Flyers finish another empty season without Stanley Cup
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Just as it has in every season since winning it all in 1975, Philadelphia heads home without a Stanley Cup.
Under rookie coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers were never expected to contend.
But the vanishing act by the their top goal scorers in the six-game playoff series loss to the top-seeded Washington Capitals left the Flyers wondering if they could have gone deeper had their top two lines produced at anywhere close to their normal rate.
Or, it could simply be time to move ahead and look at trading a player or two out of the core mix of Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.
Giroux (67 points in the regular season) had one assist in the series. Simmonds (60 points) had two assists. Schenn (26 goals) also failed to score a goal, leaving Philadelphia's top three goal scorers without one following a regular season where they combined for 80.
The Flyers need size, the Flyers need speed and they need to decide if Steve Mason or playoff sensation Michal Neuvirth is the answer in net.
Headed into the first offseason in franchise history without founder Ed Snider, here are some questions to consider headed into their 50-year anniversary season:
NO SNIDER: Snider was one of the few owners in sports who was associated with a franchise as much as their greatest players.
Even in his final months, Snider was no figurehead owner. He quizzed general manager Ron Hextall about potential trade deadline moves and signed off last summer on the bold decision to hire Hakstol from the college coaching ranks and plow ahead with a rebuild.
Hextall will make all the trades and offer free agents their deals. But who signs off on Hextall's transactions?
The Flyers have yet to name Snider's successor, and while they're in no rush for now, speculation remains about how long the team might remain under the Comcast umbrella. Snider only owned about 25 percent of the team, though he assumed day-to-day control. His family could liquidate their ownership stake, leaving the Flyers in full control of entertainment company Comcast Spectacor.
''We absolutely intend to continue to own the Flyers,'' Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said.
Either way, the Flyers need a chairman.
NET GAINS: Mason was the Flyers' No. 1 goalie this season.
Until he wasn't.
The Flyers goalie carousel, undoubtedly the biggest reason the team hasn't won a championship in 41 years, continued yet again in the playoffs when the ineffective Mason was benched for Neuvirth.
Mason never recovered from the 101-foot goal allowed in Game 2 that was replayed on an endless loop in Philadelphia. Neuvirth stepped in and won two straight games, including a whopping a 44-save effort in a Game 5 shutout win. He stopped 103 of 105 shots in only three games.
''He's the guy who gave us the fighting chance. Mase did too,'' Gostisbehere said. ''It's tough you want to get some goals for the guy. Give him some support. But it doesn't happen sometimes.''
Hextall has to decide if she should stick with Mason or trade him and put the future in Neuvirth's hands.
WHO YA GONNA CALL: Shayne Gostisbehere might have won rookie of the year had he played a full season. But 17 goals and 46 points in only 64 games made quite an impression on the Flyers and the rest of the league. Only 23, he was named the Flyers' top defenseman and he set a team rookie record for goals scored by a defenseman. The Flyers were 5-8-3 when he was promoted, and with his ''Ghost'' nickname name and instant hot streak, he was an immediate fan favorite.
''He's got a great ability, this deceptive little move where he tries to suck you in and then he opens up the lane. He's got a real accurate shot and he gets it off fairly quickly,'' Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ''He was the guy getting pucks through and creating offense and creating zone time for them, so we did spend a little more time and watched him a little more closer, for sure.''
ROOKIE COACH: Hakstol came out of nowhere and his hiring out of college stunned the NHL world.
Hakstol spent 11 seasons at North Dakota and his success in guiding the Flyers to the playoffs in his first season should help ensure it's not another 20-plus years until a college coach gets a head NHL job.
When other general managers were chasing Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan during a golden offseason of coaching free agents, Hextall assumed a major risk in hiring Hakstol.
The reward was a surprising return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. He also earned the respect of his players who seemed to warm to the NHL rookie.
''Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. I've loved every minute of it,'' Hakstol said.