Metropolitan Division Offseason: Winners and Losers

T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nic Dowd, Washington Capitals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Nic Dowd, Washington Capitals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Philadelphia Flyers

Losers:

The Philadelphia Flyers fell apart last season, finishing the shortened campaign at 25-23-8. The team had sky-high expectations and as the season grew on, the offense disappeared and with it, their playoff hopes. Defensively, the Flyers were a mess most of the season and their star young netminder Carter Hart struggled because of it, an .877 save percentage is nowhere near good enough. While not entirely his fault, at the end of the day, Hart needed to stand up and carry his team, he couldn’t do it. The Flyers have missed the postseason in five of the last nine years and will once again fall short of expectations.

Chemistry and consistency was a big problem in Philadelphia last season and the front-office has decided to make some significant changes. Ryan Ellis, Derek Brassard, Cam Atkinson and Rasmus Ristolainen headline the acquisitions for Chuck Fletcher. In the process, the Flyers are notably moving on from Shayne Gostisbehere, Jakub Voracek, Phil Myers, Nolan Patrick and three draft picks in the first two rounds. Their 2021 first round pick and a pair of second round picks from 2022 and 2023.

That’s a lot of draft capital for a front-office to surrender given the core group on the roster has struggled to show consistency when it comes to the most important part of hockey; winning. On the ice, the Flyers look to be better, a lot better. The problem is, many thought 2020-2021 was going to be the year for the Flyers. It wasn’t. Often times the team that makes the biggest splashes in the offseason disappoints. That will be the case for the Flyers.

Fletcher hopes that Ellis and Ristolainen will anchor the defense. Ellis owns a career Corsi For % of 52.6 over the last 10 seasons with the Nashville Predators. Ellis is an excellent addition, he’s a true top-pair defenseman that plays well in all areas of the game.

"“Ryan is an excellent, all-around defenseman,” Fletcher said. “In our opinion, he’s one of the best passers in the game on the blue line. He’s great in transition, he can play the power play, he’s got a heavy shot and he’s a very good penalty killer."

Ristolainen, playing on the Buffalo Sabres who have been one of the league’s worst teams in recent memory has struggled to truly live up to his expectations as a top-ten draft selection back in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Ristolainen ate up a lot of minutes in Buffalo and the Flyers hope that putting Ristolainen on their team, which is undoubtedly far more talented than the supporting cast he had in Buffalo will allow the big defenseman to take his game to the next level.

Cam Atkinson is two-years removed from a 41 goal effort. The Flyers are hoping that he can bounce back from injuries and be a threat to score. It would be unlikely for him to come near 40 goals, but even 25 goals from Atkinson will be a huge boost for the Flyers who struggled to stay consistent offensively a season ago. Atkinson is also an adept penalty-killer, over the past 5 seasons, Atkinson is tied with Brad Marchand and Sebastian Aho for most short-handed goals with 12. That would be a welcome addition to the Flyers who had an abysmal 73.1 percent effective penalty killing unit last year.

This all looks great on paper, but the Flyers will once again struggle to be consistent. Carter Hart will improve but he won’t quite play to his 2019-2020 level and that will be the nail in the coffin for the Flyers. A surprising Devils team will narrowly edge them out and Philadelphia fans will be outraged as the season progresses into yet another failure.