Puck Drop Preview: 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers

2021-22 philadelphia flyers
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Welcome to our latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. The Puck Drop Preview series takes you through each team as the season is fast approaching. The preview will focus on the narratives surrounding the team ending last year, during the offseason, and heading into the 2021-22 season. Puck Drop Preview also focuses on what the season has in store for each team from a roster and expectations perspective. Join us, as we look at all 32 teams before the season starts. Today, we take a look at the 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers.

2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers

2020-21 Season

The 2020-21 season started well for the Philadelphia Flyers. In January, the team had great success, finishing the month with a 7-2-1 record. However, things quickly dropped off from there. March and April were particularly dismal as the Flyers produced a losing record of 11-17-4. Ultimately, the team placed sixth in the East Division, missing the playoffs by 13 points and trailing the fifth-place New York Rangers by two.

Throughout the season, the Flyers were plagued by inconsistency, with the forward lines (and even defensive pairings) being scrambled nearly every game. The defence in particular was shaky at best, putting extra pressure on the goaltenders. And with Carter Hart and Brian Elliott both struggling on their own, the team gave up more goals than their forwards could compensate for.

2021 Offseason

As a result of the team’s underwhelming performance, general manager Chuck Fletcher was very active over the offseason. His first move was a blockbuster trade: Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers for Nashville Predators defenceman Ryan Ellis, who will presumably partner with Ivan Provorov in the coming season. The defence continued to be Fletcher’s focus throughout the offseason. He traded Shayne Gostisbehere to the Arizona Coyotes to free up the cap space to accommodate Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres, who was acquired in exchange for Robert Hagg and two draft picks. As a final move on the defensive front, Fletcher brought in Florida Panthers veteran Keith Yandle on a one-year contract.

Another big trade occurred on the forwards’ end, with the Flyers sending Jakub Voracek and his unwieldy contract to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a one-for-one exchange for Cam Atkinson. The team then signed free agent goaltender Martin Jones, as well as centres Nate Thompson and Derick Brassard for some added offensive depth.

The Flyers were also at work signing their in-house players. Restricted free agents Travis Sanheim and Carter Hart received bridge contracts, while Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier earned long-term extensions.

Lineup Projections

Forwards

Joel Farabee – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny

Claude GirouxMorgan Frost – Cam Atkinson

Oskar LindblomScott LaughtonJames van Riemsdyk

Derick Brassard – Nate Thompson – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Top Six

Most of the Flyers top-six should look fairly familiar. Young talents Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny will look to continue to improve upon their performances from last season, during which Farabee led the team goals and Konecny recorded 34 points. Veterans Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux will continue to anchor their respective lines with their leadership and reliable point production. However, with Kevin Hayes out following abdominal surgery, there will be an opening on the second line. His absence, though a blow to the top six, provides a golden opportunity for up-and-coming prospect Morgan Frost, who played 22 games with the Flyers through the past two seasons.

Bottom Six

It may be surprising to see James van Riemsdyk in the bottom six, but given the cold streak on which he ended the 2020-21 season, he’ll likely start on the third line. In addition, Scott Laughton will look to regain his scoring touch. Oskar Lindblom, after receiving another clean scan, will continue to progress towards where he was before he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2019. Nicolas Aube-Kubel will be solid if he minimizes unnecessary penalties, and newcomers Derick Brassard and Nate Thompson will round out the fourth line.

Defence

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Keith Yandle – Justin Braun

The Flyers’ defence was shaken up quite a bit thanks to Chuck Fletcher’s offseason moves. Ryan Ellis will presumably slot into the first pairing, being the skilled right defenceman the team was searching for all of last season to complement Provorov. Rasmus Ristolainen should fit onto the second pairing with Sanheim. The 6’4” former Sabre will provide much-needed grit and physicality for the Flyers’ defence. Yandle and Braun, both veteran blueliners, finish out the lineup.

Goalies

Carter Hart

Martin Jones

The 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers are in an uncertain situation with their goalie tandem. Ideally, Hart will return to the form he showed during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. If he continues to struggle, the Flyers do not seem to have another reliable option. Veteran goaltender Jones put up consistently low numbers for the past three seasons, finishing each with a .896 save percentage. While he might be okay if he doesn’t see too many starts, the tandem will be shaky if Hart doesn’t perform well on a consistent basis.

Players to Watch

As mentioned previously, Carter Hart will need to have a bounce-back season. The 23-year-old goaltender’s slump, though exacerbated by a struggling defence, was a major factor in the Flyers’ disappointing results. As the team enters the new season with a stronger blue line, all eyes will be on Hart to up his game. A return to his 2018-19 and 2019-20 form would give the team the foundations of a strong case for a playoff spot.

Rasmus Ristolainen is another big unknown. The major question to answer will be whether or not the exorbitant cost the Flyers paid to obtain him was worth it. Sure, his size and physicality will certainly help prevent the team from getting pushed around. It’s his statistics that don’t look too promising. Ristolainen ended his last season with the lowest possession metrics of his career, 36 penalty minutes, and a -18 plus-minus. However, it remains to be seen whether those numbers were simply a result of playing on the Sabres or a reflection on Ristolainen’s personal performance. Either way, he’ll need to up those numbers in Philadelphia for the Flyers’ defence to stand a chance.

Prediction for 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers

Given the drastic moves made over the offseason, especially those that bolstered their defence, the Flyers should see a better finish in the coming season. In the Metropolitan Division, a playoff berth is never easy to achieve. On paper, though, Philadelphia seems to have all the parts it needs to make a convincing case for the postseason. Granted, they are not going to go from missing the playoffs to Stanley Cup champions in one season. But a run to the second round certainly isn’t out of reach for this new and improved Flyers team.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images