The Flyers officially hit the All-Star break following Wednesday’s game against the conference-leading Capitals. Although they passed the actual midpoint of the season a few weeks ago, we figured now is a perfect time to hand out the Flyers report card for the first half.
No one expected the Flyers to light up the scoreboard but the attack has still been a major disappointment. Only the Ducks have scored fewer goals than the Flyers, who have been held to one goal or less in 14 games and managed four goals or more just eight times. Individual players like JakubVoracek and Michael Raffl are well off last year’s goal totals and others have not picked up the slack.
With the addition of the puck-carrying Evgeny Medvedev from the Kontinental Hockey League and the hard-hitting Radko Gudas, the improved play from Michael Del Zotto and arrival of highly-touted prospect Shayne Gostisbehere, the blue liners have looked respectable this season. With more prospects likely on their way next year, the defense has the potential to develop into one of the best and most exciting in the NHL.
For the third straight season, the guys between the pipes have been the team’s best unit. The duo of starter Steve Mason and backup Michal Neuvirth have given the Flyers a chance to win virtually every night. After a rough start, Mason has returned to last season’s stellar form, while Neuvirth has been arguably the team’s MVP so far.
Despite a flawed roster that lacks overall depth and talent, especially the quick type of players that flourish in Dave Hakstol’s system, the rookie coach has the Flyers over .500 and competing for a playoff spot. It’s more than was likely expected from the team this year while it continues to rebuild the defense and recover from the salary cap mess. The staff, especially assistant coaches Ian Laperriere and Joe Mullen, losepoints due to the poor special teams, which both rank in the bottom half of the league and have struggled all year.
Hamstrung by the aforementioned salary cap, second-year GM Ron Hextall has been limited to making minor moves – call-ups from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. However, one of those was Gostisbehere, who has proven he’s more than ready for the NHL and should be a mainstay on the blue line for, oh the next 15 years or so. Hextall continued to show how shrewd he is by finding a taker for seldom-used forward Vincent Lecavalier – as well as defenseman Luke Schenn – in the Kings to free up valuable cap space this year and even more going forward. In return he netted young forward Jordan Weal and a third-round pick in this year’s draft.