By Mary Cunningham
Captain Claude Giroux was the face of the Flyers’ disappointing season, scoring only 14 goals, the fewest he had over a full season in his career.
The five-time 20-goal scorer also dipped to 58 points, his lowest total since recording 47 in his second season back in 2009-10.
“I think it was a bad season; a lot of things didn’t go our way,” Giroux told Sporting News Canada. “As a group, we have to learn from that. The only way to get better is to get motivated and move forward.”
In the middle of an eight-year contract with a $8.275 million cap hit, Giroux is well aware that if the Flyers are to turn things around in the competitive Eastern Conference, it starts with him.
His goal and point totals have decreased each of the past four seasons from 2013-14 when he scored 28 goals and recorded 86 points. That trend cannot continue for a Flyers team that struggled mightily to score goals during the second half a year ago.
Last season, the Flyers had a 21-16-5 record 42 games into the schedule, highlighted by a 10-game win streak, and were in the middle of the wild-card chase in the East. The club scored at a 2.98 goals-per-game clip, ranking them among the league’s elite.
However, scoring dried up in the second half and the Flyers went 18-17-5 down the stretch, falling out of playoff contention. Perhaps that 10-game win streak in November and December was a mirage, or, at worst, covered up the true ills of the team.
Giroux himself was snake-bitten in his final 47 games, mustering only four goals. That, and his steady decline in scoring the past four seasons, caused the center to become the focus of offseason trade buzz . Giroux acknowledged the rumors to Sporting News Canada by saying, “they were just that,” rumors.
Now, with a deep prospect pool set to overflow onto the NHL roster, the Flyers have reason to believe 2017-18 will be a more successful season.
“We’re going to have a young team, we know that” Giroux said. “We’re going to have a talented team competing to make the playoffs.”
The Flyers have the potential to have one of the league’s youngest — and least tenured — rosters in the entire NHL, highlighted by No. 2 overall draft selection Nolan Patrick, the 18-year-old who scored 91 goals and 204 points in only 160 games the past three seasons with Brandon of the WHL.
Talented forwards Taylor Leier, Oskar Lindblom and Michael Vecchione are also vying for spots on the opening-night roster and the Flyers D-corps will likely feature four players age 24 and under.
Shayne Gostisbehere, who signed a six-year, $27 million extension, has the highest profile of the young defensemen. Behind him is 20-year-old Ivan Provorov, who is coming off a rock-solid 30-point rookie season.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall retooled the Flyers depth chart over the summer, dealing Brayden Schenn to the Blues for Jori Lehtera and Nick Cousins to the Coyotes. He also signed veteran goaltender Brian Elliott as a free agent.
Goalie Steve Mason departed as a free agent, as did a pair of defensemen, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz. Winger Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was