The Philadelphia Flyers’ Season is Over, Now What?

Mar 28, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) yells at an official during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Senators, 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) yells at an official during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Senators, 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Flyers’ season unofficially ended on Sunday with a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers. Here are 6 suggestions for the Orange and Black as the franchise heads into the offseason.

1. Trust the Process
Ed Snider’s stewardship of the franchise has proven to be a gift and a curse. On the one hand, there is no Philadelphia Flyers hockey club if not for Snider. His “win now at all costs” attitude became the organizational philosophy of the franchise. It also infected the fan base, which came to expect future-mortgaging trades and big-name free agent signings.

And that approach worked in the pre-salary cap era. But we’re in a brave new world, one in which the ice surface is no longer tilted so heavily toward big-market teams with deep-pocketed owners.

Before his death, Snider tapped Ron Hextall as the team’s general manager. Though it likely pained him, he recognized the value of a draft-and-development approach to roster construction.

It is unclear whether the fan base has collectively reached a similar enlightenment. Nevertheless, the Flyers must stick to the plan Hextall has put in place.

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Hextall is clearly hamstrung by decisions that predated his tenure. There is nothing he can do about the contract of Andrew MacDonald, for example, aside from hoping that the Las Vegas Golden Knights are inclined to take him in the expansion draft.

Cap relief is on the horizon, however. And when it arrives, we’ll have a better idea of Hextall’s vision for the Flyers.

2. Retain Dave Hakstol

It might be tempting for the more impetuous Flyers fans among us to call for Dave Hakstol’s termination. Nonetheless, the prudent course of action would be to bring back the head coach for his third season.

Hakstol was brought into the organization in part to facilitate the development of the Philadelphia Flyers’ prospects. Why terminate him just as those players are on the verge of breaking into the NHL?

Hextall selected Hakstol with the long view in mind. The coach is not the reason for the team’s mediocrity; six years of flawed roster building is to blame for the Flyers’ struggle to separate from the middle of the pack.

3. Consider Trading Brayden Schenn

Wait a minute, you may be thinking. You have just spent 350 words counseling patience. Now you want to trade one of our most productive forwards?

Hear me out. Brayden Schenn is a talented player, and the Flyers should not trade him just for the sake of making a move. If Hextall can find a trade partner who is willing to part with a player who might better address the team’s needs, then it might be worthy of consideration.

Schenn has scored 24 goals so far this season, but 17 have come on the power play. Can the Flyers depend on Schenn to be a scoring threat in even strength situations? Can he consistently put the puck in the net when he is not sharing the ice with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek?

From this seat, Schenn has not performed reliably enough to be considered an indispensable asset. A natural center, the Flyers have frequently asked him to play on the wing. A team looking for a second-line center would likely be in the market for Schenn, whose contract runs for three more seasons at the reasonable rate of $5.125 million.

In return, the Flyers should seek a forward who can play with Claude Giroux, allowing him the time and space he needs to perform at his best.

4. Part Ways with Steve Mason and Give Either Lyons or Stolarz a Chance

Steve Mason has had a remarkable run with the Flyers. His solid goaltending mitigated the damage from the failed Ilya Bryzgalov experiment. For me, the highlight of his tenure in Philadelphia will always be Game 6 of the 2014 playoff series against the Rangers. Remember the save he made on Carl Hagelin’s breakaway attempt?  

It’s time for the organization to part ways with Mason. The decision is not an indictment of Mason’s play, but rather an acknowledgment that the money it would take to resign Mase could be better spent elsewhere.

Instead, the Flyers should promote either Anthony Stolarz or Alex Lyon to the NHL roster. Stolarz has proven himself a dependable goalie when given the chance this season, though Lyon has outperformed him at Lehigh Valley.

Hextall should allow both goalies to compete for the backup role to Neuvirth next season. The winner should not simply be relegated to the bench, either. Coach Hakstol needs to commit significant minutes to one of these young goaltenders. Now is the time to determine whether the Philadelphia Flyers can depend on Stolarz or Lyon to be a capable NHL goalie.

5. Re-sign Jordan Weal.

This is a no-brainer decision. The Philadelphia Flyers are in desperate need of speedy, playmaking forwards. Weal fits the bill on both counts and should not break the bank.

6. Continue the Blue Line Transition

For years, Flyers fans have heard about the defensive talent stocked in the farm system. Next season is not the time to plug the pipeline.

Andrew MacDonald will likely return next season, though Hextall should make every effort to find the embattled defenseman a new home. If the Golden Knights pass on Mac in the expansion draft, perhaps a team like the Arizona Coyotes, who routinely struggle to reach the salary cap floor, would be willing to take him.

If past is prologue, the Flyers will carry 7-8 defensemen on their roster next season. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are locks to make the team. MacDonald makes three. The serviceable Brandon Manning is under contract next season for $975,000, so expect him back. Radko Gudas is locked into a long-term deal and has been a steady presence; that’s five.

The next two spots must go to some combination of Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg. It is time to see what these prospects can do at the NHL level.

Next: Where Does Steve Mason Go From Here?

This means parting ways with Michael Del Zotto. It’s not an easy decision. Del Zotto brings an aggressive, offensive-minded approach to the blue line that makes him a valuable commodity. But he is a commodity nonetheless. Bring on the young guns.