By Jenny Masters
The Flyers are the most disappointing prospective contender in the National Hockey League.
After last season’s bubblicious break-out year in which they beat the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Isles, they were expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season.
But it’s March 20, and they are in fifth place in the East division with only 33 points.
And that means they are out of the playoffs.
Goalie Carter Hart has been a major disappointment, but there is still time for GM Chuck Fletcher to make a move before the April 12 trade deadline.
And he should be willing to make a significant move prior to the deadline if it means losing draft picks or prospects in exchange for proven NHL talent.
The struggles of young players, namely Hart, and the inability to fill the void left by Matt Niskanen’s retirement should not convince the Flyers to sway from the confidence they built after taking a major step forward last season.
While the first half of the shortened 2020-21 season has not turned out the way the Flyers hoped, they still sit in striking distance of a playoff spot with more than enough opportunities to gain ground in head-to-head matchups against division opponents currently sitting in playoff position.
The case can be made for the Flyers to stand pat at the deadline. Their struggles during the first half of the season have led many to believe the team is not one player away from Stanley Cup contention, and young players fitting into the organization’s long-term plans can be found up and down the roster. The salary cap uncertainty and looming expansion draft this summer also aren’t making matters easy on current NHL general managers. However, the Flyers also need to consider the shrinking window of opportunity for their veteran contributors.
The 33-year-old Giroux is only under contract through the 2021-22 season, and the 31-year-old Voracek is no guarantee to stay in Philadelphia past the expansion draft. Both players are invaluable to the organization, and their respective career trajectories should factor into the organization’s plans just as much as the young corps of talent built during Hextall’s tenure.