Philadelphia Flyers: Puck Daddy’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

Puck Daddy

(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)

Last Season

33-31-18, 84 points, sixth in the Metropolitan Division. 

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2014-15 Season, In One Tweet

Screen shot from Twitter. 
Screen shot from Twitter. 

Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?

The same. 

They didn’t really make any marked improvements. The hope for the Flyers is that their top two guys, Jakub Voracek (81 points) and Claude Giroux (73 points) will carry the load and the “secondary scoring” can pick up.

Philadelphia has some talent in its forward group. Wayne Simmonds scored 28 goals last season. Brayden Schenn notched 47 points. Sean Couturier is still just 22 years old and had 37 points last year. Adding Sam Gagner at center should give Philly more depth. But the Flyers’ defense is a problem. 

Their top scoring defenseman, Mark Streit, is 37 years old. Michael Del Zotto came on strong offensively for the Flyers last season, but he has his defensive shortcomings.

General manager Ron Hextall used all his political clout to bring in Dave Hakstol from the University of North Dakota. For team that’s not really all that close to the playoffs, that’s a major gamble, unless he has owner Ed Snider believing in some sort of longer term rebuild. 

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Claude Giroux, F

Remember when former coach Peter Laviolette called Giroux the best player in the world? He’s pretty darn good, but he is not Sidney Crosby. He’s not Alex Ovechkin. You can make an argument he’s not even Voracek. That being said, he’s an elite first-line center, a joy to watch and a guy who plays like his hair is on fire. And what a magnificent flow it is. 

2. Michael Del Zotto, D

There are some games when Del Zotto looks like the second coming of Brian Leetch with his ability to lead the rush and then recover with his speed. Most games he looks like Bryan Berard – an offensive one-trick pony. That being said, dude’s a lightning rod. Whether it’s rumors about his dating life or his difficulties in his own zone, Del Zotto is a guy who moves the needle, and the attack, for the Flyers. 

3. Wayne Simmonds, F

I love his consistent, rugged game. His last three full seasons (all with the Flyers) he has posted goal totals of 28, 29 and 28. Mike Richards, who was acquired by Los Angeles for a package including Simmonds, never cracked more than 18 goals in his best full season during that span. Amazing to think that Simmonds is just 27 years old and has that type of track record – without a large amount of fanfare. He should be praised more for his consistency. 

4. Vincent Lecavalier, F

He has three years left on a contract that carries a $4.5 million per-year salary cap hit. Last season he scored a grand total of eight goals. It’s safe to say he has the worst contract on the team because he’s completely untradeable and doesn’t produce. He’s a borderline Hall of Fame player near the end of his line. How will Philly deal with him and his contract this upcoming season?

5. Brayden Schenn, F

How good is Brayden Schenn? No really, we want to know. He had 47 points last season, but he's the type of player where you're always wanting more. Can Hakstol get Schenn to make the jump to 60-plus point territory? He has the skills to hit that level. 

Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

There are few teams that have a better 1-2 punch than Giroux and Voracek. 

In today’s NHL, you need duos to have success. Only two teams had higher scoring twosomes than Giroux and Voracek. That would be Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin with the Dallas Stars and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom with the Washington Capitals.

Also, both players have long-term contracts, and stability goes a long way towards breeding success in the NHL. 

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team 

The defense is simply just not very good.

Even if the Flyers had Dominik Hasek in his prime, there’s no way they could get away with a top pair of Streit and Andrew MacDonald. Hextall didn’t help the team’s blueline all that much this summer – re-signing Del Zotto doesn’t count.

Earlier in the year, owner Ed Snider complained about the team’s lack of other scoring options. Forget that. The Flyers need an improved defense before secondary scoring.

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group 

Voracek, Giroux and Del Zotto. All three can skate and all three are super creative offensively. Hard seeing Philly losing a lot of OT games with that trio. 

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scoring hot)

5

Hakstol’s collegiate background gives him a higher hot seat rating than you’d expect of a first-year coach.

He’s an experiment, and if he has trouble getting through to professional athletes, Hextall’s trigger finger could get itchy.

Coaching professional athletes, who have their own management teams and agents, is completely different from coaching college kids. Hextall said a lot of research went into hiring Hakstol, and we don’t doubt it. But Philadelphia isn’t a great market to learn on the job. 

Awkward Old School Video Break 

Their Best Case Scenario Is … 

Hakstol has the magic touch with his players. Brayden Schenn takes the next step in his development and becomes a 60-plus point player. Both Giroux and Voracek replicate their success from a year ago.

Hextall is somehow able to acquire a defenseman or two to help Philadelphia’s blueline. Mason stays healthy all year giving Philly some net stability. 

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

Hakstol is completely overmatched in his first year as an NHL coach. His players tune him out and the Flyers play pond hockey until Hextall fires his bench boss midway through the season. The Flyers’ D shows no ability to competently play in its own end yielding many, many highlight-reel goals from other teams. 

Prediction

Giroux and Voracek will get their points. Philadelphia’s secondary scoring will improve with Schenn and Sean Couturier becoming more valuable contributors. Hakstol will have some growing pains, but ultimately will find the right message by the end of the season. Philly’s D will again be its downfall. It’s just not very good. The Flyers will finish about five points outside the Wild Card. 

Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins

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