The Philadelphia Flyers showed incredible growth and guts last season. Starting with the former, they managed to improve by seven points over the previous season even though they placed 13 fewer contests in 2019-20.
The Flyers had won nine of 10 heading into the pandemic pause and while they lost momentum, they still carried things well once the league returned. They did decent enough in the warm-up round-robin and beat the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. In terms of guts, they showed them off when they were facing a 3-1 second-round series deficit to the New York Islanders but they got off the mat to force a game seven.
All in all, Year Two of the Alain Vigneault era was a resounding success and this team is clearly on the rise. The question is can the Flyers take the next step and become a Stanley Cup contender in 2021?
Philadelphia Flyers 2021 Odds
- Odds To Win Make Playoffs: -190
- Odds To Win Division: +500
- Regular Season Point Total: 67.5
The Flyers didn’t have a whole lot of turnover in terms of key losses, so the team should look very much like the roster did last season. The blue line did lose Matt Niskanen, who chewed 21:54 of ice time per game.
That was second on the team, so those minutes will have to get eaten up by someone else. Niskanen was just 33 years old, so the retirement was a bit earlier than expected and he was still productive, chipping in 33 points last season.
Outside of that, the team lost Chris Stewart, Tyler Pitlick, Nate Thompson and Derek Grant, but none of those will really hurt the team all that much.
In terms of additions, the team did add Erik Gustafsson and Derrick Pouliot. The team now has two Erik Gustafssons, if you can believe that, but this one comes over from the Chicago Blackhawks.
He’s one of the guys that’s expected to fill Niskanen’s shoes and it should work. Gustafsson was decent for the Chicago Blackhawks last season, tallying 26 points and a -8 while averaging 20:40 on the ice. As for Pouliot, he’s just a flier.
The former first-round pick (2012) had zero points in just two games with the St. Louis Blues last season but has a total of 48 points in his career.
The Flyers Will Succeed If…
Carter Hart continues to develop into one of the league’s top goaltenders. Last season was his first as the team’s full-time started and it was a resounding success. He finished the year with a .920 save percentage in even strength and boosted that number to .940 in the playoffs.
The bottom line is this team has long been looking for a reliable netminder and it appears they have one. Success in 2021 has to be built around him.
The other key will be internal growth from some of the young pieces. Can Shayne Gostisbehere deliver? Can Nolan Patrick – the No. 2 pick in the 2017 – become a quality contributor (he missed all of last season)? Will guys like Kevin Hayes’, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov perform at the level they did last year? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, this team could be a Stanley Cup contender.
The Flyers Will Fail If…
Of course, there’s a downside risk to everything that we just went over. Let’s say Patrick – who dealt with migraines last season – can’t suit up or plays but only for a portion of the season. And then Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek continue to slip in terms of their offensive prowess.
And if Hart regresses and again brings the Flyers back to their days of not truly having a No. 1 goaltender. Or if the blue line -with Gustafsson as the supposed replacement for Niskanen – is unreliable. All of those are possibilities and in a shortened season, these could all spell trouble.
The good news is that head coach Alain Vigneault has been to the playoffs in 11 of the last 13 seasons. His teams are readily competitive, so that’s a good sign.
Keep in mind that there are going to be some changes to the format of the 2021 season, which will directly impact the Flyers chances of success. To start, the Boston Bruins are joining the division, which is not ideal.
Things were already difficult in the Metropolitan with the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and New York Islanders all butting heads. Now the Bruins are in the mix and remember, there are only four playoff spots available, so someone good could miss out.
The Flyers have been too reliant on huge in-season winning streaks, which they’ve now done in each of the last four years. Last year, it was a stretch of nine wins in 10 games. In a shortened season, they have to find a way to be more consistent throughout the 56 games.
I’m liking the Philadelphia Flyers 2021 odds of going far or maybe even winning it all.
However, this team has a lot of carryover from last season, which – in this year – is likely especially valuable. Look for a more even year from start to finish without such crazy spikes. This team should be among the top four in the Metropolitan Division but they won’t hold the top spot.
Philadelphia Flyers 2021 Odds
Prediction: 3rd in Metropolitan Division