With 41 games down in the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers season, it's a good time to sit down and assess the performance of the team as whole. To that end, the writers at Broad Street Hockey bring you a roundtable discussion, as we provide our opinions on the key topics from the season's first half.
Over the next two days, we will break down and answer four specific questions. Participating in the roundtable are myself, Travis Hughes, Kurt R., Al K., Brent G., Mary Clarke, Kelly Hinkle, Collin Mehalick, Ryan Gilbert, Allison J., Kevin Christmann, and Andrew D.
On Thursday, we graded Dave Hakstol's work to date and named our most pleasant surprises and biggest disappointments. Earlier today, we decided whether or not the Flyers' timeline towards contention has accelerated. In our last question, our writers predict if the Flyers will be playoff-bound in 2015-16.
The Flyers are currently two points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand. At the end of the day, do you believe they will end up in the postseason?
The Flyers still have four more games against the Penguins this season. That's an easy eight points right there. So, yeah. They make it.
Ugh — a mediocre team that could make the playoffs due to being in a mediocre division. Sound familiar? No, they won’t make the playoffs, because I’m sick of Philadelphia teams stringing me along just to lose to Washington with the goddamn season on the li— sorry. Nope.
Oh dear, cutting to the chase, are we? At the start of the year, I had them at 94 points and scraping into the playoffs. That is certainly on the table and the reasons why I’ve outlined in the other questions. However, some things have got to stop.
Schultz and Umberger must go to the press box at least some of the time as they just aren’t getting it done. The penalty kill can’t be on the ice more than five times a game, and when it’s on the ice they must execute better. The powerplay needs to find its mojo again. Gudas and Couturier must continue their improved play, and Mason and Neuvirth must keep on trucking. With some of this newfound cap space through the Vinny-Schenn trade, I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a flier on a rental -- IF AND ONLY IF -- the team is still competitive and (above all) NONE of the high draft picks or high prospects are the asking price.
All that being said, I like the direction this team is going. If they continue their play (California trip excluded) since mid-November, they should emerge from a crowded cut line on the right side of it and who knows what happens after that. If they play like they did before then it’ll be time to sell some pieces.
I’m an optimist. They’ll get in.
My first inclination was to dismiss the possibility of the playoffs outright. After all, I've written about the weakness of their bottom-six forwards, the struggles of Nick Schultz, and their mediocre puck possession metrics all season long. But the more I thought about it, the more plausible a strong second half run looked.
The Flyers have stayed in contention despite being unsustainably bad in lots of key areas. As I wrote on Wednesday, the special teams should get better, as their underlying metrics are solid. Their 6.5% shooting percentage at 5v5 should also improve, led by guys like Jakub Voracek, Matt Read and Michael Raffl, all who are way below their career averages. Steve Mason should stop more pucks on the penalty kill. And to top it off, the Flyers are actually trending in the right direction according to even strength puck possession metrics, performing like an above-average score-adjusted Corsi team (51.0%) since Gostisbehere was called up in mid-November.
In a weak Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference? Yeah, the Flyers have a solid chance of being the team that goes on a run fueled by favorable percentages and slips into the playoffs.
I lean towards no. Like I've already said, I think the Flyers are playing pretty close to what their ceiling is, which reflects well on the coaches. But the flipside of that is that there's only so much upward mobility in the standings that exists, and there are five teams they'd have to beat out to really have a shot.
The playoff picture is so muddled by mediocrity -- pretty much every team in the East not named Buffalo or Columbus has a non-zero shot at a playoff spot this year. At least one or two of those teams in the 7-14 range is going to have a hot second half and make a run, not that unlike the one the Flyers themselves made two years ago. Could that team be the Flyers again this year? Sure! But I feel like the odds are against it. I'd say they've got about a one-third chance of making it.
Despite how high I am on the future of this franchise, I still don't think the Flyers are playoff contenders this season. Can you really be contenders if you have the second worst goals-for number in the league, and are one of just five teams to not hit the 100 mark by the halfway point of the season? The Flyers were always going to be average-at-best this season, regardless of a new coach and a new system. Even with how bad the Metro has been, I can't see the Flyers sneaking in over Pittsburgh and even New Jersey, as surprising as they have been.
Shayne Gostisbehere has given the fans a lot of hope and that's okay! With the way the city's sports teams have gone over the last few years, we need a bit of hope. But, expectations should be tempered. Sure, the Flyers are notorious for putting it on in the second half of the season and I'd love for them to make the playoffs, but it's not worth the heartbreak of a first round loss when this team is still just a half step behind the league's best. They're so close to making it and this season is probably the last we'll have of this "too good to be bad, too bad to be good" dance the Flyers seemingly have perfected over the years. So, even if the team fails to make the playoffs this year, good things are on the horizon folks.
The tiny part of my brain that deals in logical reality says no, but ... see my answer to Question No. 3. It's happening.
At the beginning of the season, I kept saying I wouldn't be surprised if the Flyers were in the mix for a wildcard spot, and, as it stands, they certainly are. However, there's just too many current metrics and models that suggest that this is the best position they could possibly hope for, and they'll begin to fall off at some point.
I wouldn't surprised if the team keeps it competitive until the end of the season, but there's just too much of a logjam around the Eastern Conference wildcard to express any outright confidence in them making it. I think they'll be one of the last teams out.
I believe that when this team is fully healthy they are a postseason team. However, I expect to see Hextall make at least one or two more trades that will cause the Flyers to once again miss out on the playoffs despite a hot stretch in February or March.
Sure, why not. I mean, I don’t think the Flyers are far better or far worse than any other team in the Metropolitan (other than the Washington Capitals), so really it’s all a crapshoot, right? If they play well and manage to win points away from the divisional rivals, I think they can make top 3. If they lose those games, they’ll probably miss. And really, it wouldn’t upset me much. All eyes are on the future anyhow.
No I don’t. The only teams in the Conference I think I’d say, with confidence, that are worse than the Flyers are Columbus, New Jersey, and Buffalo. The Flyers are right there in the mix with so many other teams that I lean toward missing out, simply because we all know the Flyers have some talent gaps. Hopefully not for long though!
The Eastern Conference is weak enough this season that they have as good a shot as any of the mid-tier Metropolitan teams. I wouldn't be surprised to see them snag a wild card birth. If the match-ups fall right, and the goaltending holds up, they might even make a run.