Quick Hits: June 23, 2021
1) There is no doubt that the Flyers need to be bold this offseason to upgrade their roster for next season. The team, in hindsight, may have overachieved in 2019-20 but it also massively underachieved in 2020-21. The club's ability level right now is probably somewhere in between the two. That being said, keep in mind that the Stanley Cup playoffs are about peaking at the right time, getting strong team D and goaltending when it matters the most, and having a bit of good luck on your side, too.
The Montreal Canadiens are currently one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The very same team that had only one more point than the Flyers did this season. The Habs finished fourth in the North Division; arguably the shallowest division in the league this season. A season ago, largely the same Montreal roster only reached the postseason due to the expanded play-in/ playoff format caused by the pandemic-driven pause. They proceeded to knock out the favored Penguins in the play-ins and then threw a scare into the top-ranked Flyers in a six-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The Flyers ultimately survived the Canadiens series and then went seven games before losing to the New York Islanders (a repeat Stanley Cup semifinalist this year).
In the playoffs, NOTHING else matters but wins and losses. Regular season patterns often go out the window. Corsi/expected goal differentials mean zero if the team on the short end of the stats still wins the game. Additionally, the outcome of one game -- even a blowout score -- doesn't necessarily predict the outcome of the next game or the series.
Don't get me wrong: There are very real holes in the Flyers roster that need to be filled. The team goals against average this season was disgraceful (after the club was 7th in the NHL in both GPG and GAA the previous year), and anything close to a repeat performance in team GAA in 2021-22 will mean missing the playoffs again. It is delusional to think otherwise. The Flyers MUST finish in the top half of the NHL in GAA to get to the playoffs. Exceptions to that exist but it's hard to overcome.
However, is that strange things happen in the postseason. There are no guarantees of a deep run, let alone the Stanley Cup, no matter how good you are in the regular season or in the course of winning a previous series. Get a ticket to the dance and see what happens.
2) Want to win a pair of free general admission tickets to the Flyers Alumni vs. Flyers Warriors Showcase game on Sunday at Ice Works in Aston, PA (4 p.m. EDT starting time)? The Alumni are giving away a pair of tickets to the winner of a trivia contest.
The question: Against what team did Joe Watson score the first goal of his Flyers' career?
A winner will be randomly selected tomorrow among all who give the correct answer. The winner will be contacted via DM and then emailed the pair of tickets. The Alumni will then announce the winner. If the winner is unable to attend, an alternate winner will be chosen. Good luck to all who enter!
VIP tickets to the Showcase Game and postgame reception are sold out but a limited number of general admission seats remain available. If you didn't win the trivia contest, you can still purchase tickets ($20 each) here
3) Today in Flyers History: Today marks the 10th anniversary of the dual blockbuster trades that sent Mike Richards to the LA Kings for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a 2012 second-round pick (later traded to the Dallas Stars for Nicklas Grossmann) and Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, the eighth overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft (Sean Couturier) and a 2011 third-round pick (Nick Cousins).
On the Flyers website a couple years ago, I spoke at length with Paul Holmgren, who gave a detailed account
of how everything went down that day and the process by which the Flyers selected Couturier with the first round pick acquired from the Blue Jackets.
The Flyers scouts seriously considered a couple of defenseman -- now-retired scout Simon Nolet recalled Jonas Brodin being atop the Flyers' best-available prospect list at the final pre-draft meeting, while others have said it was a tossup between Dougie Hamilton and Brodin with Couturier also a possibility. Holmgren, the team general manager at the time, spoke up in the final meeting and strongly suggested that they rethink the strategy because the team had just dealt two centers in Carter and Richards and Couturier had entered his Draft year as the consensus top overall prospect before he was set back by a bout of mono and had a largely similar year production wise rather than showing increased dominance.
Another round of debate followed and the consensus pick shifted from Brodin or Hamilton to the big center.
4) As a companion article to the Holmgren reflections on the 2011 Draft, I interviewed Bob Clarke to get his reflections on the some of the key drafts during his two tenures as general manager. These two articles remain among the favorites I've ever done. To read the Clarke article, click here