September is here. The offseason is nearing an end. In less than a week, Flyers rookies hit the ice for rookie camp. Six days later, the rest of the team will join and main camp begins. In less than two weeks, the preseason begins.
What this does is effectively end one of the most speculative offseasons in Flyers history.
The Flyers have been in this position before entering a season. It’s been the same story for the last five years as a matter of fact. First-round playoff exits and lost years in the prime of some of the franchise’s best-known players does not spark excitement. And the questions about what needs to make the Flyers a contender again only grow.
But this offseason was different. The team is coming off a disappointing end to a season once again. There were no playoffs. But there was a coaching change. The GM is still just eight months into the job. It brings more questions to the surface.
All of them center around the team’s overall success, the success of individual players and the overview of the division and conference. Never, even in this social media age, has ever move the Flyers made been as closely analyzed under a microscope as this offseason was -- from the hiring of Alain Vigneault as head coach to the trade and signing of Kevin Hayes and trades to acquire Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun.
On one hand, it was justifiable. This team needs a true resurgence to get the city’s attention again, because outside of the dawn of Gritty, there hasn’t been much to get excited about. Sure, the team is still able to sell out Lincoln Financial Field for an outdoor spectacular on a cold, rainy night in February, but the average Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center isn’t the draw it used to be. The product on the ice needs to be better, and for some, there was no move, outside of a true top free agent like Erik Karlsson or Artemi Panarin that was going to satisfy.
On the other hand, paper can do a lot of talking that doesn’t amount to anything when the game is actually played. You can have visions of what will make the Flyers a more successful team, and on paper, it looks great, but it may not work. In the salary cap era, there are no dream teams. You have to play the games to get the results.
It’s why so much of the speculation made for a rather frustrating offseason. There was so much of it, you had to take escape from social media in the dog days of summer to just keep your sanity. If there was one person defending Hayes as a 50-point player in a better offensive role, there was another criticizing the contract he received from the Flyers without proven numbers consistently over multiple seasons. If there was one person looking at the trade for Niskanen with two years left on his contract and a $5.25 million cap hit and criticizing the move from a cap standpoint, there was another noting the upgrade that Niskanen could be on the penalty kill or overall defensive core.
The speculation has been endless, and it will be a welcome sight to see actual gameplans, actual games and actual results -- even if the results aren’t good at all. At least there will be answers. At least there will be something to base the next course of action.
In an offseason where the Flyers needed to make critical steps in the right direction, there was speculation that had people on both sides of the fence -- some thinking the Flyers got better, others bracing for another dismal and uninspiring season. One side will be right and one will be wrong, but there is no way to know until it happens on the ice.
So enough of the speculation. Let the games begin soon enough.