At season’s start, the Philadelphia Flyers looked to be on the verge of yet another disappointing season. A 4-10-1 start saw a broken team in need of immediate change and rejuvenation to its’ lineup.
The first 11 games saw a coaching change from Peter Laviolette to Craig Berube. Berube implemented a new style to the Flyers, one that was much more defensive minded than the team had been accustomed to under Laviolette.
The Flyers slowly began to improve as they became familiar with the new system until they caught fire in mid-November all the way through the majority of January.
Now that they sit 30-23-6, it’s time to reflect on who has been the Flyers’ most impressive performers this season.
5. Sean Couturier
Couturier has proven to be one of the NHL’s top penalty killers. For a Flyers’ team that takes more penalties than any other team in the NHL, having a top penalty killer is an irreplaceable commodity. Most of the things he does aren’t something kept by stats, he earns his paycheck by having all the intangibles.
Normally playing the majority of the PK alongside Matt Read or Claude Giroux, Couturier has helped the Flyers kill 84.1 percent of the opponents powerplays. He has been the main reason the Flyers’ have the seventh best PK unit in the NHL.
4. Jakub Voracek
Voracek currently ranks third on the Flyers in goals (15) and points (40). Coming of a career year in the shortened lockout season where he scored a career high in goals (22) in only 48 games, big things were expected from the winger.
He wasn’t exempt from the Flyers’ slow start, as he was only able to record four points in the first 15 games. Since then he has been one of the top offensive weapons in Philadelphia. He is second to only Claude Giroux when it comes to shots taken, so it’s good to see that one of the teams top shooters is frequently getting the puck on net.
3. Steve Mason
The former Vezina Trophy winner in Columbus, Mason has been a breath of fresh air in net for Philadelphia. Currently boasting a 23-14-5 record, 2.49 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, he has seemingly stood on his head throughout the season and willed the Flyers to some victories that couldn’t have been accomplished without him.
Mason’s numbers would certainly be better had the Flyers not started so poorly. Until the team got hot in November, it’s hard to say that any losses were Mason’s fault. He made save after save in his early outings, rarely making mistakes. Most opposing team goals should have been attributed to a shaky defense and nonexistent offense.
Although Mason had a few difficult outings in January and February, it’s not a stretch to say he earned his three-year deal, and most Flyers fans are excited to have him on board for the next few seasons.
2. Wayne Simmonds
Since Simmonds arrived in Philadelphia, he has steadily improved with each season. Hardly ever missing a game, he continues to fuel the team with his gritty and tough play. He is second on the team in goals (18) and points (42), third is shots (144), and has the third best shooting percentage (12.5%) as well.
In his last 31 games, he has tallied 30 points, and for a stretch of games from mid-December to early February, Simmonds led all the NHL in points. The Wayne Train is barreling down the tracks and running over anything that stands in his way. The 25-year-old power forward will hopefully be in Philadelphia for the long haul. When his contract expires he’ll certainly have fans screaming “pay the man!”
1. Claude Giroux
Through the first 15 games, Giroux remained goalless while only tallying seven assists and a +/- of -12. The man once crowned the best player in the world by former coach Peter Laviolette was struggling like most superstars shouldn’t, and fans could do nothing but watch in horror.
Since then he’s been one of the top forwards in the NHL. Since Nov. 30, he has notched 15 goals, 25 assists and 40 points through 34 games. Those numbers have helped him skyrocket himself to number 11 on the NHL’s top scorers list. Had he not fallen into a slump in the early season, Giroux would certainly be making a push for the most total points in the NHL, a place he certainly is capable of being.
Let me know what you think of my list and if you think anyone has been left out, or shouldn’t be on here.
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott remains at 201 for the season.