After the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and the offseason moves that Chuck Fletcher has made thus far, the Philadelphia Flyers lineup will shake up a bit. The consensus is that the Flyers like the core players that they have and the youth in the locker room. With that said, the personnel won’t change drastically from the 2019-2020 season. Most notable changes will show up in the defensive pairings. As a few players leave Philadelphia during this offseason, how could Alain Vigneault address 2020-2021?
The Flyers still have work to do
Some storylines taking shape in this offseason include Chuck Fletcher openly shopping Shayne Gostisbehere, Nolan Patrick scrimmaging with Ryan White, and the impending extension of Philippe Myers as a restricted free agent. It is fair to say that the Philadelphia Flyers have more questions than answers as the 2020-2021 season approaches in two months. After Matt Niskanen retired, the Flyers have yet to find an adequate replacement through free agency. Considering these hot topics, projecting Philadelphia’s lineup will be based on the holes left unfilled.
What won’t change is the top line. Expect to see Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek on the Philadelphia Flyers depth chart as the top three forwards. The second line is mostly figured out with Kevin Hayes as the 2C and Travis Konecny as the 2RW. My questions revolve around Oskar Lindblom. His skill level means that he should be a top-six forward with the Flyers, but will he be at the start of the season?
During the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Lindblom made his triumphant return to hockey. With the Philadelphia Flyers up against the ropes against the New York Islanders, Lindblom did provide a boost to will his team onto game seven. He only played in two games, which means he doesn’t have his legs back quite yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw fewer minutes to begin 2020-2021, so he’s eased back into his second-line role. In his place at the beginning of 2020-2021 could be Joel Farabee, who thrived as a top-six forward in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
To begin the season, it makes sense for Oskar Lindblom to be the 3LW temporarily. That’s a low risk, high reward decision because he’ll provide great bottom-six scoring depth. Sticking him on a line with Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl makes for a very competent third line. Of course, this means that James van Riemsdyk is now the 4LW. Morgan Frost could be in the lineup on opening night (if Nolan Patrick remains out) at 4C with Nicolas Aube-Kubel flanking him on the right-wing.
I’m going to project the defensive pairings with Philippe Myers in mind. I’ve been pretty vocal about my feeling that he will agree to terms with the Philadelphia Flyers and return in 2020-2021. Throughout the defensive pairings is where things become chaotic. Even as Chuck Fletcher is making a real attempt to trade Shayne Gostisbehere, I cannot help but feel that 2020-2021 could be a career renaissance. He’s the only real proof the Flyers have that things could be okay in a pairing with Ivan Provorov after Matt Niskanen‘s retirement.
Shayne Gostisbehere had a checked 2019-2020. He wasn’t healthy for a lot of the season, but when he finally returned after surgery, he certainly was not bad. When Matt Niskanen served a suspension in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Gostisbehere filled in beautifully alongside Ivan Provorov. It is not crazy talk to consider Gostisbehere for the first pairing in 2020-2021. Though Chuck Fletcher spent $3mil to sign Erik Gustafsson, Gostisbehere is still a better defensive defenseman with the same offensive skillset.
The second pairing should remain untouched. Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers were very consistent through 2019-2020. Alain Vigneault should let them grow together and keep that consistency on defense. That pairing may be the only consistent one from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021. On the third pairing, Robert Hagg and Justin Braun make sense, with Erik Gustafsson on rotation for either one of them.
When I look at the Erik Gustafsson signing, I don’t see how he will help the Philadelphia Flyers defensively. Shayne Gostisbehere received criticism for being the worst defensive defenseman of the seven in 2019-2020, but he is better defensively than Gustafsson. The signing was not an upgrade from Gostisbehere, which makes it a $3mil lateral move on Chuck Fletcher’s part. It’s only justified if the Flyers trade Gostisbehere to another team and Gustafsson assumes his role. Aside from that, it would have been smarter to have Mark Friedman or Samuel Morin as the seventh defenseman.
Carter Hart is the franchise goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s always a breath of fresh air to say that because before Hart arrived in Philadelphia, the Flyers struck out with starting goaltenders. Brian Elliott was a safe extension by Chuck Fletcher. What worked in 2019-2020 may ride on in 2020-2021. Alex Lyon received an extension, meaning he’ll likely be the third goaltender in emergencies.
Flyers 2020-2021 Opening Night Lineup (Projected)
Giroux, Couturier, Voracek
Farabee, Hayes, Konecny
Lindblom, Laughton, Raffl
van Riemsdyk, Frost, Aube-Kubel
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre