20 (Not So) Bold Flyers Predictions for 2021: Part One

The Flyers Predictions that Hurt to Make

Rosy optimism is great.  Knowing, in your heart that everything will work out as you wish must come as a great relief to people blessed with that outlook.  Optimism has been a difficult commodity to acquire for Flyers fans, probably since Game Six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. 

Each day I wake up and try to see hope, and it has been easier this year than in past years, but there are still some cold hard facts that can’t be ignored.  Call me a pessimist, or a realist, but this is what I see in the tea leaves.

1. Going, Going, Going, Ghost: Gostisbehere traded

With expansion and the Kraken looming, the question is thus: which three defensemen would you protect from the Kraken’s expansion tentacles?  For me it is Provorov, Myers and Sanheim.  It is not even close.   There is a portion of the fan base that is so in love with Ghost, even more  love than Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, that they would protect Ghost over any other player.

It is the same group that will tell you Ghost was on his way to a Norris trophy in 2020 had he not been derailed by the evil Robert Hagg. Kidding aside, Ghost had a down year, and more importantly the Flyers proved they did not need him.  Provorov can do a good enough impression of Ghost on the power play that Ghost has become a spare part on this team. More than that, would you choose to scuttle the potential of Myers, Sanheim or Provorov, shifting to a defense first role, to allow Ghost to play his game. I would not.

But there are things to like about Ghost. By my count twenty-five teams should have some degree of interest in Ghost and 10 should have an extreme level of interest. I think that a team that is a piece away, a PP quarterback, or a team with a strong defensive defensemen would pay through the nose for Ghost.

Think of the Shattenkrik trade. A first round pick, a second round pick, and two players.  I would look for about the same value, as Ghost is not a rental as he is signed to a good contract. Further he is a better player than Shattenkirk. The Flyers are stacked with mid tier forward talent right now, but it may be time to start thinking about life after G and Jake.  Ghost should be used to resupply our store of picks that we can use on high end forwards.

I would personally look at Edmonton. While the conventional wisdom is Edmonton needs help stopping the other team from scoring, the addition of Ghost would give them a dominant offense that has not been seen since the 1980’s. With a healthy Gostisbehere, I could see the Oilers’ power play converting at 40% and I could see Ghost picking up 80 points a season, in fact   I could actually see him getting 100 points.

2. Flyers robbed in Ghost trade

But this is Chuck Fletcher. I fully expect to get a fourth round pick for him moments before the trade deadline.  We will also retain some of Ghost’s salary

3. JVR does not top 25 goals

I will probably rue this look into the oracle’s ball. I can see JVR entering the last 4 games of the season with 11 goals and him scoring 16 over the last four games just to spite me.  I thought JVRs game was evolving. While he does not go all out every shift (hate it), or use his sizable frame to punish defensemen (hate it), I do think he is a good teammate and unselfish.  From what I have seen on the powerplay, where JVR will generate the most offense, JVR is beginning to transform into a playmaker, and a pretty good one. I think with the emergence of him as a set up man he may give up some goals. But I think that the team will benefit from his ability to create.

I predicted this before the Flyers playoff run, where JVR’s usage was reduced, and when he was dressed he was not on the power play. This was puzzling to me. I am a pretty harsh JVR critic, and I am not shy about sharing what I do not like about his game.  One thing that is undeniable is his worth on the power play. If you are going to suffer through even strength shifts with JVR it is madness, or stupidity, not to have him doing the one thing that he can do at an elite level.

This smacks of an issue between coach and player. I have no inside information, I have not heard any tea, just a guess from the outside. It is hard to score from the coach’s dog house.

4. Hart Break: Carter Hart gets Injured and is not a Finalist for the Vezina Trophy

One thing was proven to me in the 2020 bubble playoffs. It proved that Carter Hart is an elite goalie. Without Hart the Flyers do not have a Game Seven against the Islanders, because without Hart they don’t beat the Canadiens and do not advance.   Hart was so good, it has me wondering if the Flyers are a good team, or an OK team with a great goalie.

Looking through this lens, I see a good season for Hart. I think he will miss some time with injury. This is practically a requirement if you are a Flyers’ net minder.  That will impact his win numbers as compared to the finalists. I also expect his save percentage and goal against numbers to be slightly worse than the finalists.  The reason is that Hart will be facing tougher chances in greater numbers than the competition. You need to watch Hart to truly appreciate how good he is, many of the voters just look at the numbers.

5. Sean Couturier Does not Repeat as Selke Winner, Though he Should Have

This one hurts me to make, but I do not see Coots getting a nod a second year in a row.  Looking back at the recent history of the award, there are clear favorites.  I don’t mean people who are better than their peers, I mean names that the voters like to sick in no matter what   Namely Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron. The fact that Couturier won this year, and Ryan O’Reilly won the year before is a testament to just how strong their seasons were.  But the fact that we have players getting votes, makes me think that it is more about name recognition, flash and offense, than it is about defense.

While Kopitar finally looks like he is no longer considered an elite defender, Couts will take his place as the default second choice.  It would not surprise me to see some big offensive names, like Aho, Barzal and Point,  as (undeserved) finalist, with Bergeron taking home a Selke in 2021.

 

 

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