Well folks, another Philadelphia Flyers season is in the books. The 50th anniversary season did not end as the players and fans alike had hoped. Unfortunately, the Flyers missed the playoffs and they will be sitting at home watching the NHL Playoffs on television. From the famous words of Porky the Pig, “Th-Th-The, Th-Th-The, Th-Th… That’s all, folks!.”
Things were bright in Flyer land until the month of December. Their ten game winning streak came to a halt towards the end of that month, and that is where things turned from good to worse. They finished the month of January with a record of 5-6-2. That is just not good enough to make the playoffs in this league. Playoff caliber teams are normally consistent throughout the year. Winning one and then losing one will not cut it. Without further delay, here are the five takeaways from a season that was.
Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth both had their ups and downs this year. Mason finished the season 26-21-8 with a 2.66 GAA, and a .908 Save Percentage. Neuvirth finished the season 11-11-1 with a 2.82 GAA, and a .891 Save Percentage.
These are not very good numbers from veteran net minders. Both players will tell you that they could have made one more save. The Flyers finished the season with the 9th worst goals against per game, with an average GAA of 2.85. These numbers could have been a lot worse if it was not for the stellar play of rookie net minder Anthony Stolarz. Stolarz finished the year 2-1-1 with a 2.10 GAA, and a .928 Save Percentage.
One improvement that is needed to get this team on the right track next year is better goaltending. Barring what happens in the expansion draft this off-season, Neuvirth and Stolarz will carry the load next season. Both goalies understand that one key to making the playoffs is solid goaltending.
2. Special Teams
The Flyers power play is usually the teams strength year in and year out. However, this year they finished in the middle of the pack with the 14th best power play, and a power play percentage of 19.7.
Brayden Schenn continued his dominance on the power play finishing the year with 17 power play goals. That was good tied for tops in the league. In addition, Wayne Simmonds was also solid on the power play finishing with 16 power play goals. However, they remained inconsistent on the power play, and at one point in the latter part of the season they were 0-32.
Their penalty killing was not much better. They finished the year towards the bottom of the pack at 22nd in the league, with a penalty killing percentage of 79.7.
Pierre Bellemare and Sean Couturier headline a group of penalty killers for the Flyers. They are good at what they do on the penalty kill, but goaltending is the main key to killing off a penalty. Without solid goaltending penalty killing could be a nightmare. There were those times of defensive lapses while they were on the penalty kill, but more often than not the goaltending was a let down.
Scoring is an indicator of a successful playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, the Flyers finished nearly dead last in this category, scoring at a rate of 2.59 goals a game. This was good for 20th in league.
With core players such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn, these numbers should have been better. Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn did all they could with scoring a combined 56 goals. Giroux and Voracek scored a combined measly 34 goals.
Towards the latter part of the season, Giroux did admit he was playing through pain after having off-season abdominal and hip surgeries. However, he will be the first one to tell you he has to be better. As Giroux goes, so does the Flyers.
Defensively, the Flyers got better as the season went on. Shayne Gostisbehere also got better after his benching on November 17, 2016. He evolved into a sound defensive player, as well as a sound offensive player as the season wore on. Gostisbehere finished the season with 7 goals, 32 assists for a total of 39 points, and was -22.
The Flyers struggled mightily with clearing their zone during the tail end of December, through the months of January and February. This was one reason why they remained inconsistent as a team.
Andrew MacDonald was a catalyst who struggled to clear the zone on a nightly basis during the months of December through February. His overall numbers were not too shabby finishing the year with 2 goals, 16 assists for a total of 18 points, and was -5. However, he struggled with turnovers when he had to clear the puck from his own zone. This lead to odd man rushes and breakaways on the goaltenders, thus placing them into really tough situations night in and night out. It really made the Flyers defense look leaky.
With the young group of defensive prospects currently in the Flyers system, these defensive miscues will hopefully be a thing of the past for the Flyers. Ivan Provorov was a monster in his rookie season, and really was a bright spot for the Flyers defense. He evolved into the Flyers number one defenseman, and finally the Flyers have replaced former great defenseman Chris Pronger. Provorov could end up being a candidate for rookie of the year, although he will not probably win that award this season. For the season, Provorov finished with 7 goals, 23 assists for a total of 30 points, and was a -7. He also lead the Flyers in average ice time of 21:57 per game. Moreover, with Provorov and the young defensive prospects currently in the system, the future is bright overall for the Flyers defensively for years to come.
5. Wayne Simmonds
We saved the best for last in Wayne Simmonds. He was flat out phenomenal. Simmonds evolved into a vocal leader on and off the ice for this young Flyers team. He also lead the Flyers in goals with his second consecutive 30 goal season.
“The Wayne Train,” gives the Flyers offense a bit of hope for the future. He was a bright spot for the Flyers all season long. His competitiveness and willingness to sacrifice his body in all situations really seemed to rub off on Brayden Schenn. Playing on a line together with Simmonds at times, Schenn put together a career year. He finished the season with 25 goals, and 31 assists for a total of 56 points.
With Schenn and Simmonds on the power play together, they combined for a total of 33 power play goals. This tandem lead the league in power play goals. Simmonds demonstrates what it means to be a Flyer. He takes nothing for granted, and it paid off again this season finishing with 31 goals, and 23 assists for a total of 54 points.
All in all it was a season of mediocrity for the Flyers. To their credit they hung in there, and they never quit as a team. They fought and fought to make the playoffs. Flyers fans it was never about this year. It was about the future. With the recent acquisitions of Mike Vecchione and Mark Freidman, General Manager Ron Hextall only added to the stock pile of young prospects the Flyers currently have in their system. Flyers fans…the future is bright in Flyer land.
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Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports