If you have watched Flyers Hockey over the past few seasons, you cannot find a trend for the Flyers special teams. 5 years ago, the Flyers had the best combined special teams unit in the NHL with a combined rank of 8. Last year, they ranked 19th. So how can a team ranked #1 go to 19th, which is below the league average in just 5 years?
Looking at the stats you can clearly see that the reason is because the penalty kill unit has gotten really, really bad and the power play unit has struggled to keep up with the top units in the league.
Record PP Rank PK Rank Playoffs
2012-2013 23-22-3 3rd (21.6%) 5th (85.9%) NO
2013-2014 42-30-10 8th (19.7%) 7th (84.8%) YES
2014-2015 33-31-18 3rd (23.4%) 27th (77.1%) NO
2015-2016 41-27-14 11th (18.9%) 20th (80.5%) YES
2016-2017 39-33-10 14th (19.5%) 21st (79.8%) NO
This year’s units look to be a little better than last year. However, the Flyers are going to have to replace their best penalty kill unit player in Bellemare. Bellemare was by far the best Flyers penalty kill guy ever since he arrived 2 years ago. So, let’s look at the penalty kill first.
The Flyers penalty kill will look very different to last season except for the first pairing of Couturier and Simmonds. These two have formed a very powerful combination that is the team’s best by far. But they need a lot more than just them two to be great. The combinations I see are as followed:
Couturier – Simmonds
Flippula – Lehtera
Extra – Giroux
Provorov – MacDonald
Morin – Gudas
This group of forwards and defenseman will make a great special teams group for the Flyers. First it replaces everybody’s most hated Flyer in Chris Vandevelde and second it gives relief to Giroux who will more than likely only be used for faceoff situations only.
The Flyers power play will be in the same situation as the penalty kill because there will be a whole new second power play unit this year as well. We can finally say goodbye to Matt Read and Michael Del Zotto from the second unit and welcome in some very good new young players.
Simmonds – Giroux – Weal
Voracek – Gostisbehere
Lindblom – Patrick – Konecny
Couturier – Provorov
With the loss of Schenn, the Flyers will really need someone to step up and play that high slot spot or completely change the power play set. I put Weal in that spot because I think he can do the job. He has a great shot and uses his small frame to get into spaces other cannot. For the second unit, it is completely different than last year. I truly believe they will stick to the 1 defenseman system and set up very similar to the 1st unit with Lindblom infront of the net, Patrick in the high slot, Couturier and Konecny on the wings, and Provorov at the point. This way you are not teaching 2 systems and you can interchange players where needed between units.
All-in-all, the Flyers units should be much better than last season and look for the special teams units to get back to the old Flyers teams of the past ranking above average in the league.
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports