2022-23 Player Review: Carter Hart

After producing back-to-back disappointing seasons from 2020-21 and 2021-22, Hart bounced back and showed the ability that we saw when he broke in with the Flyers as a difference maker in net and showed that he's still got that form in him moving forward in Philadelphia or somewhere else.

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens in February 2023. (Credit: Heather Barry)
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart makes a save against Mike Hoffman of the Montreal Canadiens in February 2023. (Credit: Heather Barry)

Evaluating players on bad teams is hard, and evaluating goalies on bad teams is especially difficult – so let's talk about Carter Hart's season shall we.

The Philadelphia Flyers' then-front office saw 2022-23 as a potential return to the Stanley Cup playoffs while fans and pundits alike were wondering whether even if everything – and we mean everything – went right would the roster assembled even be worthy of a wild card berth. Of course the latter rang true and even the Flyers' best players had little impact upon the teams final record and Hart was no different.

What is difficult in talking about Hart, who just completed his age-24 season, is about what comes next – whether he's a part of the Flyers' future is perhaps the biggest question surrounding the franchise player wise. But while that is certainly a loaded topic for discussion, we're going to use this space to just focus on Hart's 2022-23 season and leave the rest for what promises to be an intriguing offseason for the Flyers.

What about Hart's performance behind a depleted roster in terms of pure NHL talent following the losses of key cogs like Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson while skating to the league's seventh-worst record you ask? Really not too shabby considering, let's dive in.

As is the case with bad teams, traditional statistics don't quite tell the tale and Hart's 2022-23 campaign is no different. Hart posted a .907 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average in a career-high 55 games this past season, adding a pair of shutouts along the way. The goals against isn't surprising given the Flyers' overall record but a .907 save percentage isn't anything to sneeze at given it was eight points over the league average and well above what either Felix Sandstrom or Samuel Ersson provided in net behind the same sloppy team.

Courtesy of hockeyreference.com
Courtesy of hockeyreference.com

Where the real money lies for Hart in 2022-23 was his work at 5-on-5 that pegged him in the top half of NHL netminders in terms of goals saved above average (GSAA). NaturalStatTrick (NST) credited Hart with 9.57 GSAA at 5-on-5 last season, good for 14th among qualified goalies playing more than 1,200 minutes (essentially starters or high-volume time shares) – trailing names like Vezina Trophy contenders like Andrei Vasilevskiy (13.42), Igor Shesterkin (18.12), and Connor Hellebuyck (18.59) among others.

Along with NST, HockeyViz's model grades Hart out in the middle of the pack among his peers at 5-on-5.
Along with NST, HockeyViz's model grades Hart out in the middle of the pack among his peers at 5-on-5.

But while that was the story at 5-on-5, and safe to say that special teams was a totally different ballgame and while not totally on Hart himself – the Flyers' penalty kill was 26th overall – the numbers can't be ignored either since the game isn't played exclusively at evens.

Hart was a mitigated disaster on the penalty kill, sporting a -6.50 GSAA – fourth worst behind Sam Montembeault, Jordan Binnington, and old friend Martin Jones – in nearly 250 minutes shorthanded in 2022-23 per NST. But not only was Hart allowing a slew of goals a man down, they also came from distance with Hart ranking third worst in terms of average goal distance per NST. Not great, Bob! While Hart isn't the lone reason the Flyers' penalty kill was so dreadful yet again, it's worth noting that Sandstrom (-1.70) and Ersson (-0.72) performed better shorthanded though both played far less in said situation than Hart.

Thankfully those shorthanded issues didn't bleed onto the Flyers' power play, though, as Hart graded out as NST's second-best netminder in terms of GSAA to go along with the sixth-best save percentage while a man to the good. That's welcome news and a reversal of the previous year when Hart was third worst in both categories in 2021-22.

So despite the shorthanded shortcomings, they only accounted for 7% of Hart's total ice time in 2022-23 while 5-on-5 time accounted for nearly 81% of his duty. While  he was dreadful on the penalty kill, his value during the time the majority the game is played carries far more weight – and even better since that time was spent a good click above league average to boot.

While this space isn't to evaluate the rest of the Flyers' roster, but we'd be remiss to note that the team in front of Hart in 2022-23 didn't inspire much confidence. Not only were key pieces like  Couturier and Atkinson missing but former General Manager Chuck Fletcher's offseason move for offensive-minded defender Anthony DeAngelo backfired and stalwarts like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Rasmus Ristolainen all turned in disappointing campaigns on defense. Heck, the Flyers' best defender in 2022-23 was essentially journeyman Nick Seeler so it's not surprise that Hart had a rough go of it.

But in the end this isn't about the rest of the roster, it's about Hart and his return to a form that qualified him in 2022-23 in the top half of NHL goalies. While not quite a Vezina Trophy caliber effort, it's significant considering Hart wasn't great in 2021-22 and enters the offseason as perhaps the Flyers' most valuable trade chip ahead of what is expected to be a lengthy rebuild. Hart turns 25 in August and is signed through 2023-24 with a modest cap hit just under $4 million.


Three Questions

Did they live up to expectations?

Given the factors surrounding the Flyers' 2022-23 season, Hart absolutely lived up to expectations in net. Though far from perfect, Hart provided the Flyers with quality goaltending that graded out well among his peers despite dealing with constant change all over the ice in front of him and a consistent lack of support from his defense.

After producing back-to-back disappointing seasons from 2020-21 and 2021-22, Hart bounced back and showed the ability that we saw when he broke in with the Flyers as a difference maker in net and showed that he's still got that form in him moving forward in Philadelphia or somewhere else.

What can we expect from next season?

Cop-out answer but just more of the same, if he's back in Philadelphia that is. If Hart isn't moved this offseason – there's been some smoke but not a ton just yet – then he'll be playing for a team looking to the future and potentially looking to bottom out, and fast. That's not a great place for a young, largely proven goalie to cut his teeth, but that might be the reality if the Flyers don't find good value in the trade market despite some teams with very real crease needs this offseason.

Even with the Flyers looking to go to the cellar, Hart has plenty of motivation to show out as he's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Smart front offices will look at Hart's underlying numbers and pay attention to those rather than wins and losses – making it an important year for the goaltender in terms of playing for his next contract, which could stand to be a big one if he plays well enough even given challenging team dynamics.

How do we grade their 2022-23 season?

Hart gets a solid B for his work this past season. Though he had his fare share of issues on the penalty kill, he was strong at 5-on-5 and was much better standing his ground when the Flyers allowed chances on the power play which was a marked improvement upon the previous two seasons. Hart wasn't the reason the Flyers were the seventh-worst team in hockey, but he's probably the biggest reason why the Flyers weren't worse.

Grade: B