As the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, it is time to look back at this season to figure out what went wrong for the Flyers this season.
Philadelphia Flyers MVP Wayne Simmonds could not have said it any better himself. “We got hot at the wrong time.” After their 10-game winning streak, Philadelphia cooled off significantly. They did not start winning a significant amount of games until they were fighting for their playoff lives. Only then it was too late, but everyone is to blame.
From a player perspective, Claude Giroux fell short of 60 points this season, and Shayne Gostisbehere only returned to his rookie form toward the end of the year. Off-season aquisition Dale Weise did not find his scoring touch until the final ten games of the season. Andrew MacDonald consistently made defensive errors, and the penalty kill struggled to win faceoffs and stop goals.
Now let’s look at the coaching. Dave Hakstol had a rough year. He made some poor decisions in goal, meaning he should have played Stolarz more in the middle of the year. Playing Chris Vandevelde the whole season (minus the last game which had no meaning) and benching young players like Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny was a mistake. Vandevelde is a career AHL talent who played on the Flyers fourth line and penalty kill. He, along with Pierre Edouard Bellemare, played this role poorly. Bellemare is a decent 4th line player if he plays the wing. Unfortunately a 48% faceoff percentage will not cut it. Losing a majority of faceoffs on the penalty kill destroyed the Flyers on special teams this year.
GM Hextall could have expressed his concern with Hakstols coaching decisions, but he did not. Other than that, Hextall did a fair job as general manager. He signed Mike Vecchione, and he made sure he did not give up and key young guys for a temporary scoring solution. He also took the blame for everything that happened this season. Hextall states he made a mistake carrying eight defensemen.
It is going to be hard to enjoy playoff hockey without the Flyers being a part of it, but my prediction for the Stanley Cup goes to the Minnesota Wild.
We look forward to October with our heads held up high as we let the young guns form an identity for Philadelphia hockey.
Photo: Michael Miller (via: Wikimedia Commons)