Flyers Offseason: Do the Flyers Have a Plan?
The dawn of this offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers brought about a lot of the same sentiments as the offseason before. There are plenty of questions surrounding the team in the present and future.
For starters, the current team needs a new head coach after the official announcement that Mike Yeo would not be returning in the role. That’s a new wrinkle on the offseason that was not present last May when the team’s season ended.
But the things that remain the same are the issues that plague the team on the ice. They spend too much time defending. They allow too many goals. They struggled mightily at special teams. They lack high-end talent, the speed and skill to compete with top-class teams in the NHL.
That’s what made Chuck Fletcher’s end-of-season press conference on Tuesday troubling. It’s not that the Flyers don’t have some potential. They have young players that could make a bigger impact. They have injured players that could return better than ever. Those are certainly possibilities.
The problem with each of these possibilities is that they are rooted in hope. Hope that the injured players return as advertised and stay healthy. Hope the young players take that big step everyone has waited for. Hope that you can perhaps manufacture some hockey trades or free-agent signings to plug in the holes that the team is lacking for speed and skill and make it all work.
Hope is not a plan. It is much more holding onto optimism that things will just work out and be better, because how can they get much worse? It is throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Fletcher can highlight the injured players. He can look to Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis and a full season of Kevin Hayes at usual health and, yes, the Flyers would be a better team. But is better enough? Is being better in that sense going to create a true contender, or a team that may be able to make the playoffs?
Fletcher seemed keen on both possibilities: building for the long-term future while also trying to make the playoffs. That’s another issue with the Flyers plan or lack thereof. To just make the playoffs, you needed 100 points in the Eastern Conference. 100 points. The Flyers finished with 61. That’s not exactly a stepping stone away.
Hell, there are teams that have legitimate talent, both established and up-and-coming that should be a lot closer to the playoffs that have to have serious reconsiderations about where they are this offseason. The entire Eastern Conference playoffs were decided by 14 points or more.
The Flyers, and a lot of teams really, continue to live in a world where making the playoffs is simply good enough of a goal. Getting a ticket to the dance gives you a chance. While this is certainly true in theory, there’s not a team in the East that is in this year’s playoffs that you can look at and not identify as a legitimate contender, whether based on their regular-season performance or recent history or both.
The issue the Flyers are facing after two wasted years is that there needs to be some sense of direction. If the Flyers wanted to return a roster that was primarily the same young players that were on the ice at the end of the season, they could do that and advertise it as such. It will be a transition year where the team is probably not very good, but learning who can be an NHL regular. Then you examine what you have the following offseason with more money freed up and make more decisions.
The Flyers have such limited cap room, they will have to get creative just to slap the band-aids on the roster. They may have enough space for one big-name free agent signing in the offseason. One player will not magically transform the team and it’s been evident enough that the current group offers little hope of a turnaround in the immediate.
Ultimately, there’s an issue at every level. The players lacked fundamentals on the ice throughout the season. There was no chemistry. By the end of the season, there wasn’t any juice. It was aimless, passionless hockey. That has to change.
The coaching staff that the Flyers decide to hire needs to be right for this group. The last thing the Flyers need to do is hire a coach that implies going for the ultimate prize now. That would be shooting for the moon when the stars aren’t even in reach.
Perhaps the biggest thing of all is that management needs to be on a congruent plan. There are so many schools of thought, essentially too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to advising what direction the team should go, it’s just spinning the wheels perpetually.
Maybe the perceived plan that Chuck Fletcher and company have in the works can work the way it did in the 2019 offseason. Anything is possible. However, it seems too much like that magical season of 2019-20 and the playoffs that followed to Game 7 of the second round are the outlier on an era that continues to send the franchise deeper into irrelevance.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.
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