The Flyers have experienced highs — a 10-game winning streak — and lows — losers in nine of their last 11 — during what has been a roller coaster first 43 games. It’s time to take a quick look back at how each area of the team has performed in the Metro’s annual mid-season report card.
The unit ranks in the top 10 in the NHL in goals, which is a reversal of last year, and has fueled some thrilling comebacks. Wayne Simmonds, selected to his first All-Star Game on Tuesday, has a team-high 16 goals and Jacob Voracek is having a strong bounce-back season. Rookie Travis Konecny, just 19, has proven he belongs and the Flyers also lead the league with points from their defensemen. One drawback is the offense disappears for long stretches.
Teetering on the verge of collapse in October, the blue liners have stabilized. Although still a work in progress and prone to breakdowns, they typically provide reliable protection in front of the net and have just enough skill and speed to hang with any team in the league. The addition of 19-year-old rookie Ivan Provorov, who has assumed the role of No. 1 defenseman, has drastically improved the entire unit. With Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz free agents after this season and a glut of rising stars in the minor league system, expect this area of the team to continue to improve.
Just like last season, Steve Mason delivered when the team needed him most. After Michal Neuvirth went down with an injury, Mason started 23 of the next 25 games and played some of the best hockey of his career. Neuvirth returned over the weekend and will provide a much-needed break for Mason. Rookie Anthony Stolarz also looked sharp in his two starts — both wins.
Dave Hakstol picked up from where he left off last season in pointing the team in the right direction. He navigated through an abysmal start from his defense and goalies, has the team playing hard most nights, sent messages to certain players, and thus the team, through healthy scratches and is doing an excellent job developing Provorov and Konecny.
Front office: B
Sticking to the long-term plan of rebuilding through the draft, Ron Hextall didn’t make headline moves in the offseason. The general manager’s one significant free agent signing, Dale Weiss, has been a disappointment. However, Hextall gets credit for his decision to give Provorov and Konecny a chance to play in the NHL. It will be interesting to see if the GM tries to improve the roster, and the team’s chances for a playoff berth and run, with some deals at the trade deadline.