The season ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Those hoping for a fast-paced game, with the Ottawa Senators desperate to make the playoffs and complete their improbable second half comeback were surely disappointed. The Senators were surprisingly sleepy throughout, but were lucky to face a Philadelphia Flyers squad that was even more lackluster, resulting a 3-1 Senators victory.
In the first two periods, the Flyers dominated in shots, but struggled to create very many quality scoring chances. Ottawa, on the other hand, played a conservative style and waited for Philadelphia to make mistakes. The Flyers obliged, as turnovers by Steve Mason in the first and Jakub Voracek in the third period both were quickly deposited in the back of the net.
And thus ends the 2014-15 season for the Flyers. The year certainly wasn't without its positives. Jakub Voracek, Steve Mason and Claude Giroux all played like stars. Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVelde took big steps forward. Michael Del Zotto, Carlo Colaiacovo and Ryan White were pleasant surprises.
But in the end, the team could not overcome the roster flaws that were apparent from day one of the season. The defense remains the biggest issue, filled with way too many third pair talents and too few unquestioned top-four options. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier didn't take major steps forward, though both showcased enough improvement to make 2015-16 breakouts seem feasible. And the players expected to be drags on the roster (Vincent Lecavalier, R.J. Umberger, Andrew MacDonald, Nicklas Grossmann) were unsurprising liabilities.
The offseason should bring some new faces, and potentially a new coach. But it's going to take some time for the Flyers to fix their many issues. Here's to hoping that the next few months put the organization back on the right path.
A few more observations on today's game:
- Brayden Schenn's pass to set up Matt Read's goal in the second period was the game's only highlight. Schenn finished with a career-high 47 points, and for all the criticism that he receives, he has improved statistically every year. It's on the front office to determine whether he's reached his ceiling or will continue on a upward trajectory, and react accordingly.
- Craig Berube predictably dealt with lots of questions regarding his job status in his post-game press conference. The coach seemed unfazed, but admitted that he had no control over Ron Hextall's decision. Berube hasn't been given a great roster, so it's tough to blame him for the team missing the playoffs, but the misevaluation of his defense certainly didn't help. When it comes down to it, the perceived tension between Berube and Mason will likely decide his fate. If the two truly are at odds, Berube probably goes. If the feud is nonexistent or overblown, I wouldn't be shocked to see him stay.
- Ryan White, Carlo Colaiacovo and Chris VandeVelde may have played their last games as members of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, as all three will be unrestricted free agents in the offseason. Cheers to all three for exceeding expectations - can't say I'd be unhappy if any of them return next year.
- Matt Read seems like a no-brainer choice as bounceback player of the 2015-16 season. He finished strong, and should be able to avoid playing with a dead weight winger like R.J. Umberger next season. In retrospect, someone in the coaching staff or organization should have sat Read down rather than let him play through a high ankle sprain in November and December, as the injury truly did wreck his season.
- With the loss, the Flyers will most likely choose seventh in the first round of the NHL Draft this summer. They'll have a 6.5% chance of securing Connor McDavid, and they also could fall back to eighth if a team with a better record wins the lottery. Expect to hear these names quite alot over the next few months: Ivan Provorov, Lawson Crouse, Zach Werenski, Mikko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal and Timo Meier. Personally, I'm rooting for Provorov or Barzal. Flyers fans can also pray that a top-five talent like Mitch Marner falls, though that seems unlikely.
- Call me crazy, but despite his slight regression this year in terms of raw points, I've never been more confident that Sean Couturier is on the verge of a significant offensive improvement. Over the final two months, he's looked stronger on the puck than ever before, and he's finding himself involved in more and more scoring chances. Jess from Pattison Avenue wrote a great piece this week that breaks down the positive signs that the Flyers' still-young two way center showed this season. Definitely worth a read.
- Congratulations to the Ottawa Senators, who went on an improbable second half run in order to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season. I'd have no issues if their Cinderella story lasts a few playoff rounds.
- The team may not have been very good, but Flyers hockey is always fun to watch, and I'm going to miss it over the summer. Thanks to everyone for reading, and stick around for the offseason! We get five months of dreaming that Ron Hextall can somehow find a way to dump the Lecavalier, Umberger and MacDonald contracts, or convince someone that Grossmann is worth actual assets in a trade. Fun!