As the Flyers prepare for the start of the 2016-17 season with the opener on Friday against the Kings, let’s take a look at the top storylines (in no particular order) for the year.
Dave Hakstol Year 2
Hakstol proved he was the right man for the job by guiding the Flyers to a surprising playoff berth in his rookie year. Let’s see what he does for an encore and with a roster that is very similar to the one from last year.
Speaking about Slow Starts
The Flyers have gotten off to awful starts in the last three seasons. The top priority is breaking the pattern with a winning record in October.
Who’s the No. 1 Goalie?
Is it Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth? Although Mason will start the season as the No. 1 goalie, backup Michal Neuvirth proved last year he is also more than capable of handling role. It should be interesting to see which netminder ends the season as the Flyers No. 1 goalie.
Shayne Gostisbehere was the first of many heralded prospects to get the call up to Flyers last year, posted historic numbers and was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, both 19 years old and 2015 first round draft picks, made the Flyers out of training camp and hope to continue what Gostisbehere started.
Rookie Watch Part 2
Don’t be shocked if defensemen Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim, each first round picks in 2013 and ’14, respectively, are next to get their shot with the Flyers. They are starting the season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, but one or both might end up in Philly full-time before the year is over.
Sophomore Slump for Gostibehere?
After posting 17 goals, including five game-winners in overtime, and 29 assists for 46 points in 64 games, “Ghost” hopes to avoid the proverbial sophomore slump. The good news is the defenseman was sharp in the Hockey World Cup tournament for Team North America in September and played well in the preseason.
Voracek’s bounce-back year
The Flyers winger, who led the team with 81 points in 2014-15, finished with 55 points last year. In the Hockey World Cup and preseason, Voracek has looked like the Voracek of old.
The Flyers were too inconsistent on the power play and especially the penalty kill all year. Without both units in the top half in the league, they will struggle to make a second straight postseason appearance.
Speaking about the Playoffs
So, are they headed back? As long as they remain relatively healthy, particularly in goal, the Flyers have the talent on defense and offense to contend for a playoff spot, but it will likely go down to the wire again whether or not they get in.