Last offseason brought many changes for the Flyers. Most noteably was the shedding of the remaining seven years of Ilya Bryzgalov‘s contract, via a buyout. Danny Briere was also bought out, freeing up $13 million in cap space through the 2014-15 season. Incoming was the former face of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, Vincent Lecavalier (who was also bought out himself), Islanders’ captian, Mark Streit, and Ray Emery to form a goaltending tandem with Steve Mason.With no shortage of scoring up front in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell, and Wayne Simmonds, to go along with young talented forwards in Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, the Flyers had the scoring to be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. However, major questions remained on the back end and in goal. With poor defensive depth, a lack of defensive specialists, and no bonafide number one goalie, could Philly keep the puck out of their net playing in the same division with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, and Rick Nash?
- Finishing third in the NHL scoring race, Claude Giroux cemented himself as one of the NHL’s elite. Despite a slow start and a snub from the deep Canadian Olympic team, there were just two players who had more than Giroux’s 86 points this season- countrymen Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf.
- Flyers’ forwards Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek emerged as top-end scoring threats themselves. Already known as one of the best power forwards in the game, Simmonds earned career highs in goals (29), assists (31), and points (60). Building off his 22 goals in a 48-game season last year, Voracek went for 62 points himself, a new career high.
- After being left for dead in Columbus, Steve Mason was certainly a question mark going into the season. However, Mason was able to shoulder the load as the number one, starting 60 games. Although Mason wasn’t perfect throughout the year (2.50 GAA), he kept a poor defense afloat and had a respectable .917 SV%.
- As many predicted before the season began, defense was the weakness of the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers. With Kimmo Timonen in the twilight of his career and offseason acquisition, Mark Streit, an offensively-minded player, the Flyers lacked a true defensive stopper. It was no surprise they they finished in the bottom ten in goals against.
- Although he put up a career-high 39 points this season, Sean Couturier hasn’t panned out to be the player the Flyers thought they were drafting when he was selected 8th overall in 2011. At one time an elite level prospect, Couturier has failed to earn a spot inside the Flyers’ top six forwards three years into his NHL career.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
With the only UFA’s on this roster being Steve Downie, Adam Hall, Hal Gill, and Ray Emery, next year’s Flyers will look nearly identical to this season’s. With the current roster, it is difficult to picture this team making any type of playoff run. Steve Mason is nowhere near the level of the goalies we saw make deep runs this year in the playoffs and the current defensive group of Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald, and Nicklas Grossmann is quite weak. Although Philly has the top-six scoring to carry them to a playoff-birth, I wouldn’t expect anything from this team after that.