Is This The Philadelphia Flyers’ Time?

Peter Cioth
4 min readAug 9, 2020

Months later than usual, the Stanley Cup playoffs have finally begun to unfold- with the players of the various teams sequestered in the “hub cities” of Toronto for the Eastern Conference, and Edmonton for the Western Conference. As lower seeded teams battle it out in a play in round to get into the “first round” of playoffs in earnest, the top four seeds in each conference have been playing a round robin tournament to determine their order of seeding for the next round of play. So far, one team has stood head and shoulders above the rest, one that would have been considered an unlikely contender not too long ago. And yet, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves as perhaps the most similar team to last year’s champions, the St. Louis Blues, in many facets of how their team is constructed.

For the better part, the Flyers have been a source of perpetual frustration to their fans. They opened the 2010s on a high note, overcoming a three games to none deficit against the Boston Bruins to reach the Stanley Cup final (losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games). But since then, the playoffs have brought them mostly disappointment, despite boasting top end stars like Claude Giroux (one of the top five scorers in the NHL over the past decade)- the team has not made the playoffs in back to back seasons since 2012, nor won a playoff series in that time. And the Flyers have failed to win the Stanley Cup since the 1970s, when the famed “Broad Street Bullies” bashed their way to two titles with their aggressively physical style of play.

After another, particularly disappointing campaing in 2018–19 that saw the team miss the playoffs, ownership had decided that it was time to clean house in the organization. General Manager Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol were both fired, replaced by Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault. Fletcher had spent the previous nine years as General Manager of the Minnesota Wild, where he shepherded them into being a fairly consistent playoff team (albeit one that never made it past the second round).

Vigneault, meanwhile, is one of the NHL’s most accomplished coaches to not yet win the Stanley Cup- he has reached the final twice, once the with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and once with the New York Rangers in 2014. He has also coached his teams to the President’s Trophy (awarded to the NHL team with the best regular season record) three times- twice with Vancouver and once with New York. One could say he is the hockey equivalent to what Andy Reid was in football- before Reid finally got his Super Bowl ring earlier this year. Perhaps this will be the year Vigneault also captures his elusive ring.

Much like the Blues of last year, the Flyers are defined by having a deep roster that has the ability to play both a high skill game while also maintaining a strong physical presence. The depth of the Flyers’ team was underscored by their performance in the round robin games against their top Eastern conference rivals, where the Flyers went undefeated to secure the top seed, collectively outscoring their opponents by a score of eleven goals to three.

In those games, the Flyers’ top forward line and first defensive pairing only scored four points- all of their scoring came from their supporting cast- players such as Nicholas Aube-Kubel (two goals in the top seed clinching game against Tampa Bay), Scott Laughton, and others. The Flyers also only scored once on the power play in all three games, suggesting that the team has yet to fully realize its offensive potential.

The Flyers are not dependent on any one superstar to give them goals and assists in any given game. Their top scorer for the year was young center Travis Konecny, with only 61 points- the lowest total for any of the four round robin teams’ top scorers. But the Flyers do have a number of weapons on offense, including Konecny, Giroux (one of the top five scorers in the NHL over the past decade even if this season his total of 53 points was relatively pedestrian by his lofty standards), winger Jakub Voracek, and several others.

Similar to St. Louis last year, the Flyers balance their offensive depth with some of the best defenders in the league. Center Sean Couturier is a two-time nominee (including this year) for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward. And the defense is anchored by young Russian Ivan Provorov, a former seventh overall draft pick who this year at twenty three years old realized his potential as a no.1 blueliner for Philadelphia.

The final, and most important piece of the puzzle for any would-be Stanley Cup winner is goaltending, and the Flyers hope that they have their version of the Blues’ Jordan Binnington, the young keeper who was their playoff hero last year. The Flyers’ have had numerous misadventures in net over the past several years, ever since trading away future superstar Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets (Bobrovsky would go on to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best netminder twice). But heralded prospect Carter Hart came into his own for the Flyers this year, cementing his status as one of the league’s best young goalies by posting a .914 save percentage and 2.42 goals against average, better numbers than Binnington this regular season.

None of this could end up mattering- the Stanley Cup playoffs are famously random. Last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept in the first round after posting historic win totals in the regular season. But the Philadelphia Flyers are as well constructed as any team to prevail over the four rounds of postseason play that will begin this weak- a complete team with no obvious weaknesses. Only time will tell if they can play like it when the stakes are at their very highest.