And so ends another Philadelphia Flyers season. It was fun while it lasted right? Right.
The Flyers lost Game 6 8-5 to hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and managed to have a little fight towards the end although it just was not enough. But instead of talking about that game and what happened, I just want to take a look back at what happened this season.
Even though it was a roller coaster season for Flyers fans, there is a lot to be hopeful about going into next season.
To begin, let’s talk about Sean Couturier. It was a complete and total shocker to all of us how he played this season. We all knew that he had the talent and the defensive skills to be a successful player, but now? He is one of the candidates for the Selke award, and scored a hat-trick in Game 6 against the Penguins. Five total points in the game WITH A TORN MCL. That’s completely and totally crazy, but it proves how much of a warrior Couturier has been over the course of the season.
Before the season began, I predicted that he would pass his career-high of 15 goals, and would have about 23 assists for a grand total of 39 points. Yeah, I was way off. Couturier had his 16th goal of the season on Dec. 20. He finished the year with a total of 36 goals. 36! The man was a man on a mission this season, and it is nice to see him get the recognition that he deserves.
I was surprised, however, to see that both Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov did not have the sophomore slumps that sometimes plague the NHL. They were definitely better in their second seasons, each providing a key element to the offense in scoring and creating goals.
Konecny finished with 24 goals, while Provorov had 17. They were both exciting players to watch on the ice. Whether it was Konecny’s speed and raw energy or the skills of Ivan Provorov, those two have a bright bright future on the Flyers. Plus, we got to see Konecny on the first line where he belongs for a good chunk of the season. Now, if only Hakstol would stop benching him when he makes little mistakes.
Shayne Gostisbehere, probably my fourth or fifth pick for the Norris Trophy this season, had a stellar year, producing on offense and improving on his defense. Ghost finished the regular season with 13 goals and 52 assists, third-most on the team behind Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux.
The pairing of Provorov and Gostisbehere was a sight to behold on the ice, but they tended to do better split apart because they shined being the lead defender in their pairings.
The hope for the Flyers’ defenders is that this year’s rookie defenders, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim will get more opportunities next season to play more games and not have to sit in press boxes due to their lack of experience.
Furthermore, Flyers fans do not want to see Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning on the ice again. It was a brutal season for the pairing, and it showed often.
I’d be remiss if I finished my positives of the season without mentioning the incredible bounce-back season of Claude Giroux. Giroux finished the regular season with 34 goals and a league-leading 68 assists, becoming the first Flyers player since Eric Lindros to get over 100 points in a season, and finished second in the league in points (102), six behind Edmonton Oilers standout Connor McDavid.
I would put him in contention for the Hart Trophy, but it certainly would not be a shock if he did not win it. The effort from Giroux this season was strong and continuous, even during that horrendous 10-game losing streak. He was a good leader and good player.
I cannot wait to see Giroux do the same thing next season. He is in fact back, and this season proved he still has a lot left to give.
But with the positives, come the negatives of this season. The Flyers failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs again. They have not been able to do that since 2012 when they beat the Penguins before losing to the New Jersey Devils.
A lot of people, including me, questioned the decision making of Dave Hakstol. Why he would bench rookies that proved their skills for veteran players that were making rookie mistakes? This season was a wake-up call for me, especially when it came to the coaching decisions.
In the city of Philadelphia, I’ve come to trust the head coaches. I trust Doug Pederson. I trust Brett Brown. I’m even starting to trust Gabe Kapler running the Phillies in their first season. But I do not trust Hakstol with the Flyers. He made too many mistakes, and lacked the presence to get the Flyers past the first round. I do not think the Flyers will part ways with him after this season, much to the chagrin of the Flyers fandom.
It will be one more year, one last chance. Because yes, Hakstol has proved that he can get this team into the postseason again, well they sort of limped in at the end there, only to get matched up with the Penguins. But once the playoffs come around, I do not think Hakstol has the coaching talent to get them past that first round. And eventually, that’s not gonna be good enough; not for Ron Hextall and not for the city of Philadelphia. Although I will admit, getting eliminated early this season was a lot rougher than before considering how hot Philadelphia sports has been.
Outside of coaching decisions, goaltending is the next thing that needs to improve for next season. I think we are still about two years away from the Carter Hart NHL experiment. He will definitely play with the Phantoms next season. But until that point, the Flyers need someone that they can count on in net. And I’m not so sure I trust any of the three goaltenders the Flyers currently have.
I’m sure that Petr Mrazek does not keep a roster spot after this season. But out of Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth, which one do you keep? Do you stick with those two for another season and hope for the best? It’s a toss-up.
But this season, as much of a whiplash for the emotions that it has, was interesting, and I’m glad I got to write about it here. So to all of you who have read these posts all season, I thank you for sticking with me in my first year. The 2017-18 season may be over, but we are just getting started. Thank you again, and let’s go Flyers.