NHL Team Preview 2015-16: Philadelphia Flyers

The Hockey Central @ Noon panel takes a look at the hiring of Dave Hakstol by the Philadelphia Flyers and how it bucks the current NHL trend of coach hirings, as well as how those trends change over time.

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 acquisitions: Sam Gagner, Michal Neuvirth, Evgeny Medvedev, Colin McDonald, Davis Drewiske

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-

Defence The Flyers have more than $24 million committed to their defence corps for 2015-16, with a true first pairing nowhere in sight. Luke Schenn and Michael Del Zotto were arguably the Flyers’ best pairing last season, but there’s no guarantee they’ll team up again for 2015-16. Veterans Mark Streit, Nick Schultz, and Andrew MacDonald, along with Radko Gudas and 33-year-old KHL arrival Evgeny Medvedev round out the Flyers’ blueline. It’s not quite an inspiring group, but somewhat serviceable. Ivan Provorov can’t arrive soon enough. GRADE: C-
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-
The Flyers will have a successful season if… Hakstol is the panacea the Flyers require, Giroux and Voracek continue to form one of the league’s deadliest offensive combinations, Couturier takes a big step forward, Mason flashes some semblance of his 2014-15 form, and a questionable defence provides the necessary answers. The Flyers will have a disappointing season if… Voracek comes crashing back to Earth, Mason’s save percentage dips down to Blue Jackets’ era sub-.900 territory, and that defence looks every bit as bad as it’s capable of being.

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