Three reasons the Flyers missed the playoffs in 2020-21
After the regular season finale, the Philadelphia Flyers speak to the media regarding their performance and the upcoming offseason.
After a win over the New Jersey Devils, ending a tough 2020-21 season, the Philadelphia Flyers reflected on their performance. Finishing sixth in the East Division of Mass Mutual is an underperformance. Ahead of the season opener, many of the Flyers were drafted as a fringe playoff team.
The forwards underperformed, which often prevented Philadelphia from taking and maintaining a lead. But when the Flyers scored, they gave up a two-minute lead on several occasions. Seven times Philadelphia has lost by a five-goal deficit. No team will keep pace with opponents who score five or more goals in seventeen games. This statistic calls for defense.
Defensively, the Flyers were hopeless. Philadelphia missed Matt Niskanen. Many are fed up with this mention, but it is undeniably true. Erik Gustafsson, acquired before the season, was the worst acquisition to join the Flyers.
Without any help, the goalkeeper suffers. Brian Elliott was officially the starting goalie when the season was said and over, which is not the role he expected.
Most of this hockey season has been one of unforeseen events.
Health Hockey and the Pandemic
Sean Couturier, the reigning Frank J. Selke Trophy winner, failed to live up to those award-winning expectations. He hasn’t had a bad season, just a noticeable drop from last season. While he walks away with the Gene Hart Memorial Trophy and Bobby Clarke Trophy, there is room for Couturier to improve.
Overall, the Philadelphia Flyers did not handle their first new pandemic-era hockey season well. It’s a challenge every team in the league has faced, but the Flyers have stumbled throughout the season. Once the pandemic grabbed the list, Philadelphia never recovered. Lake Tahoe has become the darkest hour of 2020-2021.
Prior to being dismantled by the Boston Bruins in Lake Tahoe, many Flyers players were unable to participate due to the COVID protocol. At other stages of the season, key players were recovering from their injuries. Health has been a factor in lowering player performance. Couturier suffered a costochondral separation, missing two weeks. He’s recovered, but it’s harder to fully recover in a condensed season.
“It could have been a little harder because COVID hit us, but we had to be better and we weren’t good enough.
Sean Couturier; 05/11/21
Fighting injury and the pandemic is the reality of the NHL today. Philadelphia was not good enough, facing the same adversity as the other teams.
Mentally, the pandemic is a brutal battle, but it’s up to the locker room and the front office to come together and overcome some obstacles.
Goalkeeper struggles and the importance of a routine
No expert could have predicted that Carter Hart would struggle this season. His decline particularly surprised the Philadelphia Flyers. Chuck Fletcher did not sign Brian Elliott for a one-year extension to act as the starting goaltender. Essentially, that’s how the season has gone for Elliott. He could probably extend his NHL career in 2021-2022.
The goalie is one of the most demanding positions in any sport due to the mental aspect. Hart continues to face adversity throughout his NHL career. In his rookie season, the Flyers faced eight goaltenders. Today, the pandemic played a role in its development in its second and third years.
Elliott experiences growing pains. He faced them early in his career. Sometimes the only way to find a solution is for the younger goalies to experience the same growing pains.
“You really have to go through these experiences yourself and learn to manage it your own way.”
Brian Elliott; 05/11/21
Alex Lyon has made surprising progress during the pandemic. Gaining a victory in the process, Lyon improved as they continued to play.
Mentally, these young goalies continue to grow during a strange era of hockey. The offseason has officially started for Philadelphia, allowing for a much-needed reset and rerouting for the goaltending squad.
The Flyers must repair their defense
Where does someone start with the Philadelphia Flyers defense?
Matt Niskanen has retired, and the void left behind has not been filled. During the 2019-20 season, the defense has been stable. Volatile does not express defensive unity in 2020-2021. There wasn’t enough consistency to believe they could be effective throughout the season. Defensively, the Flyers went into free fall, especially from March.
“You find yourself in this situation where you switch partners often because you either don’t play well enough with the guy you have or you just don’t have that chemistry.”
Justin Braun; 05/11/21
All of the base defenders took several steps back. It’s not just one signature that didn’t work. Philadelphia, as a franchise, has taken too long to come up with different defense solutions. Next season will be crucial for the development of young players like Cam York and Egor Zamula.
The Seattle Kraken could potentially draft a Flyers defenseman, which isn’t ideal. Either way, Chuck Fletcher needs to assess the free agency pool and sign a suitable player to help the defense.
It may have been a lousy year, but this offseason will be a lot of intrigue and surprises for us along the way.
Photo credit: Alex McIntyre