May 10, 2016
After the season, Ron Hextall didn’t mince words when talking about his team needing to improve its playmaking up front. With the Flyers sitting on some cap space for a change (thanks to some shrewd maneuvering from Hextall), free agency is a real option.
“Would we like to add a piece?” Hextall said. “Yeah, we would.”
Problem is, as Bill Meltzer noted over at HockeyBuzz, it’s kind of hard to know exactly which pieces will be available when it matters at this point in time:
Now that the 2015-16 season is finished and the Flyers have cleaned out their lockers, Silly Season has begun in earnest. Something that I have discovered over the years is that it is pointless to talk in April about which unrestricted restricted free agents the Flyers may pursue come July 1.
That's because the list of UFAs is likely to get pared down significantly before free agency starts, with many of the bigger names being removed after signing extensions with their current team (or else being traded prior to free agency and hammering out a deal with their new team before their rights expire).
Meltzer is correct in pointing out that big names like Milan Lucic and Loui Eriksson could very well be off the board by July. But as the Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi writes, we can look ahead to the draft. While the Flyers’ first-round pick won’t impact next year’s club, we know that outside of Travis Konecny, the strong prospect pipeline is led by defensemen. Hextall and the front office could look to balance things out a little bit in June:
Next month's draft is critical for the offensively challenged Flyers. They are loaded with promising defensive prospects but thin on up-and-coming forwards. For that reason, they are expected to go heavy on forwards - particularly those with good size - in the first few rounds.
In the last three years, the Flyers have selected a defenseman with their first overall draft pick. Look for that trend to change when they make the 17th or 18th overall selection in the first round on June 24.
Over at ESPN Insider, Corey Pronman projects the Flyers to do just that. At No. 18 (which will become No. 17 if Peter Laviolette’s Predators can win on the road in Game 7), Pronman has the Orange and Black taking big Canadian winger Julien Gauthier:
Gauthier has slid down draft boards in the second half of the season after being seen as a sure-thing top-15 pick in November. He's still a pretty coveted player, and would fit in well in the Flyers system because of his size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and high-end skill; currently, the pipeline is stacked on defense and has a good, small center in Travis Konency.
Everyone knows about Ivan Provorov, but undrafted free agent Philippe Myers also looks like a gem for the Flyers. While Provorov ranked fourth on Craig Button’s Top-50 NHL-affiliated prospects back in February, Myers came in at 38th. The two promising defensemen play on different sides of Canada, but their teams are a combined three wins from meeting up in the Memorial Cup (junior hockey’s version of the Final Four):
Myers has a plus-4 rating through the first three games of the series and now leads all players in the playoffs with a plus-18 rating through 18 games. He is fifth among all defensemen in scoring with 13 points (2g-11a).
Provorov now has 11 points (3g-8a) in 18 games to go along with a plus-17 rating, which ranks third among all WHL players in the postseason.
Philippe Myers leads Huskies to comeback victory in game one of QMJHL Final: Ryan Gilbert, Sons of Penn
As always from Sons of Penn, some good GIFS in here. This is Myers scoring a key PP goal:
Flyers Fans Outraged After Team Gives Clarke's No. 16 to Justin Bieber: Greg Paone, NBC 10
I wonder what would’ve happened if the promotional jersey was number 72. There’s a non-zero chance the response would have been, “How dare you give Bieber Rob Zepp’s number!” With Bobby Clarke, though, there was no doubt what would happen:
The panicked social media response of Flyers fans was akin to that of fictional Japanese natives running for their lives when Godzilla rises from the ocean or wherever he lives.
Angry fans sounded off on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. So much so that the posts were later deleted.
Happy Cinco De Mayo to one of the great sports tabloid covers ever pic.twitter.com/eMmKeqXGLf— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) May 5, 2016
Hakstol Snubbed from Jack Adams? Dan Heaning, Broad Street Buzz
Probably not. Hakstol did a nice job as a rookie head coach, though:
This was a tough year to crack the final three for the coach of the year honor. Hakstol isn’t alone in deserving bench bosses but this season was always about promise anyway. And so, if this is the potential Hakstol brings as head coach, this won’t be his last chance to capture the Jack Adams.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann