Chairman Ed Snider, General Manager Ron Hextall and captain Claude Giroux all believe the Flyers are a playoff team.
After missing the postseason for the second time in the last three years in 2014-2015, the trio feels the modest upgrades to the roster in the offseason, the potential for returning players to improve and a new coach is more than enough to believe the organization will play meaningful games deep into April this spring.
With a new season set to begin Thursday night in Tampa Bay against the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Metro takes a look at the top 10 storylines to watch this season that will determine whether or not the Flyers return to the playoffs.
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Need a fast start
The Flyers have been anchored down by terrible starts to the season the last two years. In 2013, they went a franchise worst 1-7 that got coach Peter Laviolette fired before rebounding to sneak into the playoffs the last week of the year. They sputtered out to a 1-3-2 mark and were never able to recover last year. A solid start to the season is paramount.
Improve road record
While the Flyers finished with a respectable 23-11-7 record at home, they were a dreadful 10-20-11 away from the Wells Fargo Center. Their poor play on the road no doubt contributed mightily to their failure to make the playoffs.
Learning new coach Dave Hakstol’s system
It will be interesting to see how long it takes the Flyers to pick up the former University of North Dakota coach’s system, which leans heavily on defense but requires speed and the defensemen to get more involved in the offense.
New overtime format and shootouts
The organization owns the worst record in the NHL since the league instituted shootouts and went 3-11 in the skills competition last year. With a new overtime format that has teams skate 3-on-3 – rather than 4-on-4 – the league hopes more games end in overtime and reduces the amount of shootouts, which should be music to the Flyers’ ears.
Rookie defensemen watch
Although none of the highly-touted defensive prospects earned a roster spot out of the preseason – namely because there was no room – keep tabs on the development of youngsters like Shayne Gostisbehere, Sam Morin and Robert Haag with the Phantoms. The three will be prime candidates for call-ups in case of injuries.
Who plays on the top line?
Jakub Voracek and Giroux are obviously cemented on the first unit, but who complements the line? Is it Michael Raffl, who will start there on Thursday, newcomer Sam Gagner or even Brayden Schenn, who played a chunk of time there last year?
Matt Read and R.J. Umberger both played through injuries for most of last year and had seasons to forget. However, both are healthy and could provide a crucial boost with bounce-back seasons.
The Flyers finished with the third-best power play in the NHL but had the 27th-ranked penalty kill. Kudos to the man-advantage, but the PK obviously needs to get better.
The Mighty Metro
With the Rangers, Islanders, Capitals, Penguins and a dangerous young squad in Columbus, the Metropolitan Division might just be the best and deepest one in the league this year. The Flyers must prove they can beat the aforementioned teams in head-to-head play if they want to have any shot at the playoffs.
With the new additions, an added year of experience for the young forwards, Steve Mason coming off his best professional season and a fresh face behind the bench, the Flyers will be better. However, their defense is still pedestrian, there’s not enough offensive depth and a daunting division unfortunately leaves the Flyers on the outside of the playoffs yet again. The good news is with the young talent in the system, the 2016-17 season and beyond look promising.