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Can the Flyers’ power play be fixed?

Can you make something that was bad with good players, good with worse players?

Arizona Coyotes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Flyers’ power play has been an issue for quite awhile, so much so that it’s almost a punishment when their opponents take a penalty. John Tortorella was brought in primarily to change a complacent culture and promote defensive structure, not to improve the power play. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that his appointment as head coach hasn’t really effected a unit that has impressively mediocre for years.

Over the last five seasons, this is how the Flyers’ man advantage has graded out compared to the rest of the league:

  • 2018-19: 22nd in the league, 17.1%
  • 2019-20: 14th in the league, 20.8%
  • 2020-21: 19th in the league, 19.2%
  • 2021-22: 32nd in the league, 12.69%
  • 2022-23 (thus far): 29th in the league, 16.7%

Clearly this has been a longstanding, organizational issue that has not been addressed, but the most difficult part for Tortorella is that he is now having to try and build a successful power play without a blueprint for success with the players at his disposal.

For the entire time Travis Konecny has been a Flyer, they have been poor on the power play. Same with Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Kevin Hayes; basically pick anyone that you would think fits on PP1, and they have never seen or been a part of a successful Flyers power play. The closest they came was in 19-20, where they were just slightly above league average in the year of Dave Hakstol’s firing, but even then it was marginal.

29th in the league thus far this year, and no major changes in sight.

Who’s in charge?

One of the major issues the Flyers have had on the man advantage, especially in the post-Giroux era, is that they really don’t have any one scoring weapon that they can rely on, and that teams fear.

JVR has had a decent year, and in years past he has been a power play weapon, unfortunately, it seems like those days are behind him, he only has four power play points in his 19 games, and it seems like the desire to get him the puck in positions around the front or side of the net has faded under Tortorella. Travis Konecny and Owen Tippett are tied for the team lead in power play tallies with four a piece, but both have had to grow into unfamiliar roles and that may have hindered their production. Tippett in particular looks intriguing, given his potential shooting ability that has been something that the Flyers have lacked in recent years.

Even when the power play was led by Giroux on the left half wall, there was no lethal option for him to pass it to. The best power plays have a certain predictability to them, everyone has known for the last 20 years that Alexander Ovechkin will get set up for a one-timer on the left faceoff dot, but it continues to work. The Flyers don’t have an option that’s even half of that, and it ultimately shows. Having that potential danger also opens up the ice for everyone else, and its a trickle down effect from there. Maybe in the future it could be Cutter Gauthier, the Flyers first round pick from 2022 who was deployed in a triggerman type role on the USA power play at this past World Junior Championship, but as of now, it remains a glaring position of need.

Team Effort

When just looking at raw numbers, it’s somewhat staggering the extent of how little the Flyers power play has produced. The Flyers to this point in the season have scored 19 power play goals. The best power play in the league, the Edmonton Oilers, have 46. Connor McDavid on his own has 14.

If you added together the top three power play goal scorers on the Flyers roster, (Konecny, Tippett, and Kevin Hayes), they would have 11 goals between them. Not only is that behind McDavid (who should honestly be in a different league anyways), but it barely even places them in the top 5, just behind Mika Zibanejad, who has 12.

And funnily enough, Travis Konecny has 20 goals, one more than Zibanejad does. He has just had to do it on hard mode because his team’s unit is that bad and out of sync. If the Flyers were even at least league average like they were in 2019-20, there’s a good chance Konecny could be on pace for 50 goals instead of 40. The roster isn’t great offensively, but it has the potential to perform much better than it is currently if the power play just figured out how to score.