Torts has the Flyers off to a Good Start, but the True Test May be Right Around the Corner
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 17: Members of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 at the Wells Fargo Center on October 17, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Let’s face it: with how the Flyers have finished over the course of the last couple of seasons, I think it would be safe to say that most fans were cautiously optimistic at best about the start of this season, from deciding to draft the impressive Matvei Michkov (who is signed for three more years in the KHL) instead of taking a safer pick like Ryan Leonard or Zach Benson, to trading away Ivan Provorov, and settling for signing some underrated veterans in Marc Staal, Garnet Hathaway, and Ryan Poehling. To the team relying heavily on the return of the injured Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, it was clear that the newly hired Flyers’ brass was not afraid to roll the dice and take risks when reconstructing this roster. But as proved evident by the Flyers’ first couple of games, these choices, combined with a few of the Flyers ready prospects Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster, and Egor Zamula, have somehow surprised even their biggest skeptic, yours truly!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While I’ll admit I like the addition of a calming veteran presence such as Staal to a relatively youthful and inexperienced blue line, as well as the creation of what I believe to be one of the most formidable 4th lines in the entire NHL right now. I think for the time being, I will just save my overwhelming excitement for when I tune into the next Phillies postseason game, and here’s why.
While the Flyers were able to win two out of the first three games they played this season, they did so against less-than-formable opponents. Let’s start with game one versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Philadelphia was able to win the game 4-2, and the players that should have been expected to lead the way did, with Konecny scoring two goals and Atkinson netting one. All the while, players like Coots, Laughton, and Farabee were able to get in on the action as well. But while we should be happy, they won, let’s not get too excited. The Blue Jackets finished dead last in the Eastern Conference last season, not to mention that they finished the year tied for second to last in the entire league, with them only managing to obtain 59 points for the year. In comparison, while our team was terrible, the Flyers at least managed to pile up 75 points on the season.
Moving on, as we begin to analyze the Flyers’ second game of the year against the Ottawa Senators, you can see why I am a little apprehensive about signing up to help plan for the Flyers Stanley Cup parade route this year after just one game played. In this contest last Saturday, Philadelphia found themselves having to line up against a little better opponent in the form of the Ottawa Senators. A team that, while trending in the right direction, still managed to find themselves being eliminated from any hopes of the playoffs last year after finishing the season in the eleventh spot in the Eastern Conference with only 86 points to their credit. Despite all that, the Senators still came out on top this past weekend, besting the Flyers by a score of 5-2. And if that wasn’t bad enough to add insult to injury, long-time Flyer Claude Giroux and the rest of his cronies wearing the red and black were able to do so with their backup goaltender Anton Forsberg in net.
Now, for their latest game against the Vancouver Canucks that took place just yesterday on the 17th. I have to admit; after watching this game, I have to give this team some credit because it has been a very long time since I have seen the Flyers play such an up-tempo game. That second period especially, because they were relentless in their efforts. With the offense recording shot after shot and the defense playing so well, I swear Carter Hart could have taken a mid-game nap and still wound up with a shutout. This was the case because the Flyers had players like the elusive Bobby Brink busy on the other end, creating chance after chance in and around the net like he was able to do so quite frequently when attending college at the University of Denver, where he led the nation back in the 2021-2022 season scoring 57 points in 41 games played. But even though they were able to dominate the Canucks 2-0 yesterday, I worry that even though the great John Tortorella seems to have his team whipped into shape so early into the season, the likelihood of them being able to maintain this level of play against any real competition without having any true superstar of their own on the roster right now is slim to none. Case in point, like the two previous teams we discussed in this article, Vancouver was not a playoff team last season. Like the Senators, they finished in the eleventh seed in their respective conference last season.
This is far off the pace of the likes of the teams the Flyers will be forced to face over the next few weeks. Yes, over the next 14 days, I believe we will begin to get a more accurate depiction of what kind of team we are dealing with here. Because during that time, the Flyers will have to line up against playoff-caliber teams like Connor McDavids’ Edmonton Oilers, the Dallas Stars, the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Las Vegas Golden Knights, the Minnesota Wild, and the Carolina Hurricanes.
In closing, will these next few weeks really prove to make or break the Flyers season? No, but it should allow us to view just how far this team has come from last year and how far they still have to go to be considered a real contender in this ultra-competitive league again. There’s no doubt that guys like Cutter Gauthier and Matvei Michkov will be nice additions to this team’s offense whenever they arrive, but I believe there is still so much more the team can do while they are forced to wait. So, in saying that, don’t be surprised or discouraged when this team goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations again this season, including possibly having to do some more subtraction to obtain more future assets while they are still rebuilding. Help is on the way; it will just take time. The only difference from the previous times we have heard this type of propaganda from ownership is now that this team is under the direction of Keith Jones and Danny Briere. I finally believe this to be true.
I’m a lifelong Flyers fan who has been playing the sport of Ice Hockey we all know and love competitively for over 30 years now. I grew up playing in-between the pipes where I was able to take in the whole game and analysis just what the team needed to do to help us win. Over the years I always enjoyed reading and gaining as much knowledge as possible about this great sport, but always thought it lacked something. A players prospective!