One Thing Each Philadelphia Flyers Star Must Accomplish in 2014-15
After missing the playoffs altogether a year ago, the Philadelphia Flyers had a nice bounce-back season in 2013-14.
Despite firing their head coach just three games into the season and a 1-7 start overall, the Orange and Black still managed to win 42 games en route to a third-place finish in the Metropolitan Division and the club's 37th postseason appearance in franchise history. What's more, the Flyers took the New York Rangers (now just two games away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final) to the brink in their seven-game opening-round series.
Forward progress was made in Philadelphia this season, but there's work still to be done if the Flyers hope to become one of the NHL's elite.
With that, here's a look at one thing each Philadelphia Flyers star must accomplish in 2014-15.
2014-15 Accomplishment: 100 points
A Hart Trophy finalist for the first time in his career, Giroux finished third among all NHLers in total scoring this past season with 86 points. What's more, it was the second time in the last three years that the Hearst, Ontario, native finished third in overall league scoring.
But for as good as Philly's captain was this season and has been in recent years, Giroux has yet to crack the 100-point plateau at the NHL level. That needs to change next season.
Since the 26-year-old pivot entered the league back in 2008, only six players have eclipsed 100 points in a single season, but those are the skaters who are widely considered among the game's truly elite.
Sidney Crosby (three times), Evgeni Malkin (twice), Alex Ovechkin (twice), Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Nicklas Backstrom. That's it.
Giroux is often heralded as being one of the NHL's most dynamic stars, and a 100-point campaign would solidify that position.
Without a slow start (seven points in his first 15 games), it's possible Philadelphia's captain reaches the century mark this past season. Eliminate that slow start and Giroux gets it done in 2014-15.
2014-15 Accomplishment: become a second-line player
Be it at center or on the wing, Lecavalier and his five-year, $22.5 million contract must find a productive role on Philadelphia's second line next season.
Despite a strong start (five goals in his first eight games), Lecavalier's first campaign with the Flyers was a bit of a bust. He managed just 15 conversions through his final 61 games and posted the lowest plus/minus rating (minus-16) on the roster.
Worst of all, though, was that the 34-year-old forward didn't have a defined role in the team's lineup.
After struggling as a winger on the team's second line, Lecavalier was moved back to his natural position at center, but this time it was on Philadelphia's fourth line.
A player of Lecavalier's stature, ability and contract terms can't be a fourth-line player. It just can't happen. He needs to give the Flyers more than fourth-line minutes while, conversely, Philadelphia needs to put him in a better position than the fourth line to be successful.
A restricted free agent this summer, Brayden Schenn's status with the Orange and Black is uncertain. If he returns, Lecavalier will have to find a way to make it work on the wing. If Schenn isn't back next season, then Lecavalier will be given every opportunity to center the team's second unit.
Either way, both the Flyers and Lecavalier must find a solution.
2014-15 Accomplishment: lead the Flyers in power-play goals
Simmonds has quickly become one of the premier power forwards in today's NHL.
At just 25 years old, he's coming off career highs in goals (29), assists (31) and points (60). What's more, the burly 6'2", 175-pound winger led all Flyers in both goals and power-play conversions (15).
On a roster featuring the likes of Giroux, Lecavalier, Jake Voracek and Scott Hartnell, it's unrealistic to assume Simmonds will pace the Orange and Black in total goals once again next season, but he should pace the squad in man-advantage markers.
His fearless play at the front of the opposition's goal is perfectly suited for power-play deflections while his scoring touch in and around the net should continue to lead to second-chance conversions on the man advantage.
Simmonds finished third among all NHLers in power-play tallies this past season and was the only Flyers skater to reach double digits in man-advantage markers. Expect more of the same next year.
2014-15 Accomplishment: register 25 Goals and 75 points
After Giroux, Voracek is the most dynamic offensive threat the Flyers have. His speed, never-say-die attitude and blossoming chemistry with Philly's captain make him a threat each and every time he hits the ice.
But even though the 24-year-old winger recorded a career-high 23 goals this past season, he did so by just one conversion (22 goals in 2012-13) despite 34 additional games played in 2013-14 compared to last season's lockout-shortended campaign.
And yes, the sixth-year pro finished second among all Flyers in total scoring (62 points), but he saw his per-game production drop from nearly a point per game last year (0.96) to 0.76 points per game this season.
Like most players on Philadelphia's roster, Voracek got off to a dreadful start, as he managed just one goal and only four points in his first 15 outings. After that woeful beginning, the Czech native managed 0.33 goals per game and 0.87 points per outing the rest of the way.
In other words, a brutal start was the only thing preventing Voracek from reaching the 25-goal and 75-point markers this season. Expect him to reach them with confidence next year.
2014-15 Accomplishment: lead the Flyers in blocked shots and minutes
No player in the NHL has blocked more shots over the last two seasons than MacDonald.
After finishing tied for third two years ago with 123 denials, MacDonald paced all NHLers this year with a jaw-dropping 242 blocks. In fact, his 242 shot blocks this season were the second-highest such total the NHL has seen over the last five years.
What's more, among players who just saw opening-round action this postseason, only Columbus' Jack Johnson (25) and St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo (22) recorded more blocked shots than MacDonald's 20 playoff denials.
And one of the biggest reasons why MacDonald registers so many blocks is the plethora of minutes he eats up night after night. He was New York's go-to defender while with the Islanders and quickly became Philadelphia's top all-purpose blueliner after his acquisition by the Orange and Black at the trade deadline.
MacDonald finished second among all Flyers in ice time (22:00) during the regular season and paced all Philadelphia skaters (22:37) by a wide margin during the playoffs. In fact, MacDonald was the only member of the Orange and Black to average better than 22 minutes during the postseason and one of just three Flyers to average better than 20 minutes on a per-game basis.
The 27-year-old defenseman inked a six-year, $30 million extension just prior to the start of the postseason. With that new contract in tow, much was expected of MacDonald during the playoffs, and that will remain the case next season.
2014-15 Accomplishment: lead all Flyers defensemen in scoring
The first season of Streit's four-year, $21 million pact with the Flyers was a tremendous success.
The 36-year-old blueliner paced all Philadelphia defenders in scoring and finished fifth among all Flyers with 44 points. He reached double-digit goals for the fifth time in the last seven years and chipped in double-digit power-play assists for the sixth time in his eight-year NHL career.
And the stage is set for more of the same from Streit next season.
With Kimmo Timonen's future in the NHL still to be determined, Streit stands to inherit Timonen's role as Philadelphia's top offensive defenseman. With that, the Switzerland native will quarterback the club's top power-play unit and would be the first defender over the boards in all must-score situations.
As durable as they come, Streit hasn't missed a regular-season outing in five seasons, so he'll have ample opportunities to pace Philly defenders in scoring once against next season.