Could the 2023-24 Philadelphia Flyers reach the playoffs? It is seemingly unlikely, but not impossible. The team did improve a little bit from the final year of Alain Vigneault in 2021-22 to John Tortorella’s first season of 2022-23. Despite some of the issues that the team has had and are still facing, there are quite a few factors that could help this team clinch a playoff berth. Let’s examine five key things that will help the Flyers make it to the post season.
1. A Healthy Team
This is kind of a no brainer here, but this team needs to stay healthy. Say what you will about AV and Torts, this team has been ravaged by injuries the last two seasons. It’s almost as if some deranged Penguins fan has had a series of Flyers voodoo dolls and has been going off on them.
Travis Konecny scored a career high 31 goals last season. That includes him missing 22 games due to various injuries. If he is healthy, there is no reason why he can’t finally reach that elusive 40 goal mark. Likewise, Sean Couturier will be back after 18 months off the ice. Cam Atkinson is also healthy. If those two can contribute at all, that will be a great addition to this club.
Some of the younger players have also struggled to stay healthy. Wade Allison has too often been hurt. Egor Zamula too had issues staying on the ice. Bobby Brink will be coming back from an injury last season while Joel Farabee is getting ready to show he is free from last year’s rust. If the Flyers can get 65+ games out of their veteran core and 70+ games out of their youth, this should help them a lot in a competitive division.
2. Steady, Dependable Goaltending
As of right now, Carter Hart is the Flyers goaltender. He is a free agent at the end of this season. Either he will remain the team’s netminder or his days are numbered. Cal Petersen is the projected backup. If he struggles or is hurt, or if Hart gets hurt again, the Flyers can call up Felix Sandstrom and/or Sam Errson. Further down the pipeline, the team has built up a stable of goalie prospects.
Whoever is in net, the team needs high quality goaltending from them. Soft goals can’t be given up. Injuries, if and when they come, will have to be dealt with and overcome. Having a strong Hart in net will help. Whomever is the backup will have to be just as strong. It can’t be like last year where Sandstrom was in net and was pretty much a guaranteed loss.
You can’t put it all on the goalie, however. While he takes a lot of responsibility for what happens in the net, you have to pin a lot of that on how the defense in front of him plays. And speaking of the defense…
3. A Young Defense Steps Up
Cam York has had almost a full year of play behind him. Ronnie Attard, Zamula, and others seem as if they are ready to take their place on the Flyers roster. Other defensive prospects are also trying to make their mark. A big focus on the team’s youth movement is on the defense.
Yes, the team will be returning Travis Sanheim, Nick Seeler, and Rasmus Ristolainen. Marc Staal, a longtime NHL vet, will be playing at times as well. A big part of the “unknown” for this team is how players like York, Attard, Zamula, and others will perform at the NHL level.
If the kids can perform and play well, that will go a long way into improving this team’s chances. Poor defensive players can cripple a team. We saw this last year as the play of the defense was rather inconsistent. They will have their growing pains, no doubt, but if they come together, rally around each other, learn from the mistakes, and grow, they will move this team forward and quickly.