Toronto Maple Leafs Eastern Conference Preview: A Look at the Philadelphia Flyers


The Philadelphia Flyers took the New York Rangers to the limit in the first round of the last year’s playoffs, but came up just short, losing in seven games. As the Flyers turned to the off-season, it was apparent there would be some changes, though the product on the ice seemed to be pretty solid.

The Flyers wasted no time shuffling their front office staff around in early May. General Manager Paul Holmgren promoted to the vacant position of Team President, and Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall replaced Holmgren as the new General Manager. That may not sound very dramatic, but these moves were made in concert with other changes to the front office. Hextall is said to have full control over the hockey team, and can now put his own fingerprints on the roster, while Holmgren will unquestionably serve as a sounding board. Holmgren will focus on hockey and business operations for the Flyers.

The new management team made a few significant moves in the off-season.  First, they traded Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger R.J. Umberger and a fourth round draft pick. Hartnell had been with the Flyers for seven seasons, and was a very popular player in Philadelphia. Umberger actually started his career with the Flyers in 2005, before being traded to Columbus in 2008.

The Flyers also signed free agent defencemen Nick Shultz (Columbus) and Michael Del Zotto (Nashville), which will help bolster the Flyers’ defence. These two additions will also likely lead to some new pairings on the Philadelphia blue line.

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The Flyers were fortunate to be able to enter the free agency period with most of their roster secured. They feature Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on the top line, both of whom were healthy and played every game last season. Umberger will bring more offence, along with Wayne Simmonds, Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn.  Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen lead a defence that is big and strong, with a good mix of veterans and youth.

What does all of this mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014-2015? Well, the Leafs had a winning record against the Flyers last season, so they can at least approach these games with some confidence. The Flyers top line of Giroux-Voracek-Hartnell is no more, and it remains to be seen who replaces Hartnell. There are also likely to be some new defensive pairings, and that can take time to sort out. Unfortunately, the Leafs don’t see the Flyers until just before Christmas, and by that time, they should be familiar and comfortable with one another on the ice.

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Flyers Team Stats (2013-3014):

2013-2014 Record: 42-30-10 (94 points, 3rd in Metropolitan Division, 6th in Eastern Conference)

Record against divisional opponents: 15-11-4

Flyers were 29-5-5 when they scored first (10th in NHL)

Flyers outscored opposition 233-227

Power Play Rank (NHL): 8th

Penalty Kill Rank (NHL): 7th

Flyers Player Stats (2013-2014):

Giroux: 82GP, 28G, 58A, +7, 20:26 ATOI

Voracek: 82GP, 23G, 39A, +11, 17:15 ATOI

Simmonds: 82GP, 29G, 31A, -4, 16:46 ATOI

Streit: 82GP, 10G, 34A, +3, 20:38 ATOI

Timonen: 77GP, 6G, 29A, +5, 20:19 ATOI

Mason: 61GP, 33-18, 2.50 GAA, .917 SV%

Flyers Stats vs. Leafs:

Flyers went 1-2 vs. Leafs last season.

Flyers are 6-4 in their last 10 games vs. Maple Leafs

Flyers Player Stats vs. Leafs (2013-2014):

Timonen: 3GP, 2G, 2A, +2, 19:50 ATOI

Giroux: 3GP, 1G, 2A, +2, 21:21 ATOI

Voracek: 3GP, 0G, 2A, +2, 17.31 ATOI

Streit: 3GP, 0G, 1A, -3, 21:48 ATOI

Mason: 3GP, 1-1-1, 2.97 GAA, .905 SV%

Schedule against the Leafs: 

Monday, September 22 (preseason) @ London, ON

Tuesday, September 23 (preseason) @ Maple Leafs

Saturday, December 20 @ Maple Leafs,  7:00PM, TV-CBC

Saturday, January 31 @ Flyers, 7:00PM, TV-CBC

Thursday, February 26 @ Maple Leafs, 7:30PM

The Potential Good: The Philadelphia Flyers will enter the 2014-2015 season with a roster that looks an awful lot like the one they had last year. That stability should have a positive effect on the players, their confidence and their ability to work together on the ice. Offensively, the Flyers boasted one of the strongest first lines in hockey (Giroux, Voracek and Hartnell) last season. With Hartnell gone, it remains to be seen who steps fills the gap on that line (Umberger or Simmonds are good bets), but it will still be one of the best lines around the league. Steve Mason has the potential to have a big year in goal, if he can stay healthy. Mason’ 2.50GAA was seventh among NHL goalies with 60 or more games played. He will have a stronger defence playing in front of him, which could lead to even better numbers this season than last.

The Potential Bad: Probably the most glaring shortfall for the Flyers is goaltending depth. Ray Emery (9-12, 2.96GAA, .903SV%) is a solid backup, but if Mason goes down with any kind of long term injury, he is not going to be good enough to carry the Flyers through. In addition, the Flyers will be counting on staying healthy again this season, always a difficult challenge. With their best players on the ice for evey game, the Flyers found themselves in the playoffs, coming up one game short of advancing to the second round ahead of the eventual Stanley Cup Finalist New York Rangers. Without their best players, the Flyers may find themselves down in the standings. According to, the Flyers are nearly $5 million over the salary cap, so they are likely to make some additional moves before the season. This lack of flexibility, though, could make it difficult for the team to make additions in the case of injuries.

Writer’s Prediction:  I really like this team. It has a nice mix of energy, speed and toughness. They can score, they have solid goaltending and the defence should be better this year, with the new additions and experience of the returning players. The big question will be health. If key players miss any substantial time, it will be difficult for the Flyers to replace them, due to a lack of cap space and depth. But, if healthy, I can see the Flyers improving on last season’s standing, and giving the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins reason for concern come playoff time.

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