To get a handle on what Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher thinks of his team’s future, rather than listen to what he says he’s going to do, pay attention to what he’s not going to do.
That is, he believes the team’s roster as currently construed is good enough to compete at a high level without a lot of change.
So regardless of upcoming seasons of flat salary caps, don’t look for him to be a real active player on the free agent market.
He said as much during a season-wrap WebEx call with the media on Thursday.
Like the rest of the front office, Fletcher was mildly disappointed the Flyers couldn’t get past the New York Islanders in Game 7 and move on to the Eastern Conference finals.
But Fletcher indicated his team made significant progress this year. Perhaps if the pandemic hadn’t hit when it did, the Flyers could have carried the momentum (fueled by a late nine-game winning streak) into the playoffs back in April.
“I really think we have a lot of good years ahead of us here,’’ Fletcher said. “I think it’s really an exciting time to be part of this organization.
“You look at the regular season, I think we had the largest points percentage increase of any team in the NHL. We went from an 82-point, mediocre team that really struggled to play the game the right way to a team that was on pace to give up 60 fewer goals and a hundred-plus points.
“I think we’ve made dramatic improvements across the board.’’
The playoffs were a slightly different story.
The Flyers had difficulty scoring, even against the lowest-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
“The playoffs showed we have more work to do,’’ Fletcher said. “I don’t think we have to necessarily be (active) in trades or free-agency markets. We have some holes we have to fill, certainly to complement some of the core pieces we have now.
“The biggest source of improvement we have, the way this franchise is set up, is going to be our young players. We can’t do a one-eighty from that.’’
We saw that this season, with the establishment of rookies such as Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Also making some impressive cameos were Connor Bunnaman, Morgan Frost and Carsen Twarynski among others.
“We have a lot of good kids coming,’’ Fletcher said. “And if we provide opportunities for some of these players as you saw this year with Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers in the 3-4 hole (on defense). . .there was some inconsistency but those kids are going to be better off down the road for the experiences they had this year.
“That’s part of our long-term plan. We’re not looking to deviate from that. If we can improve our team (through trade, free agent) we will. But we’re going to continue the long view here. Some of these kids are going to come very quickly and we’re excited about that.’’
The pandemic break might have hurt the Flyers more than other teams. When play resumed in late July in Toronto, the Flyers won the round-robin tournament (3-0) but did not play as well defensively as they had before the break.
Did those first three games give the Flyers a false sense of security?
“It was a much different feeling,’’ Fletcher said. “It was a really different season in ways. I don’t the intensity of those (round-robin) games was the same as the play-in games. . .I think there was a little bit of an adjustment at the beginning of the first playoff series.
“Having said that, we won three of the first four games (vs. Montreal) and found a way. I thought our guys made adjustments as the games went on.’’
Fletcher admits that Game 7 loss (4-0) was a bit tough to take.
“There only five teams still playing in the NHL,’’ he said. “Twenty-six teams are done. You’re one win from the final four, which is tough to do any year.
“You’re always disappointed at the end of a playoff run. When I look back to where we were 17 months ago, we talked about what we had to do. Fast forward, we’ve come a long way.’’
>No candidates for surgery
Although Sean Couturier missed Game 6 of the Islanders series with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee, Fletcher said he will not need surgery. Several other Flyers were banged up but none will require surgery.
Michael Raffl suffered a high ankle sprain vs. Boston, came back, then tweaked it again. But he returned a second time and played well. Aube-Kubel took a hard shot off his knee but tests showed only a deep bruise.