Philadelphia Flyers 2022-23 Season Preview: 5 Questions Ahead of the Season
The 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers season gets underway on Thursday night. An interesting season is certainly ahead. For one, the roster features a healthy dose of players under the age of 25, trying to potentially make their first impression at the NHL level.
An underwhelming offseason, a new coach, and a management group on the hot seat also bring about plenty of questions. Before the puck drops on the new season, let’s dive into five questions facing the Flyers this season.
1. What Does the Tortorella Effect Look Like?
There is no mistaking the main acquisition of the Flyers offseason. It is not a player. It is the man behind the bench. John Tortorella and the Philadelphia Flyers just seem like a match made in heaven, and we’re about to find out just how much of a match it may be.
Tortorella enters the season as arguably the safest person within the franchise. There is no track record. He’s been brought in and tasked to establish a standard and identity for the team. He has not been shy in questioning the unknowns of how long that will take or what it will truly look like.
There is one thing for certain: Tortorella teams put in the work at practice. Cam Atkinson stated that Tortorella’s teams “practice like you play,” so conditioning and skating are two key points of emphasis and have been for the entirety of training camp.
That said, there is another effect that Tortorella brings. He has the ability to maximize the performance of players who may not be household names or superstars, but prove to be important to a team’s success. Could he do the same with an underwhelming roster on paper?
It may take a few games, but the Tortorella effect will certainly help the Flyers get on a bit of a hot streak at some point. It could be immediate and then fade quickly. It could take a month or two before everything starts to click. It could be throughout the second half as more inexperienced players know what to expect. Tortorella’s impact on the team will be the most intriguing thing to watch this season.
2. When Will Sean Couturier Return?
The Flyers offseason was rooted in hope, mostly surrounding the possibility of players returning from injury. Sean Couturier was the headliner of that group and everything seemed to be right on track until just days before training camp when Couturier suffered another back injury.
There have been conflicting reports on a potential timeline for Couturier’s return, ranging from a 3-to-4 week recovery to perhaps missing the entire season. For now, it’s listed as a week-to-week injury. That certainly could fit the 3-to-4 week timeline, but what if that’s simply a re-evaluation period and nothing has changed? What if that leads to more conversations about surgery after the team announced it wasn’t required? What if that costs Couturier another season?
If Couturier can return as early as the month of October, then it could make a difference in the final results of a few games and therefore have an impact on the season. Or it could be the start of another injury saga where there isn’t much of an update for weeks and months on end.
3. How Hot is Chuck Fletcher’s Seat?
It’s no secret that the Flyers fan base is awaiting a change at the top. Shouts of “sell the team” and “fire Chuck Fletcher” are extremely common on social media. But just how hot is Chuck Fletcher’s seat?
Certainly, there is a lot of pressure on the organization. There needs to be progress in some form this season, whether it is establishing the standard and identity that Tortorella wants or making some roster decisions and acquiring assets that better position you to improve over the next few offseasons. That can lead to major decisions, and if Tortorella is the safest within the organization, then Fletcher is certainly right at the top of the list of players on a short leash.
How hot Fletcher’s seat really is will be determined by the breaking point regarding the GM. Is a slow start into Thanksgiving going to be the final straw and lead to quick changes? Is it something that happens at the halfway point of the season, when Fletcher would typically address the media and give a state of the team? Is it after the season is over? Is it not at all?
If watching the Tortorella effect is the most intriguing thing to watch, this is certainly the most important decision the Flyers face as a franchise.
4. Will Youth Stick Around?
Tortorella said he was going to play the kids and they certainly did play throughout the six preseason games. While the roster still consists of plenty of returning veterans, there is a healthy dose of young players ready to be in the lineup.
As of Thursday night, the Flyers will start the season with 12 of the 23 on the final roster age 25 and under. So it’s clear the Flyers are still following this mindset at the start of the season.
But will it last? And are there any players who were among the final cuts that could emerge and become a permanent part of the roster during the season?
5. Where Will They Finish in the Standings?
The most intriguing question regarding the play on the ice has to be this one. Where will the Flyers finish in the standings?
For many, this is a bottom-five team on paper. The injuries have only added fuel to the fire. But you have to play the games, and even then it could be worse than anticipated. It could also be better than anticipated with a coach like Tortorella.
With the hockey world caught up in the potential of Connor Bedard, the potential generational talent awaiting the team with the first-overall selection in the 2023 NHL Draft, the lower the better for the Flyers. But ask around and there’s really no straight answer. They could be the worst team in the league. They could be bottom-three or bottom-five. Or they could be stuck in the middle, not quite good enough to be in the playoff discussion, but not bad enough to have high odds in the lottery.
The 82 games to come will be a journey to that answer, and whatever the answer is could have a massive impact on the Flyers future.
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