The Flyers are coming: A new era unfolds in Philadelphia

Exciting times lie ahead for Philadelphia Flyers fans as a new era is about to take the city of Brotherly love by the horns and take them to the playoffs one more time…or so we hope. A lot of that success rests on the shoulders of new head coach Dave Hakstol.

After the firing of Beurbe, fans were perhaps a little sceptical. It was great that Hextall had taken action when needed..but the team were in need of some big roster changes with very little salary cap to do so. But by shifting both Grossmann and the still penalty prone (as proven in pre-season) Zac Rinaldo, the team were able to take some steps in the right direction. The Flyers then decided to make 33 year old Ray Emery a free agent in order to make way for Michal Neuvirth.

Perhaps the most interesting move of the off-season came in the form of Chris Pronger. By trading him to the Coyote’s the Flyers were able to generate enough cap space to bring in some much needed depth at the forward position in terms of Sam Gagner.

For the most part, fans were excited by the almost showed a sense of refreshment. For a coach to come in with help of a franchise legend turned team owner and make some big decisions..proved that they were on the same wavelength. They both want success for the Flyers and they want it urgently.

But it’s not the roster changes that are exciting fans…it’s the idea of a brand new system being implemented. The main problem for the Flyers last season was starting fast and finishing in the same fashion. Too often they would boast narrow leads going into the final period only to come out with a loss. Hakstol is making his NHL Managerial debut with the Flyers after spending 11 years at North Dakota. The idea being that the system he played in College was so fast and zippy that it almost breathes new life into a Flyers Offense that fell far short of the scoring success they achieved just two seasons ago.

If the players don’t fit the system..then they may well be facing a premature exit with the prime candidates being guys like Luke Schenn..who are often seen as slow, clumsy when it comes to reading the play and constantly find themselves on the trade block. It’s almost like a last chance now..we know guys like Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek are going to succeed because it’s a system that embodies the physical, attacking style of play these players are known for..but there are a lot of fringe players on this years roster..a lot of fringe players that may have their spots contested by some prospects…*cough our saviour ghost bear*.

Talking of Voracek, after enjoying an 81 point campaign that saw him constantly in and around the top goalscorer mark towards the end of the season, Voracek will be looking to build on what he achieved last year. Giroux still leads this team..but Voracek is rapidly becoming one of the most respected players on the ice and the chemistry he has with the captain is a major part of his success. The two together are deadly and in a new system, they could become two of the biggest threats in the league. Voracek’s huge season kept the Flyers in the hunt for a very late playoff charge last year but with the Defense leaking so many goals, there was only so much he could do. If Voracek can cement those late goals in the third and help keep the momentum in his teams favour..this team is going to be incredibly efficient when finding new ways to score.

But one aspect of play that is perhaps more vital than any this year, is the goaltending and defending. Steve Mason posted a career year last season despite having the team often crumble around him. The Flyers goaltender posted a career record setting 2.25 goals-against average and had a .928 save percentage. All of this whilst he was receiving next to no support from some sloppy Defense and bad positioning.

The Flyers ranked 21st in goals scored against last season and without the record setting season from Steve Mason, the team might have even ended up in the bottom three. The problem defensively is that they don’t have one big standout player and Berube failed to find a successful pairing. This year however, things are set to change.

The biggest wildcard is easily Evgeni Medvedev who could either explode..or implode. Having never played an NHL game, he may well face some teething problems when adjusting to the pace of the NHL or he could attack the opportunity and breakout as a regular top-4 defenseman. But it’s the prospects that fans are dying to see get a shot at the big time.

Guys like Shayne Gostisbehere had a huge pre-season whilst Ivan Provorov boasts a huge reputation that he has a big game for someone so young. Whilst the two may not suit up for quite some time, the two are arguably the future of the Flyers Blue line. Provorov had a huge development camp and outshone everyone else around him..the question is, what kind of impact can he have on the NHL alongside his trusty emoji friend Ghost Bear if they get the call up?

Another interesting player to watch will be Michael Del Zotto. After earning himself a big contract extension last season, he still has some way to go into becoming the defensive leader Philadelphia needs. After enjoying a 34 point season with Philly however, he shut a lot of people up who criticised his up and down form with the Rangers and their affiliates. So the question is, can Del Zotto achieve another 30+ point season and lead the blue line? He was a great asset on power plays and we can expect much of the same this season..but it was almost like we were only getting an insight into what he was capable of. With a new system, is Del Zotto going to flourish in leading the rush or suffer more inconsistency? If he does the former..he could easily become one of the most dynamic defensemen on the roster.

On the surface, this may look like a Flyers team who have made small changes on a small budget..but when you delve deeper you realise this could be the perfect time for a fast paced and proven system by one of the WCHA’s finest coaches. He has franchise players such as Giroux and Simmonds who are in their prime, a goaltender coming off of a previous coach fallout who still posted incredible numbers and a pool full of young prospects who are itching to get out onto the ice.

There are still a few uncertainties and nothing is for certain…but the Flyers being one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NHL? That’s for certain. A lively atmosphere engulfing the Wells Fargo? That’s for certain. And the dawn of the Hakstol era which could prove to be the change needed to bring the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia on the 40th anniversary of the franchises second cup? That’s for certain.