While other Philadelphia sports teams are thriving, the Flyers’ modest goal should be respectability
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t had the best offseason.
Short of a cap, general manager Chuck Fletcher has done little in the free agent or trade markets. The team, on paper, did only marginally better than last season, when it had just 61 points, fourth-fewest in the NHL.
Getting youth development – 12 players 25 or under are on the opening night roster – should be the goal. That, and being much more competitive in games.
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It won’t be easy as Ryan Ellis, the team’s top defenseman, hasn’t recovered from a pelvis injury and will likely miss the season. Top center Sean Couturier has re-injured his back, surgically repaired and there is no timeline for his return, although he started skating recently and appears to be making progress.
So while the Eagles and Phillies are on the upswing and the 76ers appear to be heading for a solid season, the Flyers are an afterthought as their season begins Thursday against a visit to New Jersey.
“It’s a great time to be a spot fan in the city of Philadelphia,” Fletcher said in his opening remarks to the media Wednesday at the Flyers Training Center.
Here is the hope
The hope is that new coach John Tortorella makes the most of the roster with his demanding style; that Tony DeAngelo raises a power play that was last in the league last season; that young players like Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Owen Tippett and Wade Allison are making great strides; that young veterans like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are stepping up to stardom; that Carter Hart regains the form he showed in his first two seasons.
“They’re a young, fast team,” Fletcher said. “… They are kind of unproven. It’s something we’re going to have to sort out; this is something that Torts also discussed with you. There is a lot of work to be done, but there are a lot of advantages: youth, speed, depth. We have very good depth this year, much better than the last two years. So if we have injuries, which seem to happen over the course of the season, I think we have plenty of kids in Lehigh Valley that we can call on.
Fletcher was asked about the team’s goals.
“In terms of expectations, what John and I have said is that we expect to work hard this season. We expect to work hard to set a standard that we will be held to, both on the ice and on the outside Expect to defend a lot better Play harder away from the puck Be a more competitive team
The Philadelphia Flyers allowed 3.59 goals per game last season, ranking them 27th in the 32-team league.
“Clearly we have to reduce our goals against,” Fletcher said. “It’s something you can control through hard work, structure and attention to detail. This is an area that the coaches focused on in camp and we talked about it internally. So for me, I’d like to see a significant improvement in our competition, in our detail and keeping the puck out of the net – and allowing our goaltenders to see the puck a little cleaner.
“If we can do that, we will be quite a competitive team.”
Fletcher said the Tortorella system and special teams will have to “work on some things,” especially at the start of the season.
But he is optimistic.
“There’s a lot of energy there right now,” he said, looking at the level of the ice at Voorhees. “The players are recharged after last season. I think everyone is happy to come back.
Young defensemen Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard are part of the opening night roster. Zamula is set to start Thursday’s opener against visiting New Jersey.
“If the young players don’t get regular ice time here, we’ll definitely bring them to Lehigh Valley when the time is right,” Fletcher said. “I always think John looks at the different combinations. I think Zamula has a strong chance to play tomorrow night, but we’ll see what John does.
Zamula, 22, who had a strong season with the Phantoms last season, was with Justin Braun during the third pair in practice Wednesday.
“We’ll see how things go in the first two games here,” Fletcher said, giving the impression that Zamula will get an early season “trial” with the big team.
Fletcher said one of Tortorella’s strengths is determining how his players fit into the team he’s trying to build. That and “developing young players”, he said.
“There is no doubt this season we have to see who is part of the solution – whether you are a veteran player or a young player trying to push.” Fletcher said. “…We believe we will improve as the season progresses.”
RW Cam Atkinson (upper body injury) will not be ready for Thursday’s game, Tortorella said. … Tortorella did not have an update on defender Rasmus Ristolainen, who left training early for an unknown reason.