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NHL futures: Will the Philadelphia Flyers have the worst record in the NHL?

The Flyers are the fourth-favorite to win the wooden spoon in 2022-23

Head coach John Tortorella of the Philadelphia Flyers behind the bench against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on October 02, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Head coach John Tortorella of the Philadelphia Flyers behind the bench against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on October 02, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Read more BRUCE BENNETT / Getty Images

If there was ever a year to tank in the NHL, this is it. The 2023 Draft Class is considered to be the deepest in almost a decade and is headlined by Connor Bedard, who is drawing comparisons to Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon as a potential franchise-changing prospect.

Bedard is the consensus No. 1 pick but the class of ‘23 goes beyond him with Matvei Michkov and Adam Fantilli also considered to be blue-chip players who would go first overall most other seasons.

So while no team wants to watch their team mail it in for an entire 82-game season, landing a top-3 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft is a decent silver lining for the pain. Who’s on a path for the worst record? And which team offers bettors the best value?

According to the oddsmakers at Caesars, the Arizona Coyotes are the favorites to win the “wooden spoon,” or finish with the worst record in the NHL this season. The Coyotes are +250 to come in last, just ahead of Chicago (+400) and Montreal (+650). The Habs finished 32nd in 2021-22 and won the draft lottery.

While there’s definitely an argument to made for a bet on the Blackhawks after they tore their roster down to the studs this summer, the best value bet is a little further down the board on the Philadelphia Flyers at +1000.

Currently tagged with an Over/Under of 74.5 points at Caesars, bookmakers project the Flyers to be 10 points better than Arizona and nine points better than Chicago. That seems a bit rich when you look at the state of Philadelphia’s roster, especially after the announcements that Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis would both miss significant time with injuries.

That means the Flyers are going to head into the season with Kevin Hayes as their No. 1 center and Morgan Frost as the No. 2 pivot. All due respect to Hayes and Frost, but neither are suited for those kind of roles, especially with a supporting cast that is lacking any real upside. Cam Atkinson is a solid player and so is James van Riemsdyk, but neither are going to drive a top line on a strong team at this point in their career. Same goes for Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee.

» READ MORE: Flyers preseason takeaways: Noah Cates continues to impress; major questions remain at center

The Flyers finished a relatively respectable 17th in the NHL in 5-on-5 scoring last season, but they were a bottom-10 team in terms of generating expected goals and high-danger scoring chances. Judging by their forward depth, those numbers should dip even further in 2022-23.

The NHL season is full of surprises, so maybe the Flyers get step-forward seasons from Frost, Farabee and Owen Tippett, but they’d need all three to do so to start to show some scoring oomph as a unit. That seems unlikely.

The Flyers are going to need to score consistently if they want to have even modest success, because the defense doesn’t project well, either. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo are all capable of filling a role on a blueline, but none of them are surefire top-pair players, especially without the presence of a steady partner.

Cam York seems like he’s trending well enough as a young defenseman that perhaps he breaks out, but with the players around him, that seems like a pie-in-the-sky gamble more than anything.

Philadelphia’s goaltending situation is also a bit murky as young goalie Carter Hart has endured a couple of down seasons after what looked like a potential star-turn in The Bubble. After finishing the 2020-21 season with an .877 SV% and a -24.3 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), Hart did seem like he was on his way to a bounce-back performance early in 2021-22. He posted a .917 SV% and +8.64 GSAx between Opening Night and New Year’s Day, but he finished the season by posting an .897 SV% and -15.6 GSAx over his last 26 games.

It’s hard to judge goaltenders, especially young ones playing behind bad teams, but it’s anybody’s guess where Hart’s career goes from here.

» READ MORE: 2022-23 NHL Hart Trophy odds, picks: Which longshots are worth a bet to win MVP?

New head coach John Tortorella has shown a knack for getting the most out of his rosters, but it seems like it would take a minor miracle to guide the Flyers to even 85 points in a brutal Metropolitan Division – which features six teams with Over/Unders above 91.5 points – and Eastern Conference.

At some point this season it will make sense for the Flyers to sell off assets and truly embrace the tank, which lowers the floor for this roster even more.

The Flyers are one of the weakest teams in the NHL and while the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Coyotes will have young players filling out their rosters, at least there’s some sort of path forward for those teams and the upside of their youngsters could raise their ceiling a bit. Philadelphia’s roster still has plenty of veterans on big contracts and those kind of players aren’t going to be interested in playing out the string on a Tortorella team as we get toward the dog days of February and March. The floor for Philadelphia is quite low and it seems like putting the Flyers a tier above the Coyotes, Blackhawks and Canadiens is giving bettors a chance to grab some value in the wooden spoon market.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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