The Philadelphia Flyers will enter 2022-23 coming off of two seasons in which they lacked success. General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher insists they do not need to undergo a rebuild despite evidence to the contrary. He is hoping a better year of health from key players along with proper coaching from new hire John Tortorella will pay off and lead the team back to the playoffs.
However, youngster Bobby Brink suffered a torn labrum in his left hip earlier during the offseason and will miss the first few months of the season. Ryan Ellis’ return from a pelvic injury he sustained early in 2021-22 is unknown, and Joel Farabee underwent surgery for a disc replacement. As of now, it is looking unlikely that any of the three players will be in the Flyers’ lineup at the beginning of the year.
Even though Brink may have started 2022-23 with their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, it has not been a good start to GM Fletcher’s hopes of the roster remaining relatively healthy as two integral players will be recovering from injuries when the season begins. Despite that, let’s take a look at what success will look like for the organization when it reaches the end of 2022-23.
John Tortorella Needs To Be a Candidate for the Jack Adams Award
Tortorella, a winner of the Jack Adams Award in 2004 and 2017, needs to be the Flyers’ biggest difference-maker given that they did not make any significant additions during free agency due to the salary cap. He has the task of reviving a struggling organization that has become irrelevant in one of the most passionate sports cities. For the franchise to have a successful season, he will need to have a positive impact which will hopefully result in consideration for the award with a third different club.
If Tortorella can maximize the Flyers’ potential and lead them to a playoff berth, he should be in the running for the Jack Adams Award as they have struggled mightily the past two seasons. Cam Atkinson commented on what he learned from him earlier in his playing career, “You practice how you play. Especially when I turned pro, I learned that from John Tortorella. He was great in that aspect.” Young players on the roster will learn from the coach’s emphasis on practice, which will serve them well as they continue to get more accustomed to playing in the NHL.
Atkinson privately recommended why Tortorella should be the next Flyers head coach before the hiring was official, “I know in my exit meeting, that was one thing that Chuck and I talked about, I actually brought up Torts. I said, ‘I vouch for Torts.’ That’s how much I think that Torts is going to help our team.” However, nothing builds enthusiasm and enjoyment on a roster quite like winning, which the roster and coaching staff will be under scrutiny to do so, as they are not undergoing a rebuild and are aiming to be competitive in 2022-23. If he is in consideration for the Jack Adams Award, they have had a better season than anticipated, and he is deserving of recognition that the organization exceeded expectations during his first season as the head coach.
Flyers Are in the Mix for a Wild-Card Spot
The New York Rangers emerged as another contender last year in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division in addition to the usual playoff contenders in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. The Carolina Hurricanes are a young, competitive team and the Columbus Blue Jackets made one of the biggest free agent acquisitions this offseason with the signing of Johnny Gaudreau. The New York Islanders are looking to qualify for the postseason again after a disappointing season and the New Jersey Devils will look toward a playoff spot led by their talented youth. It is a crowded division, for sure, so where does this leave the Flyers?
The Flyers will need to get off to a good start this season as they found themselves in a deficit last year that they were unable to rebound from. If they manage to avoid being at the bottom of the Metro, they will need four other clubs in the division to struggle or underachieve to be in contention for a wild-card spot. It is not out of the question, as injuries will accumulate and hit a few teams hard during the year. Something they can certainly attest to based on their experience in 2021-22. However, the bigger uncertainty is what their ceiling is if they are playing at nearly full health. They are entering a season in which expectations are at their lowest since the early 1990s. Maintaining a position for a wild-card berth appears to be what their ceiling is currently, and a lot of factors need to work in their favor for them to achieve one of the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers and GM Fletcher enter a year in which expectations are low for the first time in several decades, which is concerning. If they struggle, it is anticipated the club will be looking for a new GM as the roster decisions made by the front office have been confusing, and the team’s sense of direction is not clear. They want to compete and reconstruct the roster to an extent, which at best puts them in the middle of the pack and on the outside of a playoff spot.
The Flyers are also not off to a good start at remaining healthy with Farabee, Ellis, and Brink all expected to miss the start of the season. Sean Couturier, a possibility to be named the next captain, and Kevin Hayes are two veterans with the highest salaries, and both need to remain healthy and have productive years in order for them to be in the mix for a playoff spot in what is expected to be a difficult Eastern Conference and a competitive Metro Division. They both need to take on leadership roles as well for an organization that is in need of an identity. If they do not have a good year, they will fall further into irrelevancy among the Philadelphia fanbase and it will become more evident they need to undergo a rebuild.