Flyers analysis

What the Flyers can learn from the 2024 NHL playoffs

The rebuilding Flyers lost nine of their last 11 games to fall short of the postseason

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If this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that the Flyers still have a sizable amount of work to do on their rebuild before they’re able to stand skate to skate with some of the NHL’s best teams.

This fact is not lost on the Flyers' front office, as the phrase “we still have some work to do” is among the most frequently used at Flyers Training Center when president of hockey operations Keith Jones, general manager Danny Briere or head coach John Tortorella address the state of the team.

So let's talk about what the Flyers can glean from these playoffs. The first and foremost lesson that has been on display, particularly when you focus on the four teams that reached conference final series, is the need for go-to guys. The NHL, like most leagues nowadays, is a star-driven league, and when you look at the teams that make lengthy playoff runs, it’s no mystery why. These teams are loaded with star talent and they’re deep.

Star power and depth are two things that are a big void for this Flyers team. Tortorella’s team lacks a true go-to guy during some stretches. Travis Konecny can be a go-to guy, but he would need more consistency to be considered on the level we’re highlighting. The 27-year-old is a fully established player in this league, so it would seem we already know what the Flyers have in Konecny.

Owen Tippett is the wild card as he’s shown glimpses of being that go-to guy since coming to the Flyers in a trade. He’s still a young player whose game is growing. However, the 25-year-old needs to develop consistency and accuracy with his shot, which his coach didn’t hesitate to bring up during the season on a number of occasions.

The Flyers' lack of depth in the scoring department is perhaps their most glaring need, along with the need for a true No. 1 center. When you look at the Panthers, they’re deep and have all different levels of players who can step up when teams focus a lot of their attention on someone like Matthew Tkachuk. The same can be said of the Oilers with Connor McDavid. However, we can leave McDavid out of this conversation because while we are talking about stars, his talent is once in a generation, therefore tough to compare.

The second lesson from these playoffs is a need for defensive structure and that includes all five skaters on the ice. The Panthers are a suffocating team to play against, but unlike traditional defensive-oriented teams, their aggressive defensive play can turn to aggressive offensive play in a blink, and that takes personnel.

The Flyers are hoping 2019 first-round pick Cam York can build on his late-season play in which the team leaned on the 23-year-old and Travis Sanheim, and show why the Flyers chose him so high in the draft.

The wild card on the blue line for the Flyers is Jamie Drysdale. The talent is there but the health has not been. It wasn’t prior to Drysdale coming to the Flyers and it wasn’t when he came to the Flyers. He missed a good amount of time with an upper-body injury as the result of a big hit and also dealt with an issue in his core area.

Drysdale is another defenseman whose ability to create offense is perhaps the key part of his game, but the old saying in sports is “the greatest ability is availability,” and that has been a challenge for the 22-year-old early in his career.

Sanheim took a big leap this season, however he did finish the season as a minus-20, something he and the Flyers surely would like to see improve.

These defensemen and their ability to create offense will only get better as the talent on the forward lines improves. The playoffs have shown the need for depth on the forward lines and the ability to play on both ends.

The goaltending piece of this equation is understandably the most painful for Flyers fans because the one-time Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky had been otherworldly in these playoffs prior to Florida's Game 4 loss to Edmonton. Bobrovsky was never able to fully develop as a Flyer. But since leaving the orange and black, his trophy case is getting pretty full and in all likelihood will continue to do so.

The Flyers, on the other hand, will head into September training camp with Samuel Ersson and Ivan Fedotov as their goaltenders and a looming question mark with Carter Hart’s situation. Ersson played well when you consider he didn’t expect to play as much as he did with the absence of Hart, but it was clear Ersson started to wear down late in the season. Meanwhile, Fedotov with limited experience is a true unknown.

So while the Flyers were close to a playoff spot, and if not for a number of losses to inferior teams, they would have likely made the playoffs, it’s clear there’s still a long way to the top of the league.

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