Top storylines as 2015-16 regular season nears


In less than one week, the Philadelphia Flyers will open the 2015-16 season by traveling to the Sunshine State to take on the reigning Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The team will attempt to get off to a good start in what they hope will be a fruitful season that results in returning to the postseason and vying for the Stanley Cup. Let's take a look at the major storylines surrounding the club as they wrap up the last week of training camp. 

The Final 23

Trimming a preseason roster is one of the toughest jobs for a front office, and this season is proving to be just that for GM Ron Hextall and Co. After the Flyers dropped their final home preseason contest against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, Hextall mentioned that executives from each team would be worried about losing players to waivers but that it rarely happens at this point of camp.

His comment was in relation to the team's decision to place forward Chris Porter on waivers earlier in the day with the intent to send him to Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League. Porter handled the situation like a pro, even scoring in that evening's game before fielding questions as to whether or not the situation was strange. According to Porter, it was not the first time that he had scored a goal on the same day that he was waived. 

Plans to stash Porter in the AHL as a depth forward and likely call-up were foiled by the Minnesota Wild who claimed him off of waivers on Thursday afternoon. The move reunites him with his good friend Zach Parise and will afford him the chance to be on an opening day NHL roster. 

With Porter out of the equation, the team has one more move to make before reaching their magic number of 23 players. Will the club carry eight defensemen and eliminate the need to send one down or trade him – OR – will they opt to jettison a forward such as Scott Laughton, who can be sent to Lehigh Valley without any ramifications?

Laughton and bubble defender Brandon Manning have exceeded expectations in camp and Hextall is hesitant to make any more moves that would either subject them to waivers or a demotion.

In the interest of only carrying seven defensemen, it appears that a move on the blue line is likely and the preference would be via a trade to relieve the team of a roster spot and contract while not having to worry about losing another player to waivers.

Luke Schenn, a heavy-hitting, stay-at-home defenseman, is an optimal choice as he doesn't necessarily fit into coach Dave Hakstol's system. In fact, if Schenn's $3.6 million cap hit was more reasonable, there's a chance he would have already been gone. Hextall has pulled off the big move before, but can he do it again?


First-line left wing Michael Raffl and second-line center Sean Couturier are both expected back to begin the regular season. Raffl has found a flow playing on the top unit with with captain Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek and he should receive more special teams opportunities this year as well. Couturier, meanwhile, it expected to center a second line with Wayne Simmonds and the combination of Matt Read and R.J. Umberger in an attempt to increase his offensive production. 

After signing netminder Michal Neuvirth on the first day of free agency, the Flyers felt pretty good about their duo between the pipes. On Monday, Neuvirth left practice early to which the team claimed he had a maintenance day. After missing all of Tuesday's practice, it was obvious that something else was going on. 

Slated to play the entire game against New Jersey on Wednesday, Neuvirth was pulled after two periods for what coach Hakstol described as "precautionary reasons." Hextall was a little more transparent in labeling Neuvirth's trouble as a lower-body injury. While he is believed to be back in time for the regular season, it certainly leaves one wondering what the Flyers would do if one of their goalies wasn't ready to start the season.

In this case, it would be a whole lot of Stone Cold Steve Mason

Zach Hopkins is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @healedbyhockey.

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