Let’s not mince words; the 2016 postseason did not happen for Philly fans. We calmly and smugly existed (as we so often do) in expectation of our team’s future, plausibly ignoring whatever scumbag team heartbreakingly killed the San Jose Sharks’ and Joe Thorton’s dreams of finally hoisting the cup. It was Tampa, right?
This upcoming season, however, is the proverbial beginning of what is expected to become a contending franchise for the foreseeable future. Gone are the days of trading youth for rentals, overspending on free agents and ignoring every draft pick past the first round. This season the Flyers will begin to capitalize on an incredible combination of veteran and young talent, a process that has been in the works for multiple years. And in Philly, our attention spans don’t last that long (RIP Chip Kelly’s reputation).
It’s been a long time and a tough wait,, but there’s something I want to say on behalf of every hockey fan on the correct side of Pennsylvania:
Dear Ron Hextall,
Thanks for being brilliant,
Ron Hextall has announced that rookies Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are staying with the team for the full season. Provorov is expected to slot in next to Streit, who could earn every penny in his contract if he can mentor Ivan and help his transition into the NHL. There’s a lot expected from this young star.
Konecny, on the other hand, joins an already stable foundation of top-6 talent on offense, led by a whole bunch of names I don’t need to mention because you already know them…. *inhales* GirouxVoracekSimmondsSchennCouturier.
This season, the team will look from more from Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who should hopefully be aided by newcomer Dale Weise. Weise has already played for four different NHL franchises at 28, but excelled in a secondary role in 2014 with Montreal, scoring 29 points (10/19) and going +21 on the season. Matt Read is another player the team hopes to get more from, especially given that he’s signed through 2018 to a hefty $3.625m cap hit. The Flyers bottom six is lacking size and will have to contribute through a combination of grit and effort, particularly early in the season while Laughton is sidelined with injury.
Shayne Gostisbehere looks to build on the most promising rookie season in Philly sports since Carson Wentz (…. …. ….. wait), and will likely be called upon early with Michael Del Zotto sidelined 4-5 weeks and Radko Gudas serving suspension (for a pretty silly mistake, if we’re being honest). There is plenty of opportunity on the blueline for players to step up, and guys like Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning have an enormous opportunity to prove that they belong on an NHL roster.
And even though our goaltending tandem is only the second best in the state *coughs loudly*, the combination of Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth gives the Flyers a solid, if unspectacular duo. Mason is likely the starter, but both netminders are talented and capable, if a little unreliable occasionally.
We will likely see several callups throughout this season as well. I was gifted with an opportunity to catch the Phantoms play the Charlotte Checkers in the preseason, and spent much of the night expecting Sam Morin to stop playing hockey and start munching on his stick. If he were to fight a bear, the bear would first insist on being allowed to wear hockey pads. You get it; the guy is huge. I thought Taylor Leier looked particularly confident in the game as well.
All in all, I’m incredibly motivated by the young talent joining the team and by last season’s stretch of regular season success after a tough start, but my reasonable hopes for this team are to finish second in the division, for Konecny and Provorov to each have a season in which they learn and adapt to the NHL without struggling mentally, for Voracek to find his game again and to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise fade into obscurity as the new powerhouse of the Metropolitan begins its ascent to power.
But I have only have one major prediction for the upcoming Flyers season, and that is that nobody will throw a beer can at any of our own players, unless it’s Ryan Howard doing so ironically.
Oh, and also, the top goaltending duo in Pennsylvania is obviously the Lehigh Valley Phantoms combo of Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon. What were you thinking?