may truly be small divide between coach and player. [metro.us]
It wasn't just Gostisbehere who seemed to disagree with some of the ways in which Hakstol handled his game-night roster construction:
A similar discussion happened when both goalies, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, took the podium and essentially dismissed how the team (Hakstol) handled the netminders.
When asked his thoughts on the situation, Neuvirth said, “We’re sitting here and we didn’t make the playoffs. That’s all I have to say.” [metro.us]
Neuvirth will be back next season after signing an extension at the trade deadline. But he wasn't the only Flyers goalie upset with how he was handled. Mason, the 1(a) to Neuvirth's 1(b), will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. And it's a safe bet that he won't be returning given his thought's on how the team used him:
“I think every single team needs to have a defined starter and a backup goalie, and just having that clarity would have simplified a lot of things,” Mason said. “At the end of the season there was that clarity and the result showed for it.”
He’s right. Down the stretch, when the Flyers began to find their rhythm a little too late to make a serious push, Neuvirth appeared in just four of the final 21 games. It’s probably not a coincidence then that Mason went 10-4-2 in his final 16 starts. [metro.us]
Despite that late push, the Flyers fell short of the postseason.
Their farm club, however, did not. And that's why from here on out, the prospects will dominate the discussion. Here's a look at what they're saying about the Flyers:
I hate to say it, but the Process is about to go full Fonz on us.
"You gotta trust the process."
Flashbacks to Sam Hinkie? A line from Joel Embiid's Twitter feed?
How about a direct quote from Carter Hart.
The Flyers' 18-year-old goaltending prospect spoke to the media extensively Wednesday after joining the Phantoms on Monday in preparations for their first-round playoff series against Hershey (see story). [csnphilly.com]
Speaking of Carter Hart and the Phantoms [and also because John Boruk told us to “see story”]…
The Phantoms have returned to the AHL postseason for the first time since 2009, the franchise's final season at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
"Everywhere you go, people are talking about it," head coach Scott Gordon said Wednesday. "It's great for our organization, great for our players. I think every player benefits from playing in the playoffs on a bigger stage and against tougher competition." [csnphilly.com]
And they’re set to face a familiar opponent.
Ever since the creation of the Phantoms in 1996 to become the Philadelphia Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Flyers' previous AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, have been the Phantoms' biggest rival. That rivalry will be renewed when the teams meet in the Calder Cup playoffs, starting on Friday, April 21 at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA in the first game of a best-in-five series.
This year marks the fifth time the Phantoms and Bears have met in the playoffs. Hershey prevailed in 1997, 2000 and 2009, while the Philadelphia Phantoms beat the Bears in 1998 en route to their first Calder Cup championship. [nhl.com]
Hextall said "there have been times where I've been hard on Scotty, but I can say this: For him to go back after playing a full year in the National Hockey League and to work every day to become a better player . . . it's really noticeable. His focus during a game and his work ethic are very noticeable. He's really grown as a player."
Laughton has made vast improvement on his defense and excelled on the penalty kill and in faceoffs. He contributed 19 goals, 39 points, and a team-best plus-17 rating in 60 games.
"I'm playing better on the [penalty kill] and taking care of my zone better instead of trying to cheat up in the zone and create offense, like I was doing last year," said Laughton, who scored four shorthanded goals this season. [philly.com]
Some highlights of the
four five Flyers selected by Ron Hextall:
This will be Giroux's third time representing Canada at the IIHF World Championships. He helped his country win gold in 2015 in the Czech Republic… Earning a gold medal alongside Giroux at the 2015 World Championships was Sean Couturier, who will be playing in his second Worlds with Canada. …
Wayne Simmonds will also be entering his second World Championships for Team Canada. He last appeared in 2013 where he was teammates with Claude Giroux. Simmonds appeared in all eight games, recording one goal. …
Travis Konecny will enter his first World Championships after completing his rookie season with the Flyers, where he posted 11 goals and 28 points in 70 games. …
In addition to the players, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is serving as GM of Team Canada, while Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol was added to Canada's coaching staff on Tuesday as an assistant coach. This is his first time serving as a coach at the World Championships. [nhl.com]
First, it was snowballs. Then it was batteries on the field and bracelets on the ice. Now, we’re going so low as to disguise as rival fans to get our shots in? Did we really think this would really work? [broadstreethockey.com]
Just read the whole thing. That’s all I’ll say.
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