March 21, 2017
The Flyers take on the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night. And they need two points.
That's going to be the case from here on out for Dave Hakstol's team, which last season made an improbable late run at the playoffs before getting thumped by the Capitals in the first round. This time, however, it's not looking good for the Orange & Black, who currently hold less than a one percent chance of making the playoffs.
That's because, with 74 points on the season, they're currently seven behind the Maple Leafs (81). They will also need to pass the Islanders (78) and Lightning (77). Furthermore, they'll have to hold off the Hurricanes (73), who are currently a point in back of the Flyers with a game in hand.
Here's how Joe Pergola of BroadStreetHockey characterized their playoff chances:
According to SportsClubStats.com, the Flyers currently hold a 0.05% chance at making the postseason. Cue Dumb and Dumber ‘So you're telling me there's a chance’ memes.
The Flyers have 11 games remaining, a possible 22 points are within their grasp. Realistically, the Flyers are not going 11-0-0 unless Jordan Weal turns into 2010 Ville Leino and Ian Laperriere figures out how to coach a competent penalty kill.
Toronto has an ever growing grasp on the final wild card spot, so what does this mean for the Flyers slim chances of qualifying for the postseason? [broadstreethockey.com]
But the main point of his story is that while the Flyers aren't technically eliminated from postseason contention, they might as well be. It's not just the number of points they'll likely have to secure – it's about where they're going to have to do it.
Here's a look at what they're saying about the Flyers heading into home stretch of the 2016-17 season.
The Flyers may be looking forward to this trip, but unfortunately they haven't been great away from the Wells Fargo Center this season. And recently, they've been downright awful on the road.
"We circled this road trip a while back, and we are playing some tough teams and some good teams," captain Claude Giroux said. "We are ready for it and pretty excited to get it going."
The road, however, has not been good to the Flyers. They are just 12-19-4 in away games. Carolina is the only Eastern Conference team with fewer road victories.
The Flyers have four wins in their last 21 road games (4-14-3). [philly.com]
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall met with reporters on Monday and said he didn't think it was "fair" to say that the Flyers have underachieved this season. He also offered the following assessment of head coach Dave Hakstol, who is in his second season at the helm.
On second-year coach Dave Hakstol’s performance this season: “Dave’s done a good job. I have no issue with the job he’s done. Are we having a great year? No. But it’s not over. We’ll sit down at the end of the year and we’ll evaluate our personnel and free agents and restricted free agents and make decisions at an appropriate time. Right now, we’re focused on the season, particularly tomorrow night” in Winnipeg.
On grading himself as a general manager: “I’ll let other people talk about stuff like that. At the end of the year, I’ll look at everybody, including myself.” [philly.com]
Hextall also spoke about his team's cap situation and how that has impacted them this season. Moreover, he talked said that's not a huge deal because he prefers to build around home-grown talent, not by adding expensive, big-name free agents that could wind up putting them right back in an uncomfortable cap situation.
A number of people believe Hextall didn't do enough last summer to improve the team and give coach Dave Hakstol more flexibility. Likewise, at the trade deadline, Hextall was only able to add Valtteri Filppula in the Mark Streit trade.
The GM shrugged, basically indicating that his salary cap situation wouldn't allow for much more than adding Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon last July, both major disappointments.
"Yeah, that's the game today," Hextall said. "We're in a cap world. There are 30 teams. There's not a lot of players, players sitting out there that are going to come in at a low number.
"That's the game today and that is why I believe in building an organization through draft and development and bring your players up. Have your depth players be your young players. You get two-three injuries, your young players come up and fill in and hopefully, you don't lose anything and that is the direction we are headed. That is where we are right now. The Taylor Leiers of the world. If a defenseman, God forbid, gets hurt, we have our young guys coming up." [mcall.com]
So with just 11 games remaining and seven points out of the playoffs, perhaps it's time to focus on the organization's many prospects. And while much of the talk has centered around the team's defensive talent in their system, it could be the forwards who have the biggest impact, given the team's offensive struggles at times this season.
One of the Flyers’ most glaring needs is scoring. They’re especially weak at left wing. Michael Raffl’s 11 points make him the team’s highest-scoring player listed at that position. The next forward prospect to make the team may help fill that void – winger Oskar Lindblom, who plays for Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League.
He finished the season one goal behind the league leader. And now that his contract is up, he’s expected to make the jump to North America by next season. The Flyers may find it hard to turn away that kind of goal-scoring winger next season. And for what it’s worth, his teammates think he’s ready. [thehockeywriters.com]
The Flyers announced on Tuesday that they've signed 2014 third-round pick Mark Friedman of Bowling Green to an entry-level contract that will begin at the start of next season. In the meantime, the 21-year-old defenseman will report to Lehigh Valley. Friedman recorded 26 points (8 G, 18 A) in 26 games while posting a plus-6 rating this year, his third at Bowling Green.
Here's more from the team press release:
Friedman helped lead the Falcons this season to an overall record of 21-18-2 and a berth in the WCHA Broadmoor Trophy championship game, where Bowling Green narrowly missed a trip to the NCAA tournament with a double-overtime loss to Michigan Tech.
A native of Toronto, Friedman recorded at least one point in 21 of the 40 games in which he played this season. Over three seasons at Bowling Green, Friedman recorded 16 goals and 52 assists for 68 points in 121 games, along with a career plus-16 rating.
Despite a down year that's likely to end without a playoff birth, Flyers fans remain loyal. Here's a look at where they ranked in a recent Fanatics.com list of the NHL's most-loyal fans based on how team success correlates with "arena occupancy, social media following, and jersey sales."
There's much more info about how they came up with those numbers – as well as individual breakdowns of the three main components listed above – over on their site.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin