Flyers Have Flexibility Among Top 6 Forwards
With a fine mix of veterans and young, budding stars, the Flyers finally have a clear cut top six in their forward group. That group will form two solid lines that should provide a good amount of offensive help, scoring depth and skill.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, there will be hypothetical line combinations for the top two lines -- and beyond -- bounced around, trying to decipher the best combinations.
Whatever the top line and second line look like on Opening Night, the Flyers not only have a solid top six, they have flexibility in how they utilize it.
Consensus is that the Flyers will open the season with a top line trio that already proved to work well last season -- Claude Giroux at left wing, Sean Couturier at center and Travis Konecny at right wing. That would place James van Riemsdyk at left wing on the second line with Nolan Patrick at center and Jake Voracek at right wing.
Throughout the course of a season, players go through slumps, injuries happen and lines get shuffled in an effort to change things for the better when they may be going south. Having a formidable second line adds to the flexibility of the top six.
Obviously players like van Riemsdyk and Voracek can step into first-line roles if needed. Konecny playing on the second line with guys like Patrick and JVR or Voracek doesn’t hurt either.
The reason the Flyers can boast to having flexibility at the top of the lineup is in last season’s numbers.
Giroux and Couturier are coming off career seasons. Giroux led the team with 34 goals and 102 points. Couturier set career-high marks in goals with 31 and points with 76.
Voracek also had a career season, though much more quietly so than Giroux or Couturier. Voracek scored 20 goals and had 85 points. With Toronto, van Riemsdyk set a career-high in goals with 36 and had 54 points.
The two rising stars of the group, Konecny and Patrick, are still early in their careers at the NHL level. Konecny was in just his second season, but showed his potential with 24 goals and 47 points. Patrick scored 13 goals and had 30 points in his rookie season, after playing much of the first half still recovering from offseason hernia surgery and a concussion suffered early in the season.
Combined, the six players scored 158 goals and recorded 394 points. Even if you take away JVR’s 36 goals and 54 points, the totals of the five returning players is 122 goals and 340 points. For perspective, the rest of the Flyers forwards scored 77 goals and 170 points last season, half of the point production of the top five forwards on the team.
It’s worth noting that of the 77 goals and 170 points, 24 goals and 46 points came from Wayne Simmonds, a player who spent the offseason recovering from numerous injuries. While it appears that Simmonds will be a third-line player to start the season, he can always cycle into the top six forward group as he has in the past.
The glaring weakness of the Flyers forward group was a combination of defensive play and depth. Take Simmonds out of that group, and the Flyers got 53 goals and 124 points from the rest of the forward lineup. There were 50 goals and 181 point from Flyers defensemen last season, including 30 goals and 106 points from Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov combined.
So while depth scoring certainly remains a focus, the top six stacks up as well as any top six in the league with the addition of van Riemsdyk.
While the primary goal of the upcoming season is for players start the season in a role and stay there, the Flyers can at least boast some new-found flexibility as players have risen to the top of the lineup. In the event that parts need to move, the Flyers have options to move them around and find combinations that will bring more success.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN-FM and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.