Are the Flyers a Stanley Cup Dark Horse? 2021-2022 Season Preview

LADIES. AND. GENTLEMEN. WE ARE BACK BABY!

Training camp for our fellas in Orange and Black is officially underway and we are that much closer to hearing Jim Jackson call 69 Flyers games this year. Nice. With it comes excitement, expectations, and predictions. Will Carter Hart return to form? Will the defense look like pylons again? And will Claude Giroux cement himself as he best ginger in NHL history? All these questions should have answers at some point this year.

Heading into the offseason, Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault decided they couldn’t bring back the same team and expect different results, and boy did they deliver on that. The Flyers made big moves to bring in Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Cam Atkinson, then followed it up by signing some veteran depth in Keith Yandle and Derick Brassard. In total, the Flyers acquired 5 players who wore a letter on their jersey last year, proving that Chuck wanted to rely on veteran leadership rather than young guys stepping up. The only way some young prospects make the team is if the blow the doors off in camp, which is perfect all around as it’ll mean that if they’re on the team, they’re truly ready.

Now I say that, but of course, Kevin Hayes has already gone down after abdominal surgery that’ll keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks. That basically guarantees Morgan Frost is going to slot into the third line center spot, a position he was going to have to beat out Brassard for originally. Below I’m going to lay out the lines assuming everyone is healthy and then add injury commentary afterwards.

Forwards

Giroux – Couturier – Atkinson

TK – Hayes – Farabee

Lindblom – Brassard – JVR

Allison – Thompson – NAK

Defensemen

Provorov – Ellis

Sanheim – Ristolainen

Yandle – Braun

Goal

Carter Hart

This is my assumption as to what the lines were going to look like before the injury news to Hayes and Wade Allison. Their injuries open the door up for Morgan Frost to slot into third line center, and I think they might give Tyson Foerster a shot to see what he can do. The 2020 first round pick has a rocket of a shot and sky high potential to be a bonafide NHL sniper. If he can develop quickly, the Flyers are gifted with 3 true goal scorers with Atkinson, Farabee, and Foerster. That being said, we know how good the Flyers are with developing prospects, so we’ll just have to hope and pray.

Some may notice the lack of Cam York on this lineup as well. York was the controversial pick in lieu of Cole Caufield in 2019, but I’m VERY happy we have him after last season. The kid was outstanding at Michigan last year, and showed incredible promise in his few NHL games. I imagine he’ll slot into the lineup quite a few times this year, and will likely be the first one to go in when a defenseman gets hurt. The best thing the Flyers can do is get him NHL experience. He has the raw talent, and can blossom into a true top-4, if not better, two-way defenseman.

Time to address the elephant in the room, and basically the key to the Flyers season, Carter Hart. It’s no secret that Carter Hart did not have a good year last year. Was it entirely his fault? Not at all, I’ve seen beer league teams play better defense. That being said, he obviously was off last year. Interviews after the season revealed he struggled greatly with his mental health due to the pandemic, going through prolonged periods of isolation that severely impacted his mental well being. Everyone knows being a goaltender is incredibly mental. If you’re not there mentally, you won’t perform on the ice, plain and simple. Luckily, it appears Carter Hart has been doing much better after a traditional offseason, and having some time to gain some mental clarity. A mentally strong Carter Hart is dangerous, as he should return to his old self, where he posted Vezina like numbers down the stretch in 2019-2020.

As I just said, Carter Hart is essentially the key to this season. Let’s be frank, I don’t think Martin Jones will play well as the backup, so it’s mostly on Hart. He does have a much better defense in front of him this year, and I imagine that’ll do wonders for his play, as he won’t be left for dead out there. Out of the net, the Flyers need bounce back years the most out of Provorov and Travis Konecny. Neither had particularly good years last year, and are expected to be crucial parts of the core moving forward. I have little doubt they’ll bounce back, as last year was weird for everyone. A return to form for both of them will make this Flyers team a true contender.

Alright it’s time for some predictions/expectations. I expect this team is a playoff bound. They are a playoff team on paper, and anyone who says differently only watched the Flyers last year. This team is loaded with under the radar talent, and can make a legit push this year.

In terms of player specific, I think Farabee will continue his meteoric rise, and I fully expect him to pot 30 goals this year. I expect Carter Hart to have a massive bounce back year, and be one of the better goalies in the league. I expect Sean Couturier to be in the Selke conversation again, and wouldn’t be shocked to see him eclipse the 70 point mark again. Finally, I think Ryan Ellis is going to get over 50 points this year, as he’s already working in on the PP units, and he’ll be the best offensive defenseman the Flyers have out there.

So that’s pretty much it. Does this team win the Cup? I don’t think so because of how stacked the East is, but I think they can definitely win a playoff series. This is going to be a fun season, let’s all sit back and enjoy it. LET’S GO FLYERS!

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