The 2023-24 NHL season is almost upon us. In a few more weeks, the Flyers players will start coming to Voorhees and Philadelphia to train, practice, and prep for the upcoming season. With this in mind, we look to the future for this club. Everyone in the organization is talking about making the Flyers competitive and successful again. But what does that mean? What will success actually look for this team in this upcoming season?
As we look at this upcoming season we need to take a realistic examination of what “success” will be. Sports fans are notoriously never contended. If a team is losing, they want them to win the next year. If they make they playoffs, the fans want a championship. If a team wins a championship, the fans want a repeat and then a dynasty. Since the Flyers are mostly likely not winning the Stanley Cup this year, what will make 2023-24 a successful season?
Despite a seventh place finish, 2022-23 was a moderately successful year. The team won 31 games and had 71 points. That is an increase of six games in the win column, 10 more points, and one place up in the standings from the previous season, which had been the worst season in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Those are just minor gains, but it is better to move up than down. It shows that the team is improving. Even improving slowly is better than not improving at all. The Flyers are trending in the right direction. That is a source of some optimism.
The Flyers finished just five points behind the Washington Capitals this past season. You kind of wonder how much better the Flyers would’ve been had Travis Konecny not been sidelined for 22 games and Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson, and Sean Couturier been out all season. We can be honest with ourselves that we wouldn’t have made the playoffs even with their help, but it is possible that the team could’ve been a sixth place team instead of seventh.
If this team wants to be successful, they need to stay healthy. If the players can be healthy, we can better evaluate if they will continue to be a part of the team. Wade Allison is a good example. He keeps getting sidelined due to injuries. Has time run out on him or will he finally show his talents? Likewise, if Couturier, who hasn’t played since December 2021, can’t stay healthy, is he someone the Flyers should hold onto?
Continued Rise of Young Players
During this past season, the Flyers saw a lot of playing time from their young players. Cam York, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, Noah Cates, and Owen Tippett received a lot of ice time and were rewarded by their solid play. Tippett, in particular, had a breakout season. If each of these guys can continue to take steps to move forward and build upon this year, the Flyers could have a better season than last year.
Not only that, there are some players who are waiting to be called up and make their mark as well. It is possible that Emil Andrae, Egor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Jackson Cates, Elliot Desnoyers, and Tyson Foerster could play for the big club this season. The future of the Flyers is right around the corner. Continuing to help nurture and develop these younger players is integral to the future success of this team.
Settling Into Year 2 of John Tortorella
Last year was the first year of the tenure of John Tortorella as head coach of the Flyers. The team made some strides and grew under him. After one season, the players will know what to expect from their coach. They know the plays he wants to run. They know the system he is trying to build. The players who haven’t been fitting in with the system are being removed from the team.
With year two coming up, it will be easier for the players. They will know what is expected of them and can jump right in where they left off. That sort of familiarity will help the team grow. We all like routines and players are no different. Knowing Tortorella’s routines will help this team improve this season.
Make Sensible Deals
We’ve already seen general manager Daniel Briere make some deals to improve the team. He’s signed players that appear to be able to fit the system that Tortorella is trying to build. He’s also made some trades that are helping to prop up the future with draft picks. Likewise, Briere’s moves haven’t depleted the team of top prospects and high end draft picks to acquire a veteran who is on the trading block.
As the team plays on this season, we’ll see how it is doing. Whether the Flyers are buying or selling in February and March will be determined at that point. No matter what, Briere needs to keep doing what he is doing. He needs to continue trying to build up for a bright future and not mortgage it. This may mean we have to lose some key personnel that we have come to love (Konecny? Hart? Laughton?). While Briere shouldn’t just trade what few top players the Flyers have willy-nilly, if a trade offer makes sense and will improve the team, he should at least listen.
Despite having a 10 game losing streak and suffering a plethora of injuries this past season, mathematically the Flyers were in playoff contention deep into the season. Had a few things gone a different way, who knows.
I’m not trying to be so blindly optimistic and say that the team will definitely make the playoffs and go on a deep run. That is not likely to happen. The teams in the Eastern Conference are building up for war against each other. We saw this last offseason, we saw it at the trade deadline and nothing is changing. Most of the division is beefing up by making trades and signing big name free agents. When you take in the Atlantic teams such as Detroit, Tampa, and Boston, it’s going to be a hard fight to earn a playoff spot this year for just about every team. The Flyers will most likely be on the outside looking in.
However, if by some miracle the Flyers actually do make the playoffs, it will most definitely be a successful year for Tortorella and company. It will be a step in the right direction and will show that their youth movement rebuild is going well. To get to that point, all of the other previous points will have to be checked off. Even if the Flyers don’t make the playoffs, but check off all of the other points, it will be a successful year for Philadelphia.