For hockey fans, it’s the “most wonderful time of the year”! Training camp is upon us and fans of just about every team are optimistic that this could be their year…well, maybe not Sabres fans. For us fans of the Flyers, we’re apprehensive. Last year was terrible, but much of that can be attributed to young players having to fill the ranks of all the veterans out due to COVID and/or injuries. With a new coach and some new additions, what will this year bring?
Here are five storylines to follow as the team enters camp:
1: Flyers Locker Room Issues
Coach John Tortorella has been saying that there are issues within the locker room that need to get fixed before this team can move forward. Though he has been rather hesitant to clarify his sentiments, the concern remains. What are these issues?
Whatever these concerns are, will they be addressed during camp? How will they be addressed? Will there be some public fallout with them or will it be kept quiet in house? For people who like drama, grab your popcorn and watch if this explodes.
2: New Team Captain?
The Flyers have been without a captain since the team traded Claude Giroux. With the start of a new season, that could change. Who will it be?
If I were a betting man, I would put money down on Cam Atkinson. His previous relationship with Coach Tortorella makes him an obvious choice. He wore an “A” last year after being traded to the team, which tells me that the team respects his leadership abilities. Tortorella has a reputation for being gruff, so he could be a great go-between for both the players, coaching staff, and team management. If anyone needs to help soothe any bruised egos here, Atkinson probably has the best chance of doing it.
3. Who’s Healthy?
This has been a story that has been beaten to death on this site as well as other sites, articles, and publications. Injuries decimated this team last season. There are few players on last year’s roster that didn’t get bit, or in some cases mauled, by the injury bug. So who’s ready to go?
Well, we know that Joel Farabee will be out to start. Hopefully, he can return soon because the Flyers will need his scoring touch. Sean Couturier could now potentially miss a large chunk of time. Will Ryan Ellis be healthy? Will he even play this year? How healthy is Kevin Hayes? Hayes, in a recent interview, has shared that he’s felt his healthiest in recent seasons. That will big a major boost to this team going forward. A lot of the success of this team rests on how healthy the vets are going to be.
4. Who Makes the Team?
So, the Flyers aren’t “officially” in a reboot/rebuild mode. They didn’t make any real big moves during the offseason. They are hampered by the salary cap in what they can do to improve this team.
When you look at the roster, there are some obvious choices as to who is going to stick around. On defense, Tony DeAngelo, Ivan Provorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Travis Sanheim, and Justin Braun are here to stay. Carter Hart isn’t going anywhere. Atkinson, Couturier, Hayes, Travis Konecny, and Nic Deslauriers will be suiting up in orange and black.
After that, it gets kind of murky. Will a player get traded to help alleviate the salary cap conundrum the Flyers are in (over $2 million)? Is someone going to be hurt and placed on LTIR? Which young players will surprise us and impress Coach Tortorella? Who will be sent back to Lehigh Valley for seasoning? Will a potentially disgruntled (is anyone ever gruntled?) player demand to be released or traded based on his relationship with Torts? Who will fill out the third line with Deslauriers? What will the defensive pairings be? Is James van Riemsdyk’s time in Philly almost over?
The answers to most of the questions should be figured out as the Flyers leave camp.
5. New System
One of the reasons the team hired John Tortorella to be their new coach is because of his ability to whip teams into shape. He won a Stanley Cup in Tampa, took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals, and turned the Columbus Blue Jackets into a playoff-winning team. He has the tools necessary to turn this team around and help them to reach their full potential.
Part of his coaching philosophy has been to stress a team that is both physical in nature, but not reckless. The physical part should appeal to most Flyers fans. He also stresses a defense-first-minded mentality. By using a physical nature, you can intimidate the offense of opposing teams. By emphasizing defense, the team can capitalize on the mistakes of the opponents and then transition quickly into their own offensive attack. When done well, you can demoralize other teams when you score after stealing a pass and streaking up the open ice.
If the Flyers can adapt to whatever system he puts in place, they could be competitive. I’m not sure if this team is playoff ready yet. They are in the toughest division in hockey and all of their main rivals beefed up this offseason. However, if a few key players on other teams get injured and/or stumble out of the gate, the Flyers could have an opportunity if they can get their act together.
Training camp starts soon. The Flyers have a lot to figure out. They have a lot of opportunities ahead of them. The next few weeks should tell us a lot about what this team can and will be. All the drama and expectations and possibilities will finally come together soon. Sit back and watch Flyers fans. It’s going to be some sort of ride!