On Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers will travel to the Nationwide Arena to begin their 2023-2024 season against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The “New Era of Orange,” rebranding the rebuild of a prestigious franchise, presents a standard of expectations from John Tortorella, Daniel Briere, Keith Jones, and Dan Hilferty. Rebuild the right way: developing prospects, gaining assets, and making trades that make sense, is just part of the standard represented by team management.
Then, there are the players who dictate how fast this turnaround takes. Briere echoed that sentiment often. A change in the roster means a different leadership core and locker room environment.
“How fast or how long it’s going to take; the players will dictate that. Everybody’s on board. Everybody agrees that we need to do this the right way. We’ve said it. Torts has said it many times. We might need a little bit of patience from the fans in that regard. It might be some growing pains to go through, but when you look at how some of our young players got better this year, that was really impressive and exciting for the future.”Daniel Briere; 4/17/2023
During the offseason, the Flyers knew that addition had to come from subtraction. Ivan Provorov joined the Blue Jackets following a three-team trade, including the Los Angeles Kings. Kevin Hayes joined the St. Louis Blues for a 2024 sixth-round pick. Tony DeAngelo cleared unconditional waivers. Moving those skaters allowed Philadelphia to become the land of opportunity if you’re a prospect trying to find an NHL role.
What will the opening night lineup for the Flyers look like? Which players could prevail in Philadelphia this season? Ultimately, what should be the expectations for the Flyers? Here’s a primer on the 2023-2024 season.
Locker Room Leadership
Don’t expect a team captain.
Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson returned, but Tortorella isn’t thinking about a captain. Last season, Scott Laughton did have the ‘A’ stitched on his sweater, but that was the extent of ‘captaincy.’ The team leadership model is less about a label and more about NHL veterans molding the future of the Flyers.
Marc Staal is an NHL veteran with a vital role in helping develop the defensive prospects, and Tortorella said he wouldn’t prevent the youth from playing valuable minutes.
“That’s what I have to referee; is it getting in the way of the development of a guy, or is that guy just not ready, and Staalsy [Staal] plays. Those are things I can’t forecast; we’ll just see how it goes.”John Tortorella; 10/4/2023
Last season, the locker room fissured. Provorov, Hayes, and DeAngelo were all disgruntled, and it showed. Those names, particularly, moved on. Tortorella has his foundation set, and the Flyers are properly rebuilding.
“We talk about rebuilding; I thought we were doing it last year. Right from the get-go, I felt our locker room needed to change. This is a huge part that’s already started in this year’s rebuild.”John Tortorella; 10/7/2023
Projected Flyers Lineup
Yesterday, the Flyers released their roster.
- Atkinson, Brink, Cates, Couturier, Deslauriers, Farabee, Foerster, Frost, Hathaway, Konecny, Laughton, Poehling, Tippett
- Andrae, Sanheim, Seeler, Staal, Walker, York, Zamula
- Ersson, Hart, Sandstrom
Rasmus Ristolainen will begin the season on injured reserve. He continues to practice, and his status in the lineup is uncertain.
Sam Ersson will be the backup to Carter Hart, as confirmed by Tortorella. Felix Sandstrom is not waiver-exempt. Another team will likely sign Sandstrom off waivers. An exercise in asset management could feature Sandstrom in a trade if his future doesn’t include Philadelphia or the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“Hartsy’s [Hart] our guy. Ers [Ersson] is backing him up. That’s where we’re at. They’re one and two.”John Tortorella; 10/4/2023
Here’s my opening night lineup for the 2023-2024 Philadelphia Flyers:
Brink and Foerster heated up during camps. In the preseason, Brink showed his playmaking skills, standing out on the powerplay. Foerster didn’t contribute to the scoring sheet in the way many expect, but his evolution was in the finer details with the puck. Each, under 25 years old, earned a role over Allison, a competent middle-six NHL skater as of late.
Yegor Zamula and Emil Andrae will become two defenders who ascend in the lineup. One easy change includes Staal, who could rotate as a seventh defenseman. In 2024, Andrae could creep into the top four, Zamula could anchor the bottom pair, and Staal will help lead them into battle as a mentor.
“He’s [Andrae] got some fiestiness to him. I thought [he] played well in spots in the exhibition games, he had a really good third period; almost scores in the OT. He’s one of those guys; he’s going to play a role in this somewhere along the way, but right now we feel him and Z [Zamula] will stay, and we’ll see what happens.”John Tortorella; 10/4/2023
Ersson hopes to add to his success from his debut NHL stint. A season ago, Ersson went 6-3-0. Tortorella loves his composure between the pipes, indicative of his play during the preseason. A mighty difference between Ersson and those competing for the backup goaltender role is that Ersson finds a way to make that extra save, a characteristic Tortorella stresses.
Projected NHL Standings
36-41-6; 7th in the NHL Metropolitan Division
Will the team be better than they were a season ago? The bar isn’t set high, but it’s reasonable to believe the Flyers will improve. Last season, they finished with a 31-38-13 for a seventh-place finish in the NHL Metropolitan Division.
A third of the losses were in overtime. Only the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, and Dallas Stars lost more overtime games in 2022-2023.
In 2023-2024, the Flyers will win a few more games but exhibit the growing pains you expect from a rebuilding franchise. A 2024 NHL Draft Lottery pick will belong to Philadelphia, but don’t get hopes up about the top prospect in class; the Flyers aren’t tanking.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)