Last year: 33-31-18, sixth in the Metro Division. Missed the playoffs by 14 points.
Key additions: Sam Gagner, Evgeny Medvedev, Michal Neuvirth, Colin McDonald
Key subtractions: Chris Pronger’s contract, Zac Rinaldo, Nicklas Grossmann
Offense: The Flyers had no choice but to reward Jakub Voracek with a massive extension after he finished fourth in the league in points last season. Between him and Claude Giroux, the Flyers have the start of a dynamic offense. Unfortunately, they’ve had trouble filling in holes around that duo, not dissimilar to the Penguins’ struggles to find running mates for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. There were high hopes for Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, but while both fill valuable two-way roles, neither has proven capable of posting big offensive numbers. The next-best scoring threat remains power forward Wayne Simmonds, who is virtually unmovable in front of the net, especially on the power play. Perhaps newcomer Gagner will finally blossom, or someone like Michael Raffl or Matt Read will really emerge, but Schenn and Couturier remain the two players squarely in the spotlight. 2015 first-round pick Travis Konecny could be the answer before long.
Defense: Like the division rival Devils and Hurricanes, Philadelphia has heavily invested in building from the net out. Veterans Medvedev, Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Radko Gudas and Nick Schultz are mainly placeholders for blue-chippers like Ivan Provorov, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gotisbehere and Robert Hagg. Former Ranger Michael Del Zotto earned a new two-year deal and established himself as one of the more dependable two-way defenders on the roster after a rocky start to his Flyer tenure. But at least for the near future, Steve Mason and the wildly inconsistent backup tandem of Neuvirth and Ray Emery will have their hands full behind a leaky defense.
Franchise direction: New coach Dave Hakstol has his work cut out for him in his first year behind an NHL bench, but lucky for him Flyers GM Ron Hextall seems to be looking at his roster much more logically and with an eye toward long-term success than his predecessors, so Hakstol should enjoy a grace period. The Flyers have as devastating a one-two punch up front as there is in the league, but the team’s fortunes both this year and looking forward hinge on the development of an impressive stable of young defensemen. There’s plenty of talent in the system, but Philadelphia needs those players to graduate and mature quickly if the team is to return to playoff contention.