The loss to the Capitals in six games in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs still stings, but this season was a step in the right direction for the Flyers.
Let’s be honest, it was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Instead, the team exceeded expectations and made an unlikely and spirited push to the playoffs.
Before moving ahead to the draft and offseason, it’s time to reflect on the season and hand out the Flyers year-end report card.
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Offense: C (mid-season grade: D)
The Flyers finished with 211 goals, which ranked them 22nd in the NHL. Although stars Claude Giroux (67 points in 78 games) and Jake Voracek (55 in 73) had off years, the team received breakout seasons from youngsters Brayden Schenn (a career-high 26 goals and 59 points) and Sean Couturier(39 points in 63 games) and Wayne Simmonds netted a career-high 32 goals. General Manager Ron Hextall must address the lack of depth, though, which hindered the attack.
Defense: B (mid-season grade: B)
Rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbehere obviously stood out from an offensive perspective with 46 points in 64 games, but a crew that included youngsters like Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas who teamed with veterans Nick Schultz, Michael Del Zotto and Mark Streit combined to form a respectable defense that allowed 210 goals, which ranked it 11th best in the league. With one or two highly-touted prospects expected to possibly arrive next year, the unit should get even better.
Goaltending: A- (mid-season grade: B+)
The duo of Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth was one of the best all season, especially over the final two months when the team made its dash for a playoff berth. Credit Neuvirth for his performance in the first half of the year, when he kept the team afloat as Mason struggled to round into form. Credit Mason for putting the team on his back by going 10-4-3 over the final four weeks of the season when he also started 17 of 18 games.
Coaching: B+ (mid-season grade: B-)
So much for rookie head coach Dave Hakstol struggling to make the transition from college to the NHL. Not one to show emotion, he hit the right nerve and got the most out of his – flawed – roster. Players bought into his system and younger guys like Nick Cousins, Gostisbehere, Schenn and Couturierflourished.
The Flyers finished the regular season 41-27-14 for 96 points and earned the second wild card spot after last year’s dismal 33-31-18 mark for 84 points, which were the seventh fewest in the league. Most importantly, though, they showed signs that the future – immediate and long term – looks promising.