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2017-18 player review: Valtteri Filppula will not be a Flyer next year

The Finn might have been the worst Flyers forward not named Jori Lehtera.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, the Valtteri Filppula experience has now lasted 101 games. The Finn was acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline two years ago to slot in as the Flyers’ third-line center, but the results have been less than stellar to say the least. Ron Hextall knew he was getting a declining player at age 32, but Hextall probably didn’t see such a swift fall coming this season after a solid if unspectacular 20-game cup of coffee with the Orange and Black late in 2016-17.

By The Numbers

Basic stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
81 11 22 33 20 71 15.49%

That 20-game cup of coffee I mentioned earlier produced five goals and three assists for Filppula, which averages out to a pace of roughly 33 points over a full 82 game season. All those points were also at even strength, with Filppula expected to man the Flyers’ second power play unit the following season to add some value there as well.

But 2017-18 was more a tale of two seasons for the veteran pivot, with a blazing start that included five goals in his first 12 games in October fading to a late season swoon that all but confirmed the player is almost out of gas. Filppula scored just six more times after October and didn’t register another power play goal all season as the Flyers’ second unit was a non-factor.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
1.1 0.75 0.43 0.31

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
44.53% -7.32 -6.36 0.31 -8.97 42.86% 98.95

Filppula lagged well behind his teammates as evidence by his -7.4% Corsi relative, but was trusted with a ton of defensive deployment (53.1% defensive zone starts) by head coach Dave Hakstol. He didn’t fair well at even strength, with a -11 goal differential over the season. That echoed some of the concerns out of Tampa that he’d lost his skating legs and wasn’t viable as a top-six center anymore. His Corsi For of 44.48% all but confirmed that, marking the fourth-straight season he’s posted a Corsi For below 50%.

All told, the Flyers probably could have gotten similar production from someone other than Filppula and at far less than the $5 million it cost them against the cap.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?

It really depends on how high they were for an aging player past his prime in a not all encompassing, but also rather important role, as a third line center. We were probably looking for somewhere in the 30-40 point range, but some production on the power play, and at the very least dependable minutes from a veteran.

Filppula did notch 33 points, which was at the low end of what we probably expected point wise given his 30-point season a year ago. But he wasn’t effective in helping the second power play unit (his goals came early as a fill-in on the top power play unit) and faded in the second half, looking far from a useful pivot late in the year that was consistently on the wrong side of the possession game.

In the end, the expectations weren’t high, but Filppula falls slightly below what we were hoping for and definitely falls into the “replaceable” category.

What do we expect from this player next season?

In a perfect world, nothing. In that world the Flyers rightfully move on from Filppula and go in another direction for another center. Whether that’s slotting in Scott Laughton there or a move via trade or free agency the Flyers would be better off without the player.

Given there has been at least some veiled interest in Filppula even before free agency started, that could be a good sign that the veteran does indeed sign elsewhere as that would be the preferred outcome.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

Being that he’s now 34 there isn’t a ton for Filppula to change and while I don’t want to see him back in a Flyers uniform next year, some conditioning and skating work would help ooze perhaps another season out of him before he’s totally unplayable.

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