What happened to the Philadelphia Flyers this season?
Craig Custance: Although I agree with the sentiment that the Flyers are who we thought they were, I'm concerned about the steady decline in production from Claude Giroux. This will be the third consecutive season his goal total has declined. He averaged 0.18 goals per game this season, the lowest of his career. His shooting percentage is 7.7 percent, well below his career average, but he's been in double digits just once in the last five years in shooting percentage. Advanced stats analyst Tyler Dellow recently charted Giroux's shots, and he's not getting as many off close to the net as he did when he was at his most productive. There might be more at play here than just a hip injury.
Joe McDonald: The Flyers showed grit and determination by making the playoffs in 2015-16 before losing to the Washington Capitals in the first round. The Flyers were poised to improve this season, but they were derailed by injuries and subpar performances from key players. Opposing teams had the book on sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, which forced coach Dave Hakstol to sit him. Currently, Gostisbehere has seven goals and 28 assists for 35 points (down from 17-29-46 in 64 games) and a minus-21 in 71 games. And the goaltending tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason wasn't as strong as it should have been. Mason emerged as the No. 1 but was only a little bit better than .500.
Scott Burnside: The easiest thing to say about the Flyers is that they're growing up. And sometimes that process means taking a step back -- or at least sideways. I, too, had them as a fringe playoff team at best, and good on them for hanging tough with their third straight win on Thursday night. Hakstol, who should have been a finalist for the Jack Adams a year ago as coach of the year, has held firm to his beliefs in his second season as an NHL head coach after a long tenure at the University of North Dakota. He has benched or reduced ice time for promising young players such as Gostisbehere (2016 rookie of the year finalist) and rookie forward Travis Konecny, while also finding a role for another promising young defenseman in Ivan Provorov. These three are going to be important pieces of what looks to be a promising future in Philadelphia, assuming GM Ron Hextall attends to his goaltending issues and Giroux gets healthy.
Pierre LeBrun: Well, the Flyers are still alive in the playoff race, although they basically will need to win out and get help to get in. But like many people, I had the Flyers on the outside looking in for the playoffs before the season began, so I'm not really sure their season is all that surprising. The team's defensive coverage remains lacking at times, courtesy of a young blue-line that's promising but is going through growing pains. Neither goaltender is top-40 in save percentage, so that's not going to win you a lot of games, although, again, I think the defensive play in front of them is part of it. Star captain Giroux recently admitted he wasn't himself most of the season, having a hard time recovering from offseason hip surgery, which is common. Hextall is playing the long game with this roster, and I think they'll get there eventually, but it was never in the cards for this season.
Rob Vollman: Nothing. Not be snide, but the Flyers are exactly where they were expected to be, which is roughly where they have been for five straight seasons. Since the 2013 lockout, very few pundits have looked at any of Philadelphia's opening-night rosters and seen anything more than wild-card potential. The Flyers should be commended for their two playoff berths and not questioned about their three absences.