The Philadelphia Flyers kept things interesting this past summer.
The club went off the board when they named Dave Hakstol the franchise’s 19th head coach. After Steve Mason turned in the best season of his NHL career, general manager Ron Hextall responded by signing pseudo-No. 1 Michal Neuvirth to a two-year deal. Then Hextall handed $7.75 million to 2014-15 reclamation project Michael Del Zotto with another two-year pact.
It’s your 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers.
Head coach: Dave Hakstol
GM: Ron Hextall
Team payroll: $70.8 million against $71.4 million salary cap
Last season record: 33-31-18, 84 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division
Goals for: 211 (21st in NHL)
Goals against: 223 (21st in NHL)
PP: 23.4 per cent (3rd in NHL)
PK: 77.1 per cent (27th in NHL)
Corsi for per 60: 53.7 (21st in NHL)
Key departures: Carlo Colaiacovo, Ray Emery, Nicklas Grossmann, Zac Rinaldo
Rookies to Watch:
Samuel Morin: The 2013 first round pick (11th overall) is a gigantic body at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. He helped Team Canada capture the gold medal at the 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto with his strong defensive play. He stands a decent shot at seeing some NHL ice-time in 2015-16 given the Flyer’s shaky defence corps.
Nick Cousins: Depth at the centre position has effectively blocked Cousins from landing a good look with the Flyers. The 21-year-old was held pointless in 11 games last season, but could compete for a role on the club’s bottom six forward unit with a strong camp.
Highlight of 2014-15:
Voracek’s 81-point breakout season made a fan out of this adorable kid who is definitely not “bud.” He’s Voracek.
Pre-season letter grades
Forwards The Flyers’ top-six can hang with just about anyone. After that, things get problematic. R.J. Umberger served as a painful reminder of the offensive upside Scott Hartnell once provided, and Matt Read came crashing back to Earth in 2014-15 after a nice run of productive seasons. There’s potential for Gagner to bounce back and thrive in a bottom six role. The Flyers have another three years and $13.5 million committed to Vincent Lecavalier, who is in steep decline and finds himself banished to fourth line duty…when he’s in the lineup. Giroux, Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Michael Raffl prop up this group. The arrival of Cousins and/or sophomore Scott Laughton could invigorate the bottom six. GRADE: A-
Goaltending Steve Mason’s 2014-15 performance offered hope to Flyers fans that the 27-year-old can deliver on some of that promise he showed off as a rookie with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09. He posted career bests in both goals-against average (2.25) and save percentage (.928). Hextall and Co. brought in Neuvirth, who registered a .918 save percentage in 27 games while playing behind the woeful Buffalo Sabres for the bulk of last season. GRADE: B-