The Flyers are an odd franchise. For most of my life they have alternated between being very good but not quite good enough, or, as they are now, being so bland and underwhelming that you almost forget they exist. They are never truly awful enough to mock or pity. They just feel like they are making things much harder for themselves than they need to. So, can they finally bust out of their funk this year? Or can we expect more of the same? Short answer - it doesn't look good. Longer answer:
Philadelphia Flyers Offseason Moves
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By far the biggest change - and the biggest gamble - took place behind the bench. Craig Berube had been a coaching disaster. In his place they hired Dave Hakstol. He can coach - in 11 years at the University of North Dakota he won a national title and appeared in the Frozen Four six more times. The jump from the NCAA to the pros is very rare, though, and Hakstol has not only never coached at this level but never played here, either. He wouldn't be the first guy by any means who is unable to gain respect after moving to a new level. If the Flyers listen, though, he could be a great hire. It's a major question mark.
It was not a particularly dramatic offseason on the ice. They moved out a few pieces, but outside of the once-solid Ray Emery in net there is nothing too
exciting. They traded for Sam Gagner - presumably aiming to be the next organization to be endlessly frustrated by Gagner's inability to tap into his
massive potential. They upgraded the backup goalie situation, bringing in both Michal Neuvirth and Jason LaBarbera. Between those two there is a good
backup. They also made an interesting, low-risk gamble. Evgeni Medvedev has been a successful defender in the KHL for a long time. The Russian is 33 and
has never played in the NHL. They only had to commit to a one-year, $3 million contract to see what he can add to the team. It doesn't have to be much to
make the risk worthwhile.
Philadelphia Flyers NHL Outlook
Depth is a pretty major concern for this team. The top line is excellent, and the second line is fine. In Vincent Lecavalier, R.J. Umberger and Matt Read, though, they may have the most overpaid line in the league. Those three average more than $4.2 million each per year. For what? Sam Gagner is comically overpaid on the fourth line, too - and they made the conscious decision to add him to the roster. It's hard to get excited about anything beyond the second line.
Defensively, it's a slightly different story. There is very enviable depth in the organization on the blueline. Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov and Samuel Morin could all be stars, and Shayne Gostisbehere could be, too, if he can learn to compensate for his lack of size. Gostisbehere is only 22, though, and the other three are 20 or younger. None are likely ready to make an immediate contribution. In the meantime, the unit is again top-heavy. Medvedev could ease those issues, but I am not that optimistic about his transition at this stage in his career - better players than him have failed to adapt to the NHL game after KHL success.
In net the backup situation is better than it has been lately, but the issue is with the starter - I am just not sold on Steve Mason as a top-level goalie
at this point in his career. He can be very good for long stretches, but over the long term I don't see him as a big asset here. He's not a disaster, and
teams are in worse shape in net for sure this year, but he's not as good as the betting public thinks he is. I certainly don't expect him to come close to
replicating his performance of last year.
Philadelphia Flyers Schedule
The first seven games of the season are just brutal. They open at Tampa Bay - a likely loss. A home-and-home against Florida isn't as tough, but the Panthers are younger and steadily improving. Then comes Chicago, Dallas, Boston on the road and the Rangers. If this team isn't ready for action then it's not hard to imagine them losing five or six of those first seven. That would put them in a hole they might not be able to climb out of - and it wouldn't even be the end of October yet.
Philadelphia Flyers NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
Oddsmakers are not optimistic. At +7500 their chances of winning the Stanley Cup are deemed better than just five teams. They sit at +4000 to win the Eastern Conference, which is tied for fourth longest odds. At +1200 they are the sixth choice in the eight-team Metropolitan Division.
2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers Predictions
This is not a playoff team. They probably aren't going to be very close. I could say more, but it would be redundant. There just isn't enough talent or depth right now.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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