WHEN ASKED his biggest concern heading into next week's training camp, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall talked at length about getting off to a good start, a problem that plagued the Flyers in the last two seasons.
The Flyers were winless in their first four games last year and never recovered after starting 8-12-3 in the first two months.
In an effort to change that, training camp will be held in its entirety in Vorhees, N.J., starting with Monday's rookie camp. Veterans report next Thursday for physicals and hit the ice the following day.
And while Hextall's message is clear, that a slow start won't be tolerated, it perhaps minimizes the team's most glaring problem from 2014-15: the offense. A problem that, if remedied, directly correlates to starting the season better.
That, no doubt, should be one of, if not the, biggest concern heading into training camp. Captain Claude Giroux and linemate Jakub Voracek, who signed a huge extension this offseason, carried the Flyers last year. They combined for 154 points, good for more than a fourth of the team's point total. But outside of Wayne Simmonds and a surprising year from Michael Raffl, who spent a lot of time alongside Giroux and Voracek, the Flyers got little help in the department of secondary scoring options.
Overall, they had their worst season, by many metrics, since their horrific 2006-07 season and scored just 2.59 goals per game, good for 21st in the league.
Giroux and Voracek are paid to be the team's top two scoring forwards. But any Flyers success this season will be determined by who else contributes and how much.
"We need more from the rest of the group of forwards," Hextall said Thursday in Vorhees. "You can never depend on one line for the course of a long season to carry you to the playoffs or to winning playoff series. It just doesn't happen. So our other guys will have to step up for sure."
Hextall wanted to upgrade the overall skill level of his forward group and did so in subtracting Zac Rinaldo and adding Sam Gagner. He signed Sean Couturier, 22, to a big contract extension, showing confidence he can center the second line.
While Gagner's upside, many say, hasn't shown in full yet, the expectations and need for improvement fall mostly on guys like Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read.
The addition of Gagner, who tallied 41 points last season with Arizona, certainly aids in adding skill and should help balance out line combinations - which, of course, won't be decided on until after camp. But even if you count on similar numbers from Gagner, the Flyers need much more consistency from Schenn, Couturier and Read or it won't matter much.
Read turned 29 this offseason. After a 22-goal season in 2013-14, he scored just eight times last season, though he was battling an ankle injury most of the year. Couturier, mostly relied on as a shutdown, defensive center in the past, will likely see a bigger role on the offense moving forward. Schenn, 24, played well toward the end of the season last year but needs to put it all together for 82 games.
Hextall is hopeful new coach Dave Hakstol plays a system that will benefit his group of forwards. And perhaps that's the biggest addition of all.
"I think the biggest thing is Dave believes in fast hockey, hard hockey, and going to the net," Hextall said. "He has a nice way of bringing guys together and implementing systems that everybody abides to. I think that's the biggest thing I look forward to.
"We need to get to the net more. Whether it's the smallest guy on the team or the biggest guy. A lot of goals are scored around the paint and we need to get to the net more. With things that I can view from his system, yeah, I think we will be better. That's what we're banking on, but I think it somewhat comes down to the individuals. Guys have to have years that they are capable of having, not down years. We look at Read last year, and Read was so disappointed. That can't happen again."