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Are the 2021-22 Flyers Contenders or Pretenders?

Hockey article at Knup Sports

Today, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the 2021-22 Flyers and their title contending aspirations. Let’s roll!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the 2021-22 Flyers have solved their goaltending woes, increased their ability to put the puck in the net, and beefed up their defense this offseason and will win the cup. At least it seems that way prior to any games, as it has for the past several seasons, but Flyers fans seem to be very torn on some of the moves made by Fletcher and company.

2021-22 Flyers | A Closer Look

Some of the most notable additions to the team include Forward Cam Atkinson and Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan Ellis. While some of the headlining losses include Forwards Jake Voracek and Nolan Patrick along with Defensemen Phil Myers and Robert Hagg and backup Goalie Brian Elliott.

It’s clear that Flyers brass thought the club lacked leadership as all the players that were brought in were Captains or Alternate Captains with their teams prior to joining the Flyers.

The Flyers were one of the most surprising teams in the 2020 “bubble” playoffs as they earned a #1 seed coming from the round-robin play and went on to win their first playoff series since 2012, only to be beaten by the Islanders in the second round.

The team came into the 2020-21 season with high expectations and lived up to those expectations for the first two months of the season. However, the tides turned and the team spiraled out of control for the remainder of the regular season and missed the playoffs.

Which leads us to wonder as the 2021-22 regular season begins, are the Flyers for real this year? Do they have all the right pieces to make a deep run in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 when they lost in the Cup Final to the Blackhawks? Or, will they suffer another season of mediocre play and waste another year of Captain, Claude Giroux.

I know, Giroux isn’t the very first player that comes to mind when you think of top tier, elite talent, but Giroux is 4th among all players in points and assists since 2010. The Flyers also have probably the best two-way forward currently in the game in Sean Couturier and hope that the addition of Cam Atkinson will help the team score more goals, as they finished in the middle of the league in Goals For in 2020-21.

Where the Flyers really improved was the blue line. It’s no secret that the unexpected loss of first pair defenseman Matt Niskanen hurt the team badly last season. And with a rotating door of 5th and 6th defensemen all year, the team has vastly improved with the addition of reliable, dependent, and consistent defensemen in Ellis and Ristolainen.

Contenders or Pretenders?

I feel that the biggest question mark on the team at this point is can 23-year-old Carter Hart put together a full season and return to the form that we saw in 2019-20? We all know Philly is the worst place for a goalie to play as they’ve been searching for “the one” since the days of Ron Hextall in the net.

I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a 23-year-old. But Hart has shown at times that he’s very mentally tough and I can definitely see a bounce-back year as he takes a couple of steps forward in reaching his ultimate potential.

All in all, the Flyers are entering the new season with an improved team in almost every single facet of the game, offense, defense and special teams. If Carter Hart can weather the storm, I think the team makes a deep run in the playoffs due to their improved leadership. With a good mix of veterans along with young promising players looking for a breakout year, my guess is they make it to the semi-finals but don’t have quite enough juice to get over that hump.

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