The Philadelphia Flyers have been one of the more interesting teams over the last 13 years in terms of playoff success. After making an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, the Flyers lost two tough second-round battles the following two seasons. From the 2012-13 campaign until the end of 2020, Philly rotated between qualifying for the postseason and not, something that you don't often see in the National Hockey League.
But despite three playoff berths in six seasons, Philadelphia was unable to win a single round until the 2019-20 postseason. Somewhat surprisingly, the Flyers earned a spot after a 41-win showing in the Metropolitan Division, and took the New York Islanders all the way to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semis.
After that, the rebuild began. Gone were longtime Flyers Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, to be replaced by the young pieces of the future in Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, Morgan Forst and Owen Tippett. After taking the reigns in Pennsylvania, general manager Danny Briere hasn't been afraid to admit that the team is rebuilding and looking to the future.
That was obvious during the 2022-23 season; the Flyers won just 31 games, finishing seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. It was an improvement over a ghastly 2021-22 campaign, when the team won just 25 games and finished dead last. Still, the point remains that it's been a difficult few seasons for fans of this hockey club.
The rebuild continues
And that figures to continue for at least the next few seasons. Put simply, the Philadelphia Flyers are not a good hockey team as currently constructed. The team's best D-man in Ivan Provorov was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the offseason after an overall disappointing career in Philly for the once highly-touted blueliner. Travis Sanheim will look to step into a top pairing role after beating trade rumors this summer, but he's certainly not a No. 1 defensemen at this point in his young career. The same goes for Rasmus Ristolainen, who will likely play with Sanheim but is a liability defensively and needs to improve on a very difficult 2022-23 season.
Up front, a projected first line of Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Owen Tippett will spark fear in not a single NHL team; none of those three players have eclipsed 50 points in their young careers. Although the trio figure to keep getting better at the professional level, it is one of the weakest first lines in hockey.
The loss of Kevin Hayes will really be felt next year after the veteran was shipped to the St. Louis Blues after four seasons with the team. Travis Konecny continues to be the team's best player after he scored at a point-per-game clip last year, although there's a decent chance Briere will trade the 26-year-old as well. But despite the lack of firepower, Flyers fans will be thrilled to see a few familiar faces back on the ice next year.
Sean Couturier a huge boost
That begins with Sean Couturier, who has been a heart and soul player for the organization and has spent his entire career in Philadelphia. He hasn't played an NHL game since December of 2021 due to multiple back injuries and subsequent surgeries, but his presence and veteran leadership will be crucial for the team next year.
“I've been waiting for this moment for a while,” Couturier said before the Flyers faced the New Jersey Devils in preseason action earlier this week. “All summer I've been thinking about it and now I'm here. I'm just excited to get warmups going and get that first shift out of the way, just play hockey. I think that's what I miss most.”
Couturier will be an enormous boost to a middling club, and if he can stay healthy, he'll likely center Konecny in a line that could be more effective than the trio of Frost-Farabee-Tippett. As well, Cam Atkinson will look to make an impact after missing the entire 2022-23 season. He scored 50 points in 73 games in 2021-22 after coming over from the Blue Jackets in the trade that sent Voracek to Ohio, and an effective season from him would also go a long way in helping this team stay out of the Eastern Conference basement.
Overall, there aren't high hopes for the Flyers next year, and for good reason; this is a below-average hockey team that will struggle to stay competitive in the Metro. If Couturier and Atkinson come back strong, and either Carter Hart or free agent signing Cal Peterson can string together an outstanding season between the pipes, there's a chance for the 2023-24 Philadelphia Flyers to surprise some people. But more likely than not, it'll be another bottom-three finish in the Eastern Conference.
Final projected roster
Forwards: Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Cam Atkinson, Joel Farabee, Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Garnet Hathaway, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Wade Allison, Nicolas Deslauriers
Defensemen: Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sean Walker, Cam York, Nick Seeler, Marc Staal
Goalies: Carter Hart, Cal Peterson