Flyers
Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk showed excellent chemistry together, finishing 1-2, respectively, in goals for the Flyers in 2021. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The dust has finally settled following the Flyers’ nightmare 2021 campaign. The Flyers entered this season on the heels of their first playoff series win, best regular season since 2012, and most successful playoff run since 2010. They were expected to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in almost a decade but they instead sputtered and ultimately missed the playoffs by a considerable margin.

There is plenty of time to cover the endless hypotheticals as to what the Flyers could do during the offseason to ensure a return to greatness in 2021-22. Those articles (plural) will come, but today, we look back on this hellish season one last time in the form of player grades. Grades will be assigned based on performance via traditional counting stats, analytics, and eye test. Needless to say, the general theme will be much less positive than the report card for last year’s team. Players must have at least ten games played to receive a grade, but Michael Raffl will not receive one since he was traded to the Capitals at the trade deadline.

LW/C Claude Giroux: A-

2020-21 (54 GP): 16 G, 27 A, 43 PTS, 55.2% Corsi, 53.41% xG

Giroux was legitimately great on the ice this year, and his stats were not the result of putting up hollow points during garbage time – Giroux put the Flyers on his back multiple times this year. He registered three assists in his first game back from COVID, recorded an assist and two goals, including the game-winner, to overcome a 3-0 deficit against the Penguins, and erased a two-goal deficit on the road against the Islanders all by his own. A few weeks later, Giroux one-upped himself, scoring two goals in the final two minutes to force overtime in an eventual shootout win over the Devils.

No matter what Giroux was asked to do, he produced during the 2021 season. He was the only regular forward to be so much as a break-even play-driver when the Flyers season was paused due to a COVID outbreak, and he held his own when asked to play center, including orchestrating the aforementioned comeback win against Pittsburgh.

There are plenty of fans out there who doubt Giroux’s leadership abilities or his locker room presence, but those claims are impossible to evaluate without inside access to the organization and (and for the record, I do not think they hold merit). What fans can evaluate is Giroux’s on-ice performance, which was solid across the board apart from the power-play. Giroux has long been lauded as an outstanding PP quarterback and he passed Bobby Clarke for the most PP assists in franchise history last year, but he scored 11 power-play points in 2021, his lowest rate per game since his rookie year (2008-09). That blemish aside, Giroux played very well in 2021, even if the team failed to find greater success.

C Sean Couturier: B+

2020-21 (45 GP): 18 G, 23 A, 41 PTS, 57.86% Corsi, 53.57% xG

On paper, this was pretty typical Sean Couturier season. He led the Flyers in points per game, scoring at a 75-point pace over 82 games. His underlying numbers were their usual stellar selves, but something appeared off with Couturier, literally and figuratively, during 2021. First, Couturier was injured seconds into Philadelphia’s second contest of the season, missing ten games with a rib injury. Another injury in March, this time to his hip, also slowed him down.

There is a reason Couturier has practically no hype to repeat as the Selke Trophy winner despite his numbers, and not just because the Flyers surrendered goals at will. Couturier did not have a disappointing season per se, but I feel that he can reach a higher level, even if his point total and underlying numbers might disagree. Nevertheless, Couturier is an amazing player, and the fact that his gaudy numbers qualify as anything remotely close to a “down” year illustrates that Couturier has truly emerged as a stud over the last few seasons.

LW/RW Joel Farabee: B+

2020-21 (55 GP): 20 G, 18 A, 38 PTS, 49.34% Corsi, 50.5% xG

In a season where nearly every Flyer under age 25 struggled, Farabee was mercifully spared from a sophomore slump. Farabee began the season hot, scoring four points on opening night and registering his first NHL hat-trick towards the end of January. He stepped up big-time for the Flyers in the first games after returning from their COVID outbreak as one of the few top-six forwards unaffected by the virus. Farabee ended the year strong as well, tallying five goals in six games in May, including two in the season finale to reach 20 goals on the year for an impressive 30-goal pace over a full 82-game season.

In between his hot start and hot finish, there was, of course, a dip. Farabee scored just four points in 15 April contests and spent some time on the fourth line over the year. Remember, he was one of the players Alain Vigneault benched during their 3rd-period comeback against Buffalo in late March. His underlying numbers took a solid jump from where they were last year (49% Corsi, 46.85% xG), but they are not dominant numbers yet. Considering his two-way acumen and age, however, expect that to change soon. Make no mistake about it: Joel Farabee had a tremendous 2020-21 season.

LW James van Riemsdyk: B+

2020-21: 17 G, 26 A, 38 PTS, 53.43% Corsi, 52.43% xG

James van Riemsdyk did not exactly enter the 2021 season in a stellar light, as he was unimpressive in the 2019-2020 season and was healthy scratched four times in the bubble. Heading into the year, fans were largely thinking about how van Riemsdyk’s contract could be parlayed to Seattle or another team to clear up future cap space, but van Riemsdyk bounced back. After starting the season slow as a turtle, JVR leapt out of the gates with 25 points in the Flyers’ first 18 games. JVR has always been a streaky player – most goal scorers are – and he was on fire at the front of the net, especially on the power-play. van Riemsdyk has always had a gift for deflections and working in the crease, and he could not miss early in the year. It was not just the goals either, as van Riemsdyk looked like a much more engaged player, wreaking havoc on the forecheck and looking like a much more complete player.

Now, this development did not exactly last the entire season. JVR went cold down the stretch, tallying just 7 goals over the Flyers’ final two-plus months (31 games). Suddenly, the deflections stopped going in (excluding ones hitting off his face), and JVR’s production plateaued. JVR is still a strong candidate to be marooned in Seattle, but make no mistake about it: this is the James van Riemsdyk the Flyers were hoping for when they signed him to a 5-year, $35 million deal in July 2018.

RW Wade Allison: B

2020-21 (14 GP): 4 G, 3 A, 7 PTS, 51.76% Corsi, 57.95% xG

Allison was a spark during the bleak final month of the Flyers’ regular season. Taken in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Allison showed promise and a lightning-like shot at Western Michigan when he could stay on the ice. But after signing his entry-level deal just over a year ago, Allison more than held his own in the AHL. Per Brad Keffer’s work on PhancyStats.com, Allison registered a team-leading 57.5% Corsi and finished second with a 66.15% Scoring Chances For share. He also scored nine points in ten games.

Allison continued to produce at the NHL level, scoring four goals and seven points in fourteen games. He looked like a dangerous forward on nearly every shift, wreaking havoc on the forecheck and playing with a high level of energy. Allison’s stellar underlying numbers demonstrate that he is not just eye candy and although he is not a lineup lock for the 2021-2022 season, he got as close to that status as he could have in the last month of the season.

RW Jakub Voracek: C+

2020-21 (53 GP): 9 G, 34 A, 43 PTS, 50.53% Corsi, 47.49% xG

If you merely looked at the points department, you might think Voracek had a pretty typical season for his career. He tied for the team lead in points and finished first in assists, but $8.25 million should buy a team a lot more than a goal-scorer tied for 55th in the league in points. Voracek was also at the center of more than one defensive breakdown, and he was part of the reason team defense was a major issue throughout the season. He has never been a good defensive forward, and this year certainly was no exception.

While most of the Flyers veteran forwards had very good underlying numbers, Voracek was out-chanced by a decent margin and just barely held his head above water in terms of shot attempts. When he first came to Philadelphia, Voracek was scoring at the same rate and was a stellar possession player, but the days of the latter appear fully in the rearview mirror. Include that Voracek scored just eight power-play points (12-point pace over a full year, his fewest since 2011-12), the problems really start to stack up. Moving on from Voracek is not a must, but with three more years remaining at the aforementioned very high cap hit, Voracek is no longer a plug-and-play in the top-six and PP1.

C/LW Scott Laughton: C

2020-21 (53 GP): 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS, 49.56% Corsi, 50.6% xG

This was a tough season for a lot of Flyers, but if anyone deserves sympathy for their struggles, it is Laughton. The team’s leading scorer in the bubble started the year hot with an OT winner and his first NHL hat-trick through 11 games. Laughton then contracted COVID-19 and seemed to be one of the hardest-hit Flyers, as he lost weight and his sense of taste.

Add in that he was a pending UFA on a losing team and subsequently shooting up trade bait lists, and Laughton clearly was not in a place to succeed. Laughton went eighteen games without scoring from March 22 to April 27. Knock out that stretch, and Laughton scored at a 47-point pace, nearly identical to the 45-point clip he scored at in 2019-20, all while being a versatile two-way forward who is still a good penalty killer. The odds of a Laughton bounce-back in 2021-22 seem high; few NHLers faced as much adversity as he did last season. Considering the 5-year, $15 million extension that the Flyers handed Laughton in the middle of his slump, the team is counting on it.

RW Travis Konecny: C

2020-21 (50 GP): 11 G, 23 A, 34 PTS, 53.81% Corsi, 51.25% xG

Travis Konecny came into 2021 trying to prove his rough performance in the bubble (0 goals) was just a fluke, and a hat-trick in the second game of the season figured to be the beginning of Konecny showing just that, but his season derailed shortly thereafter. Konecny’s defensive game, never a strong suit even during his best moments, was a total mess and he was held to three points in the Flyers’ next six games after scoring five in their first two. Looking to send a message to his team, Alain Vigneault made the surprising decision to healthy scratch Konecny for a January 30 game against the Islanders team that shut him down so well in the bubble.

Konecny’s game did improve over the remaining forty-seven games. His underlying numbers, which were terrible during the season’s first two to three weeks, improved, and he scored at a respectable 56-point pace. Konecny certainly was not awful during the 2020-21 season, but compared to his dynamite 2019-20 campaign, he took a massive step back. He went from scoring at a 30-goal rate to an 18-goal pace, his defensive game went from passable to a liability, and perhaps most importantly, he lost his swagger. Philadelphia desperately needs the confident, chirping, and goal-scoring machine they know and love to return next season.

LW Oskar Lindblom: C-

2020-21 (50 GP): 8 G, 6 A, 14 PTS, 48.1% Corsi, 49.9% xG

The fact that Oskar Lindblom is back to being a regular in the Flyers lineup was an amazing sight to see. Lindblom is still less than a year removed from finishing treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer he was diagnosed with in December 2019. Having his smile back in Orange and Black is one of the few bright spots to come out of this latest Flyers season.

As for Lindblom’s play, it understandably was not at the same level as prior to his diagnosis. Lindblom’s possession numbers, a hallmark of his game and a perfect indicator of his ability to do the little things better than most, took a significant dip. For reference, Lindblom finished with fifth and fourth in Corsi and Expected Goals, respectively, on the team over the last two seasons.

Alain Vigneault acknowledged there were some games he could tell Lindblom did not have a ton of jump, and Lindblom was healthy scratched on a few occasions for rest during the Flyers’ gauntlet schedule down the stretch. All of this is more than reasonable to expect from someone who recently battled cancer and is playing in the world’s best hockey league, and with a full offseason to regain his strength, we should expect closer to the fall 2019 Oskar Lindblom on the ice next year.

C Kevin Hayes: C-

2020-21 (55 GP): 12 G, 19 A, 31 PTS, 48.9% Corsi, 51.14% xG

Kevin Hayes couldn’t do wrong in his first year in Philadelphia. He had a flair for the dramatic with four short-handed goals (two of them game-winners), delivered some memorable chirps, tied for second in the bubble in goals, and the team was near invincible whenever he scored a goal. Just one year into his massive 7-year, $50 million contract, Hayes appeared to be in the best-case scenario timeline.

One year later, and Hayes’ situation looks a bit murkier. Hayes scored at basically the same rate as 2019-20, but the comparison ends there. He was no longer one of the league’s exciting short-handed threats, and his propensity for clutch goals went largely untapped. More concerning, Hayes’ defensive game took a step back this year, not ideal for a top-six center and key penalty killer.

Casual fans may not have realized, but Hayes’ underlying numbers were mediocre last year (49.26% Corsi, 49.63% xG). For most of the year, Hayes actually bumped those numbers up, but a rough end to the season, culminating with a somewhat healthy scratch, brought those numbers down to Earth. It is worth noting Hayes recently underwent successful core muscle surgery, which certainly played a role in his down season, so here’s hoping a healthy Hayes in 2021-22 looks more like the one from his first act in Philly.

C Connor Bunnaman: D-

2020-21 (18 GP): 0 G, 1 A, 1 PT, 46.11% Corsi, 37.54% xG

Bunnaman was a pleasant surprise down the stretch a year ago, looking like a legit fourth-line center for a solid two-month stretch. Yes, he barely scored (1 goal, 1 assist) in 21 games, but Bunnaman showed legit promise (50.33% xG) as a solid depth player. Outside of a solid game or two this season, however, Bunnaman took a step back. He once again scored at a rate unacceptable for even a fourth-liner and his underlying numbers absolutely cratered. Yes, eighteen games is a small sample size, but so is the twenty-one he played last season. Bunnaman has lost his inside track to a bottom-six fill-in role and will be battling for a depth roster spot at training camp.

C Nolan Patrick: F

2020-21 (52 GP): 4 G, 5 A, 9 PTS, 49.29% Corsi, 50.03% xG

Like with Lindblom, having Patrick back in the lineup after a serious migraine disorder scare last season is an objectively positive outcome, but unfortunately, the positives end there. To call Patrick’s season a disaster would be an understatement. I seldom reference plus/minus – it is an extremely flawed stat – but when you finish tied for second last in the league at -30, plus/minus is worth mentioning. While Patrick’s first two years were somewhat disappointing, at least the 2017 #2 overall pick showed flashes of brilliance during those campaigns. The pop in Patrick’s game was completely non-existent in 2021, and it shows in his single-digit point total.

RW Nicolas Aubé-Kubel: F

2020-21 (50 GP): 3 G, 9 A, 12 PTS, 50.26% Corsi, 46.79% xG

Aubé-Kubel’s decline from where he was last season is arguably the most inexplicable of any Flyer, and therefore the most frustrating. Unlike other underachievers like Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Patrick, and Carter Hart, the bar was not all that high. In 2019-20, Aube-Kubel put up outstanding underlying numbers, scored at a 36-point pace, and was a relentless menace on the forecheck, and all he had to do was repeat those numbers for another solid season.

Instead, Aubé-Kubel’s game fell off of a cliff in 2021. Discipline was a major issue when he first turned pro (he was suspended three separate times in the AHL in 2017-18, his first pro season), and it reared its ugly head in 2021, as NAK finished tied for 22nd in the NHL in penalty minutes per 60 (1.93). Many of his penalties were avoidable, ill-advised, or both. His scoring pace dropped to 20 points, going from a solid third-line rate to a mediocre fourth-line pace, and his underlying numbers also dropped off dramatically, with his Expected Goals% dropping by about 8%. As a result, Aubé-Kubel is no longer a surefire option to be in the bottom-six next year. If he can bounce back, this year can become a mere write-off, but that cannot be guarenteed.

Here’s out latest dose of playoff coverage for your reading pleasure.

Rapid Fire (Min. 3 Games)

C Jackson Cates (4 GP – 0 G, 1 A, 43% Corsi, 53.94% xG): C+

The younger brother of Flyers prospect Noah Cates looked solid but not spectacular in his first NHL audition down the stretch, about what I expected from the undrafted collegiate UFA fresh out of school. He should be in the mix for a bottom-six or depth role in the fall, but I would bank on him seeing at least a little AHL time before he returns to the Orange and Black.

C Tanner Laczynski (5 GP – 0 PTS, 43.29% Corsi, 50.59% xG): C

The Ohio State product Laczynski battled through a pre-season injury and the AHL to earn a brief look in the NHL. Laczynski did a nice job in his brief audition, even earning some PK time right from the get-go. He appears more likely than Cates to make the Flyers out of October camp, so assuming he is good to go following his hip surgery, Laczynski should be ready and back in action.

LW Carsen Twarynski (7 GP – 0 PTS, 27.27% Corsi, 14.11% xG): F

Twarynski unfortunately has not built off of his stellar training camp performances in 2019 and 2020. Those underlying numbers are a special breed of terrible; out of 913 players to play in the NHL this year, Twarynski finished 904th in Corsi and 901st in Expected Goals (which actually ranks higher than teammate David Kase, who ranked 912th). Some old-school fans may appreciate his physicality, but even they would admit Twarynski was a non-factor at best in 2021. He needs to be a lot better if he even wants to be the Flyers’ 13th forward next year.

C Andy Andreoff (6 GP – 0 PTS, 33.45% Corsi, 20.25% xG): D-

Even for a tweener player between the NHL and AHL, Andreoff had a rough time this year. His possession numbers were a tick better than Twarynski’s, and I at least remember him getting into a fight or two, which counts for something. Even factoring that in, Andreoff was a ghost when he was on the ice, which was basically only immediately post COVID-outbreak when half of the Flyers forward core was sidelined. I would be shocked if the Flyers brought the pending UFA back.

C Morgan Frost (2 GP – 0 PTS, 53.48% Corsi, 51.61% xG): I

He only got into two games, but I wanted to mention Morgan Frost in this article, if only briefly. The “I” stands for incomplete, in case the lack of playing time did not make that clear. Unfortunately, Frost’s season was limited to only five periods; he suffered underwent season-ending shoulder surgery after being injured on a pretty ordinary hit in the Flyers’ fourth game of the season. I have been a big fan of Frost for a while, but 2021-22 is a gut check year for Frost’s NHL future. At some point, he needs to establish himself as a full-time NHLer. It is not Frost’s fault he was injured this year, but losing this year is nevertheless a big blow to his development. With Nolan Patrick’s future in doubt, the third-line center seems more open this year than it did last season. Hopefully, Frost can take that role and run with it.

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