This New Year’s Day is different for the Flyers than in years past. An unusual 2020 has forced the start of the 2020-21 season to be delayed. It will finally get underway on Jan. 13 for the NHL, and the Flyers will be part of the opening night festivities by facing the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Training camp begins for the Flyers in just three days, starting with physicals and off-ice proceedings on Jan. 3, then the first on-ice workouts on Jan. 4. As the calendar officially turns to 2021, here are five New Year’s Resolutions for the team.
1. Continue to Trust in Carter Hart
It’s the most important position in hockey for a reason. If you don’t have the goaltender, you will struggle to put it together for an entire season and succeed in the playoffs. The Flyers finally have that guy. If his rookie season didn’t prove that, last season certainly did.
Hart was excellent on home ice and helped make the Flyers a success story. In the playoffs, he reached new heights with back-to-back shutouts and carried the Flyers to a first-round series win.
While the team came up short and Hart certainly had his moments during the playoff run, you have to continue to trust in him moving forward. He’s got the ability. He’s got the confidence. He’s got the talent and potential to be great. He desires it. And if you continue to roll with him regularly, it sure seems like you will be competitive on a near nightly basis.
2. Keep a Defense-First Mentality
The loss of Matt Niskanen presents a question mark for the Flyers, but they had success last season beyond Niskanen by getting the team to collectively buy into responsible play in the defensive zone. That will be a recipe for success again in 2020-21.
The Flyers had their moments in this area in the playoffs too and it certainly hurt them. Defensive play will be what drives the success for the Flyers this season. If the goaltender is the most important position, the help he gets around him in the defensive zone will be critical.
If the Flyers can continue to dedicate themselves to playing responsible hockey in their own zone and translate it to scoring at the other end of the ice, it will help them succeed in this difficult division.
3. Improve the Power Play Results
This was a glaring problem in the playoffs and it is an area where the Flyers simply need to be better.
When power-play opportunities come, you have to take advantage. The Flyers did a really good job of being a disciplined team for most of the season and limiting power-play chances for the opposition. They used speed in transition and hard forechecking to draw a number of penalties too.
Whether it is personnel changes, system changes or just a different approach to the power play, the Flyers need to bury these chances, because it could be the difference in many games this season.
4. Trust in TK
A lot was made of Travis Konecny going scoreless in the playoffs. Claude Giroux said on Wednesday that he wasn’t worried. I wouldn’t be either.
Konecny has scored 24 goals in each of the last three regular seasons. That takes consistency to another level. Of course, if not for the shortened regular season a year ago, Konecny would have eclipsed his career-high in goals and pushed for a 30-goal season. It wouldn’t be shocking if he came close to repeating his 24-goal mark again in 56 games, especially if he gets off to a similar hot start like he did last season.
Bottom line: don’t worry about him and trust in TK. He emerged as the Flyers leading scorer last season for a reason. He’s got a knack for providing offense and being an energy guy with a scoring touch. The goals will come for him this season.
5. Keep the Kids Coming
In a year where roster flexibility is going to be crucial, the Flyers will need to show it with the prospects they have in the system.
This means increased roles for Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers. This means increased roles for Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. In due time, it could mean continuing to lean on Oskar Lindblom or Nolan Patrick.
But it’s also about giving new prospects a shot. Morgan Frost should get more playing time this season. Tanner Laczynski, Wade Allison and Linus Sandin should all potentially get a look in the NHL.
Providing more opportunities for young players to take the next step in their careers and continue their development will only help this team in the future.