It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I know, kind of corny to start an article like this out with a song lyric so generic, but am I lying? I didn’t think so. If you’re a hockey fan, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Training camps are open, positional battles are ensuing, and we’re getting a glimpse at the future that isn’t far off, especially on the blue line.
As now, the Flyers still have three defensemen battling it out for two spots. You have Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, and Travis Sanheim all scratching and clawing their way to try and get to one of the two open blue line spots. You also have essentially three open spots left by the departures of Brayden Schenn, Chris VandeVelde, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. One of those spots is going to be filled by Nolan Patrick, most likely either the 2nd or 3rd line center role, depending on whether Hakstol thinks Patrick can hold his own on the second line as opposed to Sean Couturier taking over. The other two spots have a plethora of young talent foaming at the mouth for the opportunity to play for the big club.
There are a lot of moving parts to this season that can spell success, or imminent doom for the Flyers and head coach Dave Hakstol. We’re here to take a look at what this season could hold in store for a young, promising squad. Here are my five fearless predictions for the 2017-18 Flyers season.
The Flyers pick a goal song that is ACTUALLY good!
Long gone are the DOOP days, or the days of “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise (no, not the clown). Over the past few seasons, we have suffered through EDM goal song after EDM goal song that just hasn’t resonated with the fans. Sure, people could sing DOOP until the DROP, but seriously, that song was another word that rhymes with DOOP. POOP. The last decent goal song that the Flyers have had, and I mean decent, was “Light Em Up” by Fallout Boy. Light Em Up, light the lamp, it made sense. Booyah? Secrets by Tiesto and KSHMR? Come on people, this is ridiculous.
These goal songs are the main reason I won’t miss DJ Michael Del Zotto. Why not usher in a new regime with something that lets fans know that now is the time to get excited? What about John Cena’s theme song? No I’m just kidding, please don’t ever think that having that song as a goal song is a good idea.
In all seriousness, this is the year that if you have a killer goal song, it is going to stick. I mean Jesus, the Bruins are still using Zombie Nation! The Sabres are still using Let Me Clear My Throat. There are better songs out there than “Fluxland” and “Milky Way”. Why not give the Phantoms goal song a go? It’s catchy, all you have to do is chant WOAH. If that doesn’t suit you, and you want something maybe a little harder, “Throne” by Bring Me The Horizon would be a decent choice. It has a pretty easy chorus to sing along to, and would catch on pretty quick.
And if you want to go retro, and with a song that quite honestly will never get old, why not blare some House of Pain every time the Flyers score. There’s nothing like hearing some “Jump Around” to get you pumped up.
The Flyers use a young defenseman in a package deal to acquire a veteran forward who can help the team now.
I know, this one is probably the most farfetched prediction based on the fact that Hextall is going to be incredibly reluctant to give up a young prospect, but if it helps a team that could potentially be pushing for a playoff spot, he might be forced to make a move. Obviously, guys like Morin, Sanheim and Myers are untouchable. Maybe not untouchable, but very unlikely to get traded away. You have guys like Robert Hagg and even Mark Friedman, who has had a pretty stellar preseason thus far, that you could use as trade bait.
The Flyers are going to have some veteran forwards that just won’t be able to break the lineup. Most notably, you’ll probably have Read and Raffl who end up being the odd men out. Why not take one of them, package them with a young defenseman like Mark Alt, or Mark Friedman, and pick up an established forward that can help your team now.
There are many quality forwards entering contract years this year, and many will end up on the trading block. You have Kyle Turris in Ottawa, Cam Atkinson in Columbus, Paul Stastny in St. Louis, and Evander Kane in Buffalo. On top of those names, you also have James Neal, Matt Calvert, Nail Yakupov, and a pair of former Flyers, current Maple Leafs, Joffrey Lupul and James Van Riemsdyk.
Seeing as there’s a trend towards youth in the Flyers system, going out and pursuing Nail Yakupov might make sense. Maybe even bringing back JVR for a year and seeing how he does would make sense too. It all hinges on how the rookies do this year. Plus, it helps that newly appointed right hand man Dean Lombardi is pretty damn good at trading for veteran talent while still keeping the farm system in tact.
Claude Giroux leads the league in scoring.
This one may not seem as far off as you think. Back in 2011-2012, Giroux tallied 93 points in 77 games that season. The very next season, even with the lockout, Giroux averaged exactly a point per game in those 48 games. Giroux is more than capable of putting points up, we all know that, but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen that killer instinct like when he put Crosby on his back and rung one off the post past Fleury thirty seconds into the game.
With all this talk about moving Giroux to the wing, let’s look at this from an analytical standpoint. When you think of the fact that if Giroux stays on the left wing, he won’t be burdened by having to win faceoffs, he can set up shop at the right circle and do what he does best, and that is rip one timers. Between his potential linemates in Voracek and Couturier, he has the right supporting cast to make that happen.
Voracek is a shooter, but he has shown tendencies to pass first and shoot later. Maybe not the greatest idea, but with such a lethal sniper in Giroux being on the other wing, it doesn’t hurt for Voracek to dish it every now and then. The X-factor in all this is Couturier. Coots has been the shutdown defender that we all dreamed of, but he has never lived up to his offensive potential. He showed us a glimpse at the end of the season last year, so if he can pick up right where he left off, and if Hakstol decides to keep G on the wing, you’re looking at a very dangerous top line.
Giroux has said this off season that his injuries have healed and that he should be back to one hundred percent. Amongst the constant criticism and people questioning whether or not he still has it, there is plenty of motivation for Giroux to kick it into a whole other gear and absolutely blow the doors off of the Wells Fargo Center. If all goes according to plan, don’t be surprised to see G hanging out in the top 5-10 of point scorers in the NHL this season.
Andrew McDonald will finally get traded!
This borders on fantasy, but hear me out. This is something that many of us have wanted for a very long time, and understandably so. MacDonald just isn’t the guy that Holmgren thought he would be when they initially brought him in and gave him that outrageous extension. I’m not willing to call the Andrew MacDonald experiment a TOTAL failure, but if it were a test, he’d be one question away from failing.
MacDonald has done an admirable job mentoring young Ivan Provorov. Together, they made the top pairing last year and actually played pretty well. MacDonald had his best season with the Flyers last year, and some of that can definitely be attributed to the fact that he was playing alongside Provorov. However, you still can’t deny that with all that being said, something is still missing.
The Flyers are getting younger on the blue line, and MacDonald is getting older. He might keep improving his play from last year, but there is one defenseman that will end up being the odd man out if they don’t deal MacDonald, and I think that they would be better off moving him up in place of A-Mac.
Travis Sanheim has a ridiculous upside, and right now is the time to get this ball rolling. Hagg and Morin are going to be the first defenseman to crack the lineup. They will start the year on the Flyers roster. If no other player gets dealt or put on the IR, Sanheim will start the year down with the Phantoms. He as proven that he can hang with the competition down at the AHL level, and many people are confident that his skills can translate to the NHL level. Why not give this guy a shot now along with the other two rookies?
Sanheim had a great game the other night against Boston, and with every game is making it that much more difficult of a decision for Hextall to choose which defenseman gets sent down to the Phantoms. There is no reason to send Sanheim back down to the Phantoms if he is ready to make the leap to the NHL. They’ve sent MacDonald down before, there is absolutely no reason they can’t again if it makes the Flyers more competitive.
Besides, why should the Flyers be afraid of putting a guy making six million dollars on waivers? The worst that could happen is someone else is dumb enough to pay him that kind of money.
The Flyers will give me the birthday present I’ve wanted for 6 years.
For six straight years, the Flyers have lost their first game played in the month of January. It just so happens that my birthday is January 2nd. The last time they won a game on or around my birthday was during the 2010-11 season against the Detroit Red Wings. During the 11-12 season, they lost to the Rangers, 12-13, the lockout shortened season, lost to Pittsburgh for the first game of the season on January 19, 2013-14 lost to Colorado, 2014-15 lost to the Hurricanes. 2015-16 lost to the Kings, and lost to the Ducks last year on the first of the year.
Sure, this is me being selfish, but please, tell me I’m wrong for wanting the Flyers to win a game on the one time a year I can actually get away with being a little selfish. Exactly, we all want the Flyers to win on our birthday. It just makes for a great way to end the day. More so than ever, I REALLY want the Flyers to win on my birthday because on January 2nd, 2018, the Flyers and Penguins square off at the Wells Fargo Center.
Ever since I was little, I was taught two things by my parents. Always respect your elders, and always root against the Penguins. They kind of tied in together when older people rooted for the Penguins, but it was usually when my parents weren’t around that I would go against the first thing they taught me. There’s no shame there, it’s the Penguins, and all is fair when it comes to hockey rivalries.
Not to mention, the fact that they are two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, beating them at home on my birthday would be sweeter than the cake I’d have for dessert that night. Nothing warms my soul more than seeing Sidney and crew hang their heads in defeat as they leave the ice in Philadelphia. My final prediction is that the Flyers kick off 2018 with a home win against those dreaded cross state rivals and take it to them. They have a new, young team and a more physical team to boot. I fully expect Samuel Morin to lay out Hornqvist if he decides to poke his stick around the crease a little leeonger than needed. I also would love to see Simmonds catch Crosby with his head down in the neutral zone. No injuries of course, I would never wish that on anyone, but I would totally wish a huge earth shattering hit on just about anyone who doesn’t play on the Flyers.
Well everyone, those are my predictions for this season. Feel free to tweet at freezing cold takes and mark down my words. When I’m right though, the joke will be on you. Travis Sanheim will see ice time with the Flyers this year. Giroux will return to form and put more points up this year than in the few years past. Dean Lombardi will convince Hextall to pull the trigger on sending one of the lower end defensive prospects and possibly a forward on the roster now for veteran help if the Flyers are contending. Let’s hope that whoever replaced DJ MDZ has better taste in music and picks a song that will actually get the crowd fired up when the Flyers score. Last but not least, on January 2nd, the Flyers will make me one happy birthday boy and send the Penguins packing back to Pittsburgh after an L. That’s all folks, take these to the bank, but don’t cash it yet because I don’t get paid until next week.
Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports