A big question to former general manager Ron Hextall's process was how quickly could the team's highly touted youth catch up to the core.
The Flyers were not embarking on a rebuild but instead a transitional phase in which the club needed its prospects to meet its veterans in harmony.
It's very possible the Flyers' established core of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier needed more help — not just hope from younger players. And it's very possible, simultaneously, the Flyers' younger players needed more help — a little less pressure to go from prospect to pillar in a quick flash.
Last summer, the Flyers added Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick. None were the juiciest names during the offseason but they've helped make the Flyers a top-six team in 2019-20 after the club was 22nd among the NHL's 31 teams last season.
"I think you can tell that’s another reason why we’re winning games," Voracek said in February about the Flyers' improved depth. "So many times me, G or Coots didn’t have any points, and we find a way to score four, five goals. Let’s be honest, it didn’t happen very often in the past. We are extremely deep."
Former Flyer and current NBC analyst Brian Boucher sees a team that has now put all the necessary pieces together, a group that would have posed trouble in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs had the regular season finished on time.
The additions of some of the veterans that they added in the offseason — Kevin Hayes, Justin Braun, Matt Niskanen — they’ve been valuable pieces to a young nucleus that maybe was starving for a little more leadership inside that locker room," Boucher said Monday on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Flyers Talk podcast, "and I think it’s been a really good thing for this Flyers team.
They had the coaching change in the offseason and they bring in some new faces, yet they’re dealing with some adversity — Oskar Lindblom’s unfortunate news and then also Nolan Patrick being out. Yet this club seemed to exceed expectations. I think they came together as a group and really started to bond and play good hockey at the right time of year.
And that’s what’s really unfortunate is that when it shut down, the Flyers were really humming and you wonder what this team would have looked like heading into the playoffs in a normal scenario. I would think that teams would have been scared to play that team. I don’t know how it’s going to play when they come back, if they can restart the engine, but I think better days are ahead for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Boucher, who was with the Flyers for 42 playoff games in his career and the 2010 run to the Stanley Cup Final, can sense the fan base bubbling again.
“I think the fans are starting to realize, too, in this league the parity that is here," Boucher said. "Every year is different and just because you didn’t do well last year doesn’t mean there can’t be a quick turnaround the following season. So it’s not like you’re in a 10-year drought and you’re stuck there forever. Things can turn quickly — draft well, guys play above their ceiling, development happens quicker.
"These things can change the fortunes of a team and I think the fans of Philadelphia were starting to see this Flyers team — talk about all these prospects that they had — now starting to come into their own with the additions of some veterans, a new coach and all of a sudden the confidence growing. I think there was genuine excitement about this Flyers team and there should be because they have some good pieces.
“If I was an opponent having to face the Flyers in a seven-game series, especially with the way they were playing, I would have been really nervous just knowing the confidence that was brewing inside that Flyers locker room.”
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