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Welcome to What Went Wrong where we’ll look at each team that failed to make the playoffs. We’ll also end each article by highlighting some players of particular interest on the squad. Those are players who either left something to be desired during the 2021-22 campaign, have significant untapped upside, or have some big underlining questions surrounding them going into the offseason.
The Philadelphia Flyers failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight year in 2021-22 following a 21-35-11 record and a 29th-place finish in the overall standings. It is the first time that the Flyers have missed the postseason in consecutive seasons since a five-year drought from 1989-94.
Philadelphia fired head coach Alain Vigneault following an 8-11-4 start to the season. The team was in the midst of a 0-6-2 slide when assistant Mike Yeo took over behind the bench on an interim basis. The Flyers continued to struggle following the change, which included a franchise-worst 13-game winless skid from Dec. 30, 2021 to Jan. 25, 2022. On top that, the Flyers experienced a COVID-19 outbreak that put several players on the sidelines due to protocols in mid-December to early January.
Scoring was a big problem for the Flyers throughout the season. The team averaged just 2.56 goals for per game played, which ranked 31st in the league, and had the second-worst shooting percentage (8.3%). Philadelphia only had two 20-goal scorers, with James van Riemsdyk leading the way with a total of 24 and Cam Atkinson just behind him with 23. Travis Konecny topped the squad with 36 assists and 52 points, but he failed to hit the 20-goal plateau for a second straight year after he had three straight seasons of 24 goals. Atkinson was the only other player on the squad who was able to reach the 50-point mark.
The Flyers also had the worst power-play percentage in the NHL at 12.6%. They scored 28 times, which was the second-lowest total overall, on 239 opportunities. Philadelphia also surrendered 11 shorthanded goals against, which tied them for the third-most in the league. The penalty kill wasn’t formidable either at 26th overall (75.7%) to complete a troubling special teams circuit.
Philadelphia also struggled with goal prevention in 2021-22. The Flyers permitted the fourth-most shots against per game played (34.0) and their goaltenders were bombarded with scoring chances. The team concluded the campaign with a save percentage of .894, which was better than just five NHL clubs. Goaltenders Carter Hart and Martin Jones had their share of issues in the crease, but they didn’t get much in the way of support defensively or offensively.
The Flyers also were never really able to ice a full healthy lineup. Key players like Ryan Ellis and Sean Couturier missed the vast majority of the season, while Kevin Hayes sat out nearly half of the year. Getting them back and playing regularly next season would go a long way to improving the team offensively. Injuries piled up among the depth players down the stretch and the team traded away Claude Giroux, Derick Brassard and Justin Braun. It was a depleted roster during the final part of the year, which made it even more difficult for the Flyers to post many victories.
However, having everyone available may not have been enough to get this group into the playoff picture, which is probably the reason why management is looking at an “aggressive retool” in the offseason. If the Flyers don’t bring back Giroux then they are expected to be in the market for multiple impact players, who could be acquired via trade or free agency. Philadelphia’s offseason plan will also involve the hiring of a new head coach after it was announced earlier this month that Yeo wouldn’t be back behind the bench.
There are still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Flyers. Plenty of things went wrong for the team during the 2021-22 campaign and the bulk of it was not merely bad luck. It was already a roster with question marks on defense and in goal following some offseason changes that didn’t work out the way the organization had hoped. Philadelphia will need to make better decisions this summer to get the team back on course and it won’t be easy.
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Player to Watch:
Ryan Ellis - Ellis was supposed to be key contributor on the Flyers’ revamped defense corps. He was going to occupy a spot on the top pairing and quarterback the first power-play combination. Ellis missed 78 games because of a pelvic injury he sustained during the preseason. He expects to be ready for training camp. Ellis had one goal, four assists, six shots, six blocks and one hit during his four appearances. He will make an impact if he can put his injury woes behind him.
Carter Hart - The play of Hart will likely be the determining factor when it comes to how much the Flyers can improve next season. The 23-year-old netminder was better in 2021-22 than he was in 2020-21, but there was plenty of room for improvement after the worst year of his young career. Hart got off to a decent start this past campaign, but it fell to pieces once the calendar flipped to 2022. He went 6-16-3 over 26 appearances, while posting an .895 save percentage and allowing a whopping 86 goals against. Hart had plenty of upside when he started playing and he desperately needs to get himself back on the right track in order to start building back up his confidence again.
Joel Farabee - Farabee notched 20 goals and 38 points in 55 games during the 2020-21 season. It appeared as though he was on his way towards surpassing those totals on a couple of occasions this year, but ultimately he ended up taking a bit of a step backwards. Consistency was a problem for Farabee this past campaign. He would rack up points in bunches prior to disappearing from the scoresheet. Farabee will occupy key spots in the lineup for the Flyers and he has all the tools to be successful.
Scott Laughton - Laughton flashed some potential when he received a larger role on 2021-22. He generated eight goals and 24 points in 34 games from Nov. 28-Mar. 8. Laughton averaged a career-high 16:25 of ice time per match, while adding 110 shots and 151 hits in 67 outings. The Flyers need some players to step up and Laughton could be someone to watch if he lands a permanent spot as a top-six forward.