Good morning, folks. The Stanley Cup semifinals are underway and it’s a good time to see just how much offseason work GM Chuck Fletcher has to do by evaluating how the Flyers did against those four teams.
Oops. In the year of the pandemic, which created revamped divisions and a shortened season, the Flyers played only one of the four semifinalists, the New York Islanders. They did not face Montreal, Vegas, or Tampa Bay.
So how did the Flyers do, anyway, against an Islanders team that stunned host Tampa Bay in the series opener, 2-1, and is trying to make the final season at Nassau Coliseum memorable?
Actually, depending on how you look at it, they did pretty well.
Glass-half-empty outlook: They lost five of the eight games.
Glass-half-full outlook: They played the Islanders tough and got points in seven of the eight games, finishing 3-1-4 against Barry Trotz’s team. They had a .625 points percentage, equaling their best against any opponent this year.
The Islanders are known for their great defense, and they limited the Flyers to 2.13 goals per game, Philly’s lowest output against any of the seven teams it faced this season.
The Flyers allowed 2.88 goals per game to the Isles, their best defensive effort against any team.
But just because the Flyers were ultracompetitive with the Islanders doesn’t mean Fletcher shouldn’t make many moves in the offseason. The Flyers need to have a new look, need to find an identity, need to shake up the roster.
They also need to play with the same precision as the Isles.
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The readers write
Time to clean out a mailbag full of questions and comments from readers on Twitter. Some are edited for clarity or length. Here goes:
Comment: Please tell me they are moving away from Brian Elliott as the backup. In four years with the Flyers, he has never finished with a save percentage of at least .910. — JD (@JDiRoc1)
Answer: Thanks for the comment, JD. My sense is that Elliott’s career with the Flyers is over. He’s 36, and though he has been a warrior for the Flyers, he is not durable enough to play a lot of games if Carter Hart stumbles again.
Question: What do you think Fletcher will give up to get a sign-and-trade done with Carolina to get Dougie Hamilton on the Flyers? — Christian Audi (@TheEpicAudi)
Answer: Interesting question, Christian. The 6-foot-6, 229-pound Hamilton is a pending unrestricted free agent, but the Hurricanes have given him permission to talk with other teams, per Elliotte Friedman. That doesn’t mean the ‘Canes have given up on the idea of signing him, but they do want to see what they can get for him if they can’t re-sign him. He is expected to get a seven- or eight-year deal with an annual salary in the $9 million range.
Hamilton, who will turn 28 on Thursday, is the best right-handed defenseman on the market. It would take a lot — probably multiple high draft picks and either Travis Sanheim or Phil Myers for starters — but it is a deal that would give the Flyers one of the league’s best top-pairing duos. Ivan Provorov and Hamilton would frustrate many opponents.
The Flyers, of course, would put together a significant trade package only if Hamilton agreed to a long-term deal.
Bottom line: The Flyers would have problems fitting Hamilton under the cap (and addressing other needs) unless Jake Voracek was part of the deal.
Columbus defenseman Seth Jones, who is on the trade market, would also be a great fit. But I would deal for him — it would cost a lot — only if he agreed to sign a long-term contract because he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Question: Will the Flyers try to move Nolan Patrick? — Ed
Answer: Thanks for the question, Ed. It’s a question I’m getting from lots of fans. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, the Flyers would not be averse to including Patrick as part of a bigger deal. As for a one-for-one trade, they would be selling low and I don’t think now is the time for such a move. Makes more sense to see if he can bounce back — that is, if he isn’t included in a multiplayer trade.
Question: What do you think the Flyers need to get back into the playoffs? — Devlin (@ChrisDevlinPDS)
Answer: I hope I don’t depress you with my long-winded answer, Chris. They need Hart to bounce back, and they need to add a dependable and durable No. 2 goalie. They also need a sniper, a top-pairing defenseman to play alongside Provorov, and vast improvement from their special teams. Oh, and they need their young players to take a big step forward. That’s a lot of needs in a flat-cap world, so Fletcher needs to be creative.
Question: Why is it that we have been rebuilding/retooling since 2014 and we are no better now than we were back then? Keeping this in mind, do you think Fletcher is the person to fix this team, given his history when he was the GM in Minnesota? — LHD (@LHD20)
Answer: Appreciate the question. The Flyers have changed coaches and general managers several times during that span, and that hasn’t masked the fact that the players just have not been good enough — especially on defense and in the nets.
You don’t have to be Scotty Bowman to realize that teams that are successful usually have a very dependable goalie and defense. During the span you mentioned, the Flyers have had an average or below-average team defense — statistically speaking — in seven of the last eight seasons, starting in 2013-14. (The only exception was in 2019-20, when Hart was very good and so was his defense as the Flyers finished 10th in goals-against in the 31-team league.)
As for Fletcher, he was an average GM in Minnesota, and the jury is still out on him with the Flyers. He needs to have a productive summer.
Question: Will the Flyers use their first-round pick to get Seattle to take a player like Jake Voracek to clear cap space? — @BeeRubbed
Answer: I think that would be a major mistake, Bee. The Flyers will get a very good player at No. 13 in the first round, and Fletcher should just let the chips fall where they may in the July 21 expansion draft. He got burned by Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft — he traded former first-round draft selection Alex Tuch to the Golden Knights in exchange for their selecting Erik Haula. Those players helped Vegas reach the Stanley Cup Final in its first season. (Minnesota received a conditional third-round pick.)
I don’t see Fletcher making the same mistake. Let Seattle pick whom it wants — unfortunately, my hunch is the Kraken will choose Shayne Gostisbehere — and the Flyers should just continue to go about their business and keep their valuable 13th overall pick.
Things to know
Ian Laperriere, a fearless player when he played for the Flyers, will take a great work ethic into his new job as the Phantoms coach. But he will not read his coaching reviews on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom, cancer survivor, will learn if he won the Masterton Trophy, awarded for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The story.
Flyers signed forwards Linus Sandin and German Rubtsov; the latter has been disappointing since being drafted in the first round in 2016.
The Islanders represent a rude awakening for the defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning, Larry Brooks writes in the New York Post.
Who had the best shooting percentage on the Flyers this season?
If you said Joel Farabee (20 goals), give yourself a case of Tastykakes. The second-year left winger scored on 16.4% of his shots. The NHL leader (minimum 30 games): Minnesota left winger Marcus Foligno (11 goals), who scored on a staggering 27.5% of his shots.
Tuesday: Islanders at Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the NHL semifinals, 8 p.m. NBCSN
Wednesday: Montreal at Vegas in Game 2 of the NHL semifinals, 9 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday: Tampa Bay at Islanders in Game 3, 8 p.m. USA Network
Friday: Vegas at Montreal in Game 3, 8 p.m. USA Network
Saturday: Tampa Bay at Islanders in Game 4, 8 p.m. USA Network
Sunday: Vegas at Montreal in Game 4, 8 p.m. USA Network
Monday (if necessary): Islanders at Tampa in Game 5, 8 p.m. NBCSN
July 17: Deadline for clubs to submit protection lists for expansion draft, 5 p.m.
July 21: Seattle expansion draft
July 23: NHL draft, Round 1
July 24: NHL draft, Rounds 2-7
July 28: Free-agent signings permitted, noon
Send questions by email or on Twitter (@broadstbull), and they could be answered in a future edition.