Welcome to The Athletic’s 2022-23 version of the staff season previews. Check out all of the previews as they’re launched appropriate right here.
It’ll be chilly convenience for Flyers middle Sean Couturier, who may just leave out the season with a herniated disc in his again, however he did us a desire. News of his harm broke simply ahead of our Philly prediction would’ve been set in stone.
It’s now not that their outlook used to be going to be “good” with out Couturier. It’s now not even that it used to be going to be “OK.” You don’t come off of seasons as unpleasant as theirs, or offseasons as baffling as the only they simply completed up, pencil yourselves in for 95 aspects and pass about your online business. This used to be at all times going to be a staff trailed via massive, existential questions.
What is the target right here? Why is that the target? How is that this staff ever going to recover? Below them are the most obvious tank jobs. Not too a ways above are groups that, with success, can sneak into the playoffs. The wild factor in regards to the Flyers? They’re seeking to be excellent. And after a summer season’s value of, charitably, combined effects on that entrance, they’ve already been hit via the similar crummy success they was hoping to have left within the rearview.
This staff used to be going to be dangerous. Now, it’s going to be worse.
For Flyers enthusiasts, the most important downside here’s that the staff doesn’t rank any decrease. Philadelphia completed fourth to remaining with simply 61 aspects in 2021-22 and a 77-point season would counsel an enormous, and most likely undeserved development — particularly with their two ideal avid gamers at the shelf, probably for the entire season.
Couturier’s standing clearly looms massive right here, as does Ryan Ellis’ — the returns for each avid gamers are shrouded in thriller for now making it somewhat tricky to mission what the Flyers can do that season. The fashion is projecting each to go back at some point … however now not play a lot. Call it 40 video games or so between the 2. If they play extra, Philadelphia’s projection shoots up into the 79-to-80 point vary.
Either means, it’s increased than anticipated. What it represents is in keeping with the qualms many enthusiasts have with the franchise despite the fact that — a half-baked imaginative and prescient the place the staff isn’t slightly dangerous sufficient to tank and is a ways from excellent sufficient to be aggressive. The tides shift additional against one aspect over the opposite with out Couturier and Ellis — however now not via sufficient.
The fashion makes use of 3 years of information to craft its projections, this means that there’s nonetheless some leftover knowledge from the 2020-21 season the place the Flyers completed with the sixth-best aspects share. Many believed the 2020-21 season used to be a writeoff and that the staff would go back to shape in 2021-22, however that clearly didn’t come to be because the staff utterly fell off a cliff.
As it seems, the 2020-21 season used to be most likely the nearest to fact with the staff’s point tempo over the past 3 seasons being 84 aspects, appropriate in keeping with that shortened yr. Consider the remaining 3 seasons because the Flyers model of Goldilocks and 3 bears: too excessive, too low, excellent. Take away some key items from the staff and that “just right” drops the staff underneath 80 aspects to their projected 76.5 aspects.
For the ones hoping to tank, that’s most likely now not excellent sufficient and the Flyers have only a 55 % probability to land within the league’s backside 5. It’s a good shot, however now not superb for a staff that has nearly no hope of constructing the playoffs. It would’ve been even worse with Couturier, however even being the league’s fifth-worst staff isn’t sufficient to ensure a top-five draft pick out.
For the Flyers, there’s nonetheless some skill right through the roster that makes it tricky to be one of the vital league’s worst groups. Not so much. But some. A difficult-nosed trainer who has a monitor document of having so much out of his avid gamers — within the early phases of his tenure in any case — may make that worse.
John Tortorella’s presence, together with some offseason strikes made, counsel the staff’s target used to be to be aggressive this yr. Without a top-line middle that dream is over, however what’s left is sadly nonetheless now not “league’s worst” caliber. They’ll want some dangerous success on their aspect to earn that identify.
The giant query
What do the wounds to Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis imply for Philadelphia’s season?
That’s a extra difficult query than you’d most likely suppose, with a two-tiered solution. We’ll get started with the on-ice portion of the court cases: “Bad things.” It approach very dangerous issues for the Flyers. Couturier has at all times appeared slightly older than he in reality is — that’s continuously the case with avid gamers who’re within the league as youngsters. The downside for the Flyers is that he’s now on course to leave out vital time in consecutive seasons because of again issues. That hardly ever bodes smartly for a participant’s longevity, particularly for one about to show 30. Couturier continues to be a tender guy, however he’s logged town miles — and we all know firsthand what his absence approach for the Flyers.
He gained the primary Selke of his profession within the pandemic-shortened season of 2019-20 — and deserved it, with packing containers checked far and wide — then used to be at just about a point according to sport in 2020-21. That’s the participant Philadelphia used to be banking on returning for a complete season; a 20-minute, no-doubt, first-line middle with elite across-the-board affects and greater than sufficient manufacturing to again all of it up. It used to be the only greatest explanation why for optimism about them, truly: “Yeah, things fell apart last season, but our best player had back surgery after 29 games.” It’s now not an exaggeration to mention that the Flyers’ offseason means — buying and selling a raft of property for Tony DeAngelo, protecting directly to a number of win-now avid gamers, spending to the cap — hinged, largely, on Couturier coming again at complete power. And even within the best-case state of affairs, that’s now not going to occur. “Week-to-week,” for a 29-year-old who simply added to a historical past of disc problems, does now not bode smartly. Hope is a perilous factor for a entrance workplace to have.
For the time Couturier misses — alternatively a lot that can be — Kevin Hayes will fit in because the Flyers’ No. 1 middle. Hayes is coming off an especially tricky (and tragic) season of his personal. His brother Jimmy died in August, after which belly surgical treatment and a blood an infection restricted him to 48 video games and 31 aspects. The finish outcome used to be tricky worth from a freelance value $7.14 million once a year. It’d be so much more uncomplicated to believe Hayes getting again on course for his 30-year-old season — his worth used to be at all times going to hinge on point manufacturing — if he may just fit in as a second-line middle with Couturier consuming up many of the tricky mins. The domino impact is actual.
Ellis’ go back, then again, used to be somewhat extra theoretical than Couturier’s. Part of this is as a result of he handiest performed 4 video games for the Flyers after the staff got him from Nashville in July 2021. Then, in August, Tortorella himself stated he didn’t be expecting Ellis to be in a position for the beginning of the season because of a “multilayered” factor involving the “complex of the whole pelvic region.” Ominous, certainly. Either means, the Flyers sought after Ellis as a result of he used to be a smooth-skating, right-shot defenseman able to taking part in massive mins to nice impact on a peak pair. They’ve observed none of that, and it’s honest to wonder if they ever will.
So sure, that is all dangerous for the Flyers, when you view them as a hockey staff seeking to win as many video games as conceivable in 2022-23. That’s obviously how their normal supervisor Chuck Fletcher sees it. He wouldn’t have employed Tortorella or spent maximum of his staff’s cap house (together with all the ones draft selections) on DeAngelo if he felt differently. Those aren’t future-focused strikes. They’re choices made via a entrance workplace that figured, “We’ll get our big guys back, then see what happens.” Quibble with that if you wish to have. It’d be simple and, most likely, proper. Now, despite the fact that, it’s additionally needless. The giant guys, in all probability, aren’t going to be again in any significant means — and no matter occurs, because it pertains to the Flyers’ caliber of hockey, might be dangerous.
The brilliant aspect for Philly enthusiasts, despite the fact that, is they gained’t have a complete season of Couturier and Ellis wringing a couple of further aspects out of the remainder of the roster. Why end in twenty fourth position when twenty ninth, let’s say, is true there? The chance of an unintentional tank — and the high-end draft pick out it’d convey — is getting extra actual via the day. Given the other? That’s now not dangerous.
Does Carter Hart nonetheless have famous person attainable?
The something that may at all times alternate a staff’s projection is goaltending. Goalies are at all times essentially the most tricky factor to are expecting as the placement is very risky. Look on the greatest misses from previous projections and goaltending is generally the most important offender.
That used to be a part of the case for this very staff in 2021 when Carter Hart used to be anticipated to take the next move against famous person standing. Hart had a promising sophomore season the place he posted a .914 save share and stored 5.1 objectives above anticipated over 43 video games. The hype reached a fever pitch within the playoffs the place he used to be even higher.
Many anticipated the following Carey Price. What they were given as an alternative used to be one of the vital worst goalie seasons in 2020-21 the place Hart had a disastrous .877 and allowed 23.8 objectives above anticipated in simply 27 video games.
There have been out of doors cases that brought about that and a bounce-back felt inevitable. While Hart’s play did give a boost to — there used to be no means it will worsen — he used to be nonetheless within the backside half of of goalies remaining season. With his remaining two seasons being so susceptible — he’s 3rd to remaining in objectives stored above anticipated — there’s a excellent explanation why he’s projected to be a bottom-five starter subsequent season.
Hart’s skill is simple and goalies are voodoo. Never say by no means — however at this fee, it’s getting increasingly tricky to peer him succeed in his attainable as an elite goalie. The window is beginning to shut. Just being a succesful starter could be great.
The Flyers core isn’t what it will were because of accidents. But even at its ideal, with Couturier and Ellis within the fold, it’s now not close to the caliber of a playoff staff. After a coarse 2021-22 that used to be shortened because of harm, Couturier’s dropped to a few two-win middle which isn’t contender subject matter for a staff’s top-line middle. Still, his alternative Hayes has giant footwear to fill.
Hayes hasn’t been at his ideal since becoming a member of the Flyers, despite the fact that 2021-22 used to be clearly out of his keep an eye on. His height years on the NHL stage have been with the Rangers. There, he hit his stride as a defensive middle ahead of being deployed in a extra offensive function in his remaining yr with there. That allowed him to mix his strengths in combination for a extra entire sport.
At his ideal, Hayes can power for turnovers, purchase his teammates time and house along with his talent to decelerate the sport, and set them up with unhealthy passes. But since signing a significant contract in Philadelphia, his play has trended within the unsuitable course. And with the staff declining round him those remaining couple of seasons, the probabilities of Hayes bouncing again have dwindled. That isn’t to mention he can’t be efficient — the middle confirmed in New York that he can set up a harder workload when requested and he must have extra defensive construction round him instilled via Tortorella. Still, expectancies can handiest be so excessive at this point. The undeniable fact that he doesn’t have elite wingers round him to lift his sport handiest provides him a steeper hill to climb.
Cam Atkinson, who is aware of all too smartly about taking part in for Tortorella, suits that invoice – a good, however a ways from elite winger on the peak of the lineup. The winger performed a few of his ideal hockey underneath the trainer in Columbus, and may just upload some spark to the Flyers. In 73 video games remaining yr, Atkinson scored at a fee of two.25 according to 60 which ranked moment amongst mainstays, in the back of handiest Claude Giroux pre-trade closing date. The winger has scored at (no less than) a 20-goal tempo each unmarried yr since his first entire NHL season in 2013-14.
That could also be what makes him a have compatibility along a playmaker like Hayes. Some age-related decline must be anticipated from the 33-year-old. That would possibly already be appearing in his five-on-five play, except his first yr with the Flyers used to be extra of a fluke making an allowance for the whole thing that went unsuitable with that staff. Even if his offensive have an effect on of completing dwindles, he’s nonetheless a fast disruptor who generally is a high energy killer for his staff. The downside is, he’s most probably going to be slotted in a top-line function and most likely can’t fit the caliber that place calls.
Two extra top-six wingers fill out the Flyers’ ahead core in Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny. The former is coming off disk alternative surgical treatment, and is operating his long ago against the 2022-23 season. Granted he can get again to complete power, he tasks to have a GSVA of one.5 that ranks moment a number of the staff’s forwards. Farabee falls underneath that superb vary for a staff’s second-best winger, and there’s no walk in the park on how he’ll go back to play in an instant, anyway.
Without Couturier, the highest-rated ahead is Konecny, whose worth has shifted after those remaining two years. Interestingly sufficient, his title in reality slipped into some commerce rumors remaining yr, which handiest sparked questions in regards to the Flyers’ trajectory. There is a few fear that he can’t fit his height years and is beginning to development within the unsuitable course. In 2019-20 he used to be a bonafide top-line skill who performed at a 2.6-win tempo, however has been nearer to at least one.5 wins since.
It’s conceivable that with the staff disintegrating round him, he’s overcomplicated his sport to take a look at to make up for misplaced manufacturing which has handiest burned him. Still, Konecny used to be a good affect at the staff’s offensive technology remaining yr at five-on-five, and is coming off a profession low in capturing share — either one of which point to the risk of an incoming rebound yr. However, the staff round him isn’t going to make issues any more uncomplicated, so it’s going to take a powerful particular person effort to get there. If the remainder of the ahead core used to be slotted extra as it should be for his or her caliber of play, this wouldn’t be emphasised as a lot. But that’s simply the place this staff is, and could be even with a wholesome lineup.
Konecny’s now not the one participant to have his title featured in commerce rumors. Defender Ivan Provorov’s title swirled in commerce talks as smartly, appearing simply how a lot the previous No. 7 pick out’s inventory has dropped. A GSVA of 0.5 is a a ways cry from what a staff must be hoping for from their primary defenseman, and a ways from the price Provorov as soon as carried. Provorov isn’t a real motive force and has proven time and time once more that he struggles and not using a succesful spouse subsequent to him. The remaining two years have now not been sort to him consequently, with the entire high quality of the staff round him and systematic choices exacerbating the problem.
As a outcome, he’s turn out to be extra of a high-risk defenseman. The training alternate is a possible gamechanger that may be what revitalizes his sport, including extra construction and safety again into it. That’s what the Flyers want, particularly with one of the defensive liabilities in this roster. But it’s asking for lots to be expecting a training alternate to become an overly fallacious roster, and total blue line.
If Provorov’s sport can jump again and Sanheim’s defensive have an effect on is (no less than) in keeping with the remaining two years, there may also be some top-four stability in Philadelphia to take a look at and counter the larger liabilities in this roster. Sanheim has had a good have an effect on on his staff’s anticipated target suppression those remaining two years, and that quietly efficient play may also be the stabilizing pressure this staff is lacking within the peak 4. That’s why it’s no marvel he’s one of the vital higher-ranking defenders in this staff. But if the Flyers decide to transport him mid yr, ahead of he hits unrestricted loose company, this protection most probably will get much more chaotic. And that handiest hurts the probabilities of their ultimate core participant, Hart, getting again to the extent this staff wishes.
The give a boost to
With Couturier out for some time, any inner false impression relating to how aggressive the Flyers may also be this season is most probably over. That approach specializing in the long run somewhat than some erroneous try at making an ill-intentioned run to simply out of doors the playoffs.
Headlining the staff’s early life motion is Bobby Brink, a diminutive playmaker decided on thirty fourth in 2019. Brink had a very good yr with the University of Denver scoring 57 aspects in 43 video games, flashing lots of offensive upside. No ensure he makes the staff, however the Flyers may just use a few of his attainable scoring punch. He appeared first rate in a 10-game exhibit remaining season scoring 1.55 points-per-60 at five-on-five whilst incomes a 51 % anticipated objectives fee. It’s a small pattern, however based totally off that he looks as if he generally is a first rate middle-six contributor.
The Flyers have a trio of alternative up-and-comers that may make some noise, despite the fact that they don’t include Brink’s pedigree. Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett glance more likely to land at the 3rd line whilst Cam York begins at the 3rd pair. The two forwards may well be serviceable in a bottom-six function, however to this point haven’t proven the offensive flash to be extra. Both scored at a backside six fee remaining yr. It could be a large plus if both participant abruptly hit, however it doesn’t appear most probably. As for York, his play-driving talent used to be spectacular remaining season due to his puck-moving talent — however that used to be in a sheltered function. He’ll wish to end up he can do it increased within the lineup.
The remainder of the supporting solid is a tricky promote and a significant explanation why the Flyers rank so low. The staff’s fourth line by myself is anticipated to make the staff two wins worse and is rated because the league’s worst. They’re an ideal asset for a tanking staff, however that turns out purely unintentional for a staff that had delusions of grandeur previous to dropping Couturier for a longer time period. Without him, the Flyers have the league’s worst middle team — however with Hayes and Scott Laughton because the staff’s one-two punch, you didn’t wish to pay attention that from us.
On defence, the fitting aspect is anchored via two fallacious defenders — neither of whom belong in a top-four function. DeAngelo used to be the staff’s giant get this offseason and whilst he’s robust offensively, his protection stays extremely suspect, making him incapable of dealing with top-pair mins. His ideal asset is his talent to quarterback an influence play, and despite the fact that he may just probably jolt the league’s worst unit, there’s a large distinction between the talent stage to be had to him on Phialdelphia’s peak energy play in comparison to Carolina’s. DeAngelo’s projected GSVA here’s wildly overstated from taking part in for Carolina and it very most probably drops with the Flyers.
Rasmus Ristolainen is a far larger factor despite the fact that. While he’s most likely higher than analytical fashions give him credit score for, it’s now not via a lot. Last yr used to be arguably his ideal season at using play, and he nonetheless were given out-chanced closely due to being susceptible at protecting the blue line and exiting the zone. Being stapled to Sanheim most probably boosted his worth too.
The ideal case
Couturier and Ellis are out long run. Tortorella has the specified impact on avid gamers like Farabee and Brink, and Hart’s efficiency stabilizes. However, the staff is dangerous sufficient to promote items like van Riemsdyk on the closing date and realizes the need of reducing bait in other places. They end tied for twenty ninth position and win the draft lottery. Couturier and Ellis go back at complete power to a Connor Bedard-led roster.
The worst case
They lose 10 in their first 12 video games, however sooner or later get started taking part in at an 82-point tempo. No participant takes a step ahead, however none take a step again, both. Couturier and Ellis go back. They win 8 in their remaining 14 to complete with the 7th pick out. Fletcher blames accidents for this season, too, and makes a decision to run it again.
The final analysis
Philadelphia used to be already going to be one of the vital worst groups within the Metropolitan Divisions, and truly all the Eastern Conference. As a lot as Tortorella (and assistant trainer Brad Shaw) can upload construction and educate one of the basics to being extra disciplined, this roster’s ceiling is handiest so excessive — and it simply dropped even decrease with the Couturier harm. An already dangerous staff simply were given worse, however will not be dangerous sufficient to success right into a top-three pick out, both. It’s now not a excellent position to be. Ideally, it places power on control to pick out a course and keep on with it, whether or not it’s in reality seeking to construct round this core or kicking off a sound retool. The Flyers’ issues are deeper than only a few key accidents, however their present trajectory simply were given much more relating to.
Read the opposite 2022-23 season previews right here.
(Top photograph: Eric Hartline / USA Today)