As the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, it’s time to evaluate the 2020-2021 Philadelphia Flyers, starting off with the forwards.
Claude Giroux (B+)
His critics never cease to amaze me. Claude Giroux has finished within the top five of team scoring for about a decade. Someone out there, arbitrarily screaming at a cloud in the sky, still wants him sent away.
This season, he finished in a three-way tie for the team scoring lead. On the ice, Giroux was one of the most valuable players. The Philadelphia Flyers experienced a scoring drought, but the captain remained reliable. From an individual performance, Giroux may have played one of his strongest seasons.
No one will agree with that at face value. Allow me to explain.
When he was off the ice, the Flyers were bland. Suddenly, with Giroux, scoring plays happened. The contrast between him on or off the ice was sharpest this season. Statistically, this wasn’t Giroux’s best season. In comparison to the rest of the lineup, it highlighted his value the most.
James van Riemsdyk (A)
James van Riemsdyk is the only forward deserving of an A-grade on a team relative scale.
Speaking of the three Philadelphia Flyers in a tie for the team lead in scoring, van Riemsdyk is the second man. He could score during even-strength scenarios, but more notably on the powerplay. The Flyers had an elite powerplay scorer in van Riemsdyk.
Similar to Claude Giroux, van Riemsdyk may have played his most valuable season in Philadelphia. It is hard to argue his position.
Showing toughness many have missed on the Flyers, van Riemsdyk may have played himself into a protection slot before the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Originally, van Riemsdyk to the Seattle Kraken was a common consensus. Now, it’s tough to think he’ll leave. In a contract year, he earned the rub from Chuck Fletcher.
Oskar Lindblom (C-)
Coming back to the NHL after conquering Ewing’s sarcoma is unimaginable. He and Nolan Patrick were going to face more adversity than any other player on the roster due to their health. Oskar Lindblom didn’t drop off as bad, but this season was his worst to date.
As a whole, the Philadelphia Flyers’ bottom six had a tough run during the season. Lindblom was the most productive member of the fourth line, but that doesn’t say much. His production was better than one player with zero offseason preparation and another who focuses on defensive aspects. Hardly a return to be writing home about.
Chuck Fletcher granted a $3mil per season contract to Lindblom, extending through 2022-2023. As it turns out, Fletcher should have used the same precaution on a contract restructure he did with Patrick.
Scott Laughton (B)
Honestly, Scott Laughton was one of the few consistent forwards on the entire Philadelphia Flyers roster. His production supports that, only slightly trailing his career-best pace. Laughton, at any time, could be a middle-six forward for Alain Vigneault.
More minutes on average could launch Laughton into the next level of his potential. He had a team-high plus-minus rating. His raise to $3mil through 2025-2026 is warranted. Currently, the Lindblom deal seems premature in hindsight.
Laughton improved in his second season with Vigneault. Tenacious on the forecheck, he could become the new project of the coaching system. Vigneault always preaches the two-hundred-foot game. No other Flyers forward did that better than Laughton. In that way, he’s a model athlete under Vigneault.
A deal signed and delivered before the season finished meant Laughton will be in Philadelphia after the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
Joel Farabee (B+)
A breakout season for Joel Farabee had Philadelphia Flyers fans accepting their next superstar. He had ten multi-point games in his second season.
Midway through March and through April, Farabee experienced a scoring drought. He slowed drastically compared to the torrid pace he was on. Under the tutelage of Jakub Voracek, Farabee regained his stroke to close the season. In his second season, Farabee finished fifth in team scoring.
The second-year player didn’t sacrifice defense for scoring. He forced more takeaways than turnovers. In Alain Vigneault’s system, he fits.
Expect more from Farabee, especially another top-five in team scoring performance in 2021-2022.
Carsen Twarynski (F)
Praised for his hustle last season, Carsen Twarynski scored a goal in fifteen games.
Even if the Philadelphia Flyers played as many games as they did in 2019-2020, Twarynski wouldn’t have. There are too many combinations to secure a lineup before inserting him. Untimely play on the ice kept Twarynski away.
His average time on ice dropped to 8:51, but he was as physical as you thought he would be. His only penalty was a dirty boarding penalty against the New York Rangers. When the Flyers are as bad as they were on the penalty kill, they do not need a fast track to a man disadvantage. A restricted free agent, he may not receive a qualifying offer from Chuck Fletcher.
Continued on the page below.