Flyers 5: Takeaways from the 2022-23 Season
The 2022-23 season for the Flyers was, in many ways, a roller coaster ride. There were some moments of positivity for the future of the franchise, some on the ice and more so off the ice and in the management box. There was also plenty of pain, as John Tortorella frequently reminded.
With the team’s 31-38-13 season now in the books, here are five takeaways from the season.
Changes at the Top
The biggest development of the 2022-23 season came within the last two months. It started somewhat under the radar. On Feb. 14, an announcement that Dan Hilferty would take over as CEO of Comcast Spectacor was released. The belief was that while Hilferty would oversee Comcast Spectacor as a whole, his involvement with the Flyers would be minimal.
On March 1, the Flyers hosted the New York Rangers two days before the trade deadline, and saw Wells Fargo Center invaded by Rangers fans. Two days later, as the deadline came and went, the Flyers activity was minimal, moving just Zack MacEwen and Patrick Brown at the deadline while not finding a trade partner for players on expiring contracts like James van Riemsdyk or Justin Braun.
A week later, on March 10, Chuck Fletcher was fired as GM. Danny Briere took over as the interim GM.
Then an even bigger change was announced. On March 27, it was announced that Dave Scott would retire as Chairman of Comcast Spectacor and Flyers Governor and be replaced by Hilferty.
That’s the extent of the changes for now, but more is on the way. The Flyers already stated they would hire a President of Hockey Operations separate from the GM role. Contrary to previous searches for front office leadership, it doesn’t appear the old guard of Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, and Paul Holmgren will have much involvement.
Briere is expected to move into the GM role full-time. It’s a lot of out with the old school and in with the new. And that’s really the way it has to be for the Flyers to move forward.
Briere already went where his predecessors wouldn’t go and formally stated that a rebuild was needed. It won’t be a complete fire sale, but you can expect a lot of changes below the front office as a result. None of that will matter, though, until the front office staff is completed, and there is no more important decision this offseason than the decision on who takes over as President of Hockey Operations.
Tortorella in Charge
One person with no questions about his future status is John Tortorella. In fact, Tortorella is very much a vocal part of this rebuild.
There is good and bad with that. The good is what Tortorella has said for much of the year. He’s focused on instilling a culture of playing hard and giving an honest effort every night. He’s weeded through pieces on the team that may be part of the future or may be on the way out.
But there’s a fine line between having Tortorella be the demanding coach he is and helping players grow into better professionals and letting Tortorella essentially create a team around his style. The Flyers have plenty of players that can give Tortorella the grinding minutes, be physical, bring energy, and so on. What they lack is speed and skill that equates to success in today’s NHL.
There’s no doubt Tortorella’s influence on the franchise in his first season behind the bench has provided many positive results. His blunt answers regarding the state of the franchise are a main reason the franchise went so far as to state a rebuild was underway. But Tortorella should not overstep into roster construction. It’s important for the new President of Hockey Operations to help further establish that.
So many times in the Flyers shortcomings, it’s been goaltending right at the heart of it. This season, goaltending was hardly the problem.
Early in the season, the Flyers had many positive results, starting the season 7-3-2 in the first 12 games. Carter Hart had a lot to do with that record.
While the losses eventually piled up, Hart still finished the season with a 22-23-10 record, 2.94 goals against average, and .907 save percentage. Both were the best Hart has performed in either category since the 2019-20 season.
Additionally, another goalie emerged during the season when Hart was not available. Sam Ersson made his NHL debut in an interesting way, starting against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 23 and getting pulled after allowing five goals, only to go back into the game when Hart got hurt.
From there, Ersson won six straight starts and showed signs that he could be part of a tandem next season with Hart. Ersson finished with a 6-3-0 record, 3.07 GAA, and .899 save percentage.
The last couple of months have really provided clarity on the Flyers future, at least when it comes to the roster and who may survive the subtraction of the offseason. While no player is truly safe on the roster – the Flyers will be open to anything and everything at the right price – there are players that would require a lot in return to move.
Travis Konecny capped off his season by reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. While he’s right on the edge of the age line of being part of a multiple-year rebuild process, it’s going to take a lot for the Flyers to trade away their top scorer from this season.
Owen Tippett emerged this season by showcasing his scoring potential as his confidence grew, reaching the 25-goal mark. Noah Cates had a solid rookie season playing against the top players on the opposition. The scoring is a work in progress, but he’s got the makings of a solid middle-six center. Morgan Frost started to produce more consistently in the second-half of the season, finishing with 19 goals and 46 points.
A tough season for Joel Farabee, hampered by his ongoing recovery from disc replacement surgery, finished on a solid note with 15 goals and a career-high 39 points.
It’s also safe to assume that Scott Laughton will be the veteran leader of the team again next season. He’s got a team-friendly contract and was the only player to wear a letter this season.
Defensively, Travis Sanheim’s season began with a contract extension, and while there are questions about his future, it’s going to be a difficult contract to move. Cam York got regular playing time in the last half of the season and will look to take another step in his career progression next season.
There were also players who made brief stops in Philadelphia from the minors that could have bigger roles as soon as next season. Tyson Foerster, Elliot Desnoyers, Olle Lycksell, Ronnie Attard, and Egor Zamula should all be players worth a long look in training camp next season.
On the Way Out?
Whether there are some additions from outside to round out the roster or the more likely additions internally, the offseason will start with subtraction. Tortorella already hinted at it and the new regime in the front office is going to have some work to do in that area before anything else.
Two subtractions are easy. Braun will be retiring and van Riemsdyk has his contract expiring. The most likely candidates for subtractions via trade include Kevin Hayes and Tony DeAngelo. Hayes struggled following his All-Star Game appearance and his production became severely limited. DeAngelo was a healthy scratch for the final five games of the season.
Other names like Ivan Provorov and the aforementioned Sanheim, Konecny, even Hart have been rumored as possible players at the very least available, depending on the offers the Flyers receive.
That could only be the beginning though. Everything is on the table, and the Flyers need to explore all options to get the wheels moving on the rebuild ahead.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.