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Busy Offseason Awaits Flyers

Busy Offseason Awaits Flyers
The spotlight is earlier than he wanted, but it is clearly on Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, who has the difficult task of building the team back to playoff contention.
 
The Flyers finished 37-37-8 for 82 points. Just a year ago, the Flyers finished with 98 points and earned a playoff berth.
 
Fletcher was hired during the first week of December, so he has had enough time to see the team and now get ready to rebuild.
 
There is one school of thought that suggests tear the team down, deal veterans such as captain Claude Giroux and go with the young players.
 
This would be a major mistake.
 
Giroux, who turns 32 in January, remains at the top of this game. He earned his sixth all-star berth this season and led the Flyers with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists).
 
Whether he plays on the win or at center, he remains a highly effective player. If the Flyers return to prominence, Giroux has the ability to lead them there.
 
The key for this franchise is how the young players develop.
 
Center Sean Courturier, 26, had his second straight big offense season with 33 goals and 43 assists. It was the second straight year he has totaled 76 points.
 
He has become one of the true leaders on this team.
 
The third leading scorer was Jake Voracek, who had 20 goals and 46 assists for 66 points. Voracek, however had a plus-minus rating of minus-16.
 
Where the Flyers really took a step back was on defense. Two of their prized young defensemen, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere were a combined -36.
 
Each was two years ago as a future all-star, but now both need rebound seasons for the Flyers to become a playoff contender.
 
Free agent forward James van Riemsdyk, who suffered an early season injury but came on strong at the end, finished with 27 goals and 21 assists for 48 points in 66 games. He was also a minus-10.
 
Center Nolan Patrick, 20, didn’t make a jump in second season, scoring just 31 points and being a minus-8. He was the No 2 overall pick two years ago, but hasn’t lived up to that billing yet, although it would be unwise to write somebody off so young and with so much potential.
 
Speaking of defense, the most encouraging sign was the play of 20-year-old goalie Carter Hart. He was one of a record eight goalies to play this year for the Flyers and despite all his hype, was able to give the team hope that he will indeed be a future all-star.
 
The next Flyers coach that Fletcher hires will have to make sure this team tightens up defensively in front of Hart.
 
Hiring that coach will be the first move that Fletcher makes. He hired Scott Gordon on an interim basis from the Flyers AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
 
Gordon came in and gave the team a jolt of energy. A former head coach of the New York Islanders, Gordon earned the players respect. Many have said publicly they hope he retains the job.
 
Fletcher has praised him Gordon, but the fact remains that the team faltered down the stretch, going 3-10 in their last 13 games.
 
There are some big-name coaches out there, although the biggest, three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quennville, was hired on Monday by the Florida Panthers.
 
The Flyers could also be active in the free agent market as they attempt to return to the postseason next season.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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