Philadelphia Flyers: Biggest surprises, disappointments
With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for Philadelphia Flyers.
Vigneault and overall front office among very positive surprises for Flyers
Like many, I wondered if Alain Vigneault was really the right hire for the Flyers.
While I was impressed with Vigneault during his time with the Canucks, his latter Rangers years inspired fears that he was behind the times. Leaning so much on the likes of Tanner Glass? Not great.
There were some similar fears with GM Chuck Fletcher coming in pretty recently. Was this just going to be a team full of rehashes? Would a fairly talented foundation end up being wobbly at the top?
So far ... nope, things have gone really well. It sure sounds like the Flyers are taking a progressive approach. Consider Vigneault’s comments about the analytics approach back in December, via The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (sub required).
“In the past, (analytics) were more used by the general manager,” Vigneault said. “Chuck has made it really open, and I’m going to those guys (in the analytics department), and we’re exchanging information. They were part of our meetings this summer. So it’s an area that I think our hockey people are using more and more now.”
Vigneault used such information to pull goalies aggressively, and seemed to be making generally wise lineup decisions.
In general, the front office has been one of the season’s most promising surprises for the Flyers.
Konecny leading the team in scoring ranks among the bigger surprises for the Flyers
From the eye test alone, you could tell that Travis Konecny possesses brilliant talent. Still, it’s not a given that a player will also translate potential to production.
With that in mind, Konency’s rise is an even more pleasant surprise for the Flyers.
Despite being pandemic-limited to 66 games played, Konecny tied his career-high of 24 goals (from the two previous seasons, curiously). Konecny pushed his point total to a career-high of 61 points, seizing the opportunity of getting a big bump in ice time.
While you can nitpick a bit (a 17 shooting percentage is a touch high), it sure seems like the Flyers have a star on their hands.
Some other big situations worked out, too.
Matt Niskanen enjoyed a nice rebound year. More importantly, Ivan Provorov rebounded as well. Carter Hart continued his trajectory up the ranks of the NHL’s most promising goalies. There was a lot to like for the Flyers in 2019-20, right down to a hot finish.
Slightly disappointing season for Giroux
In the grand scheme of things, Claude Giroux remains a very good player. Giroux pumped out solid possession stats, as usual. Take, for instance, this sturdy-looking RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey:
It’s fair to say that Giroux’s point totals (53 in 69 games) were modest by his lofty standards. Chalk it up to a substantial drop in ice time (21:27 TOI average last season vs. 18:59 in 2019-20), or maybe unusually quiet power play production, but Giroux’s playmaking plummeted. He actually scored almost as many goals (21 vs. 22) in fewer games, yet his .46 assist per game average ranked as his lowest since 2009-10.
I wouldn’t be too concerned overall, though at 32, there is slight worry about Father Time messing things up.
Frustrating health luck for Flyers
Injuries strike just about every team (even the Washington Capitals every now and then).
Still, the Flyers had to weather some unexpected health issues that make you wonder if this team could have been even better.
Most frighteningly, Oskar Lindblom saw his season end after he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Obviously, his health stands as a far larger concern than wins and losses.
Nolan Patrick experienced his own struggles as his 2019-20 campaign was derailed by migraine issues. It’s unclear if Patrick will be able to alleviate such issues in the long term, but at minimum, it sidelined him this season.
Overall, the good surprises outweighed on-ice disappointments for the Flyers. Most of all, here’s hoping for positive news regarding Lindblom’s health.