As the Flyers continue their West Coast, overtime filled road trip, coincidentally they’ll receive a few more hours to reflect upon the calendar year of hockey they’ve played. They’ve, in this time, completed an incredibly poor and disappointing shortened (2020)-21 season, re-tooled their roster, and in the midst of the season to follow, find themselves with work to be done as they sit 5th in the Metropolitan Division.
It is entirely still possible, yet unlikely, that the Flyers finish the 2021-22 NHL season in a playoff position.
Considering that they still have 51 games left before this would be determined, it is indeed odd to reflect on what is yet to come in a somewhat retrospective (or, predetermined) manner. However, with the hockey we’ve witnessed so far, it is hard not to consider the Flyers’ potential fate a foregone conclusion.
Therefore, with the New Year now upon us, the time to make resolutions is now, and to make watching, observing, and following Flyers’ hockey a bit sweeter, here are some Flyers’ based resolutions for 2022...
Appreciate Claude Giroux while he is still here
If the Flyers do indeed decide that they cannot simply “run it back” after this current re-tooling, it is likely that Claude Giroux will move on from the Flyers in some capacity. This is not to suggest that the longest tenured captain in Flyers history will request a trade, or that in any way he is unhappy with the Flyers. Only Giroux himself could possibly know that.
However, much like with other players entering their older years who are beloved by the franchises they were long tenured with (Ray Bourque with the Bruins, for example), the Flyers may deem it respectful to let Giroux have the option to pursue the Stanley Cup with a different organization. Only time will tell how long Claude Giroux plays in the NHL, however, if the Flyers decide to properly rebuild, out of gratitude for his many years of service, Giroux could be moved to a current contender.
If this does indeed occur, the Flyers will be saying goodbye to their franchise leader in power-play points, and second highest point scorer in their history. Depending on how long Giroux remains a Flyer (if he ever does get moved), the franchise records for games played, and assists are within reach for Giroux, which would add even more grandeur to Giroux’s iconic legacy.
Claude Giroux is the iconic Flyer of this generation, and we should appreciate every moment he gives us.
Temper expectations for young players
Unfortunately, unless they get extremely lucky, the Flyers aren’t going to luck in-to a generationally talented player like Shane Wright (2022 draft eligible) or Connor Bedard (2023 draft eligible). While the former may not immediately “wow” at the NHL level, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Bedard will instantly impress in the NHL.
Those types of players, ones that can play on your top line or even in the top six as rookies, don’t come very often. The last time the Flyers had such a player, Eric Lindros, he wasn’t even drafted by them!
There’s been an unrealistic expectation that every prospect who makes there way to the NHL level who was drafted by the Flyers will magically be amazing, when in reality, getting any sort of contributor from the draft can be considered a victory.
With the exception of Joel Farabee, who developed into (at least) a middle six winger pretty much in his first NHL season, the Flyers’ prospects who have been introduced to the NHL have needed work. We have been impressed by Morgan Frost so far, and this is his 3rd season playing in the NHL, and still hasn’t played a full NHL season yet.
Prospects can take time to adjust to the NHL, and even then, they all won’t turn into top line players.
Embrace the unlikely call-ups
With taxi squads now being re-introduced, it is clear COVID-19 protocols are going to impact this season, and potentially next, to some degree. Therefore, there will be times where a fair few Flyers are in COVID protocols and will be unavailable. Currently, Derrick Brassard, Scott Laughton, and most importantly, Carter Hart recently found themselves on this protocol list.
As a result, and somewhat luckily so, this meant we got to see the debut of Felix Sandstrom in the NHL. Over the last three seasons, he split his time between the ECHL and AHL, compiling an 0.885% and 0.902% save percentage at each level respectively. In 2021-22, Sandstrom carried a 0.896% along with a shutout and three wins in 15 games in the AHL, and resting Martin Jones, the Flyers played Sandstrom in their shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks.
In the end, Sandstrom played very well, saving 43 of 46 shots. This registered as a “quality start” by Rob Vollman’s (Hockey Abstract) QS metric, and by the eye test, Sandstrom looked as well as his stats suggest.
This is all to say that while the Flyers may not be competitive, embrace the debuts and the unlikely heroes. Hockey is more fun with them, and more players making their NHL debuts means more dreams fulfilled, and isn’t that the most fun thing of all.