Philadelphia Flyers Who Will Be Even Better Next Season
As an organization, the Philadelphia Flyers took a significant step forward this season.
After missing out on the playoffs altogether last year, the Orange and Black responded by winning 41 of their final 74 contests under newly appointed head coach Craig Berube this season en route to the 37th postseason appearance in team history.
The Flyers finished third in the Metropolitan Division before taking a legitimate Stanley Cup contender (the New York Rangers) to the brink in a seven-game opening-round series.
But there's always room for improvement.
With that, here's a look at four Flyers who will be even better next year.
Fresh off an 86-point campaign and a Hart Trophy nomination as league MVP, it's hard to see how next year could be an even more impressive campaign for Giroux than the season he just completed.
Despite a sluggish start that saw the Philly captain produce just seven points (all assists) in his first 15 games, Giroux still managed to pace all Flyers in total scoring by a wide margin (Jakub Voracek was second among all Philadelphia skaters with 62 points).
And yet, the 26-year-old pivot still has room to grow.
Giroux's slow start was at least partially attributed to a freak injury to his right index finger suffered while golfing. It was obvious the Philadelphia captain wasn't himself at the season's outset. In the end, it took nearly two months for the superstar to produce points at the level at which he's capable.
What's more, it's likely the Flyers will look to target a speedy winger either via trade or free agency to augment the team's top line alongside Giroux and Voracek.
Both Scott Hartnell and Michael Raffl spent long stretches as wingers on Philadelphia's top unit, but neither was able to complement the squad's top two offensive weapons the way Giroux and Voracek complement each other. More speed on the top line will equate to more scoring chances and more production overall for the franchise centerpiece.
Giroux came within seven points of a 100-point campaign two years ago and likely would have eclipsed the century mark this season if not for his woeful first five weeks. Look for the Hearst, Ontario, native to finally reach the 100-point plateau next year.
The irony of his first season in Philadelphia is that while the Flyers as a whole got off to a dreadful start, Lecavalier actually got off to a fairly good one.
While the Flyers dropped eight of 11 October outings, the 34-year-old forward notched five goals and seven points in just eight contests during that stretch. He buried three power-play conversions during that time and averaged better than three shots per game in the season's opening month.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there for him.
Philly's free-agent prize, Lecavalier managed just 15 goals and 30 points in his final 61 regular-season contests and was a complete albatross in the postseason matchup with the Rangers.
That's not exactly what the Flyers had in mind when they inked the former Stanley Cup champion and Maurice Richard Trophy winner to a five-year, $22.5 million pact.
After the team shuffled Lecavalier between the second and fourth lines and from center to the wing, finding a defined role for the four-time All-Star will be of paramount importance for Philadelphia this summer. And the Orange and Black will find a solution.
There's too much money at stake to allow him to simply round out the forward unit as a member of the fourth line. That stability within the lineup and a healthy season (he missed 13 games due to injury) will lead to a rejuvenated and far more productive Lecavalier next season.
After setting career highs in goals (29), assists (31) and points (60), what can Simmonds realistically do for an encore next season?
How about set new career highs in all three departments? And he will.
Throughout the course of the 2013-14 season, he developed into one of the pre-eminent power forwards in the game today.
After landing just five conversions in the season's first two months, the Scarborough, Ontario, native erupted for seven goals in 14 December games. Simmonds then closed the season with his two most productive months of the year, notching 15 goals over the campaign's last two months (29 games including the postseason).
And all signs point to the 6'2", 175-pound force carrying that momentum into next season.
His net-front presence is second-to-none on Philadelphia's roster, and he possesses the kind of unrelenting compete level that will continue to lead to enhanced production.
He paced all Flyers and finished third in the NHL with 15 power-play goals last season and should continue to receive regular minutes on the team's first man-advantage unit. He's also been as durable as they come, missing just three games over the last three seasons.
No Flyers skater has scored more goals than Simmonds (72) over the last three years. Look for more of the same next season.
All in all, Streit's first season in the City of Brotherly Love was a tremendous success.
After signing a four-year, $21 million agreement with the Orange and Black last summer, he played in all 82 games last season and paced Philadelphia defensemen in both goals (10) and points (44). He reached double-digit conversions for the first time in four years and finished with a plus-three rating after posting a combined minus-41 total in his prior two seasons with the New York Islanders.
But there's still more to be had from Streit.
The eight-year veteran averaged just more than 20.5 minutes per game during the regular year and should be prepared to see those minutes increase next season.
He developed excellent chemistry with fellow former Islander Andrew MacDonald during Philadelphia's playoff run. It wouldn't be surprising to see those two emerge as the team's top defensive pair when next season begins.
What's more, Streit should be prepared for additional power-play minutes next season, given the uncertainty surrounding Kimmo Timonen's future with the Flyers. Timonen has long been the quarterback of the club's top man-advantage unit, but if the 39-year-old blueliner opts for retirement, that role would most assuredly fall to Streit.