As far as the Flyers came in 2013-14, they still have a distance to go. The draft, which Ron Hextall has declared his primary MO moving forward, is not likely to make them a contender next season. So to be better than just a first-round team in 2014-15, the Flyers must:
You know, and Hextall certainly knows, the crying need to make the Flyers an elite team is an elite defenseman. Chicago (Duncan Keith), Boston (Zdeno Chara) Los Angeles (Drew Doughty) the Rangers (Ryan McDonagh), Pittsburgh (Kris Letang) have skilled, minute-eating, guys and those clubs still are playing.
But the Flyers do not believe that Shea Weber, whom they forced Nashville to overpay a year ago by tendering an offer sheet is going to be traded. The immediate prospects of any defenseman from the list above -- or any reasonable facsimiles -- coming loose before next season are slim. And there isn’t a true first-pair defenseman on the slim list of unrestricted free agents becoming available July 1.
So the best defense often being a good offense, Plan B may necessarily have to become Plan A. Puck possession, according to Craig Berube, has become where the Flyers hang their hats, yet there were eight teams that scored more last season. A 30-goal caliber left wing – not just a center playing there because of a logjam in the middle – would give the Flyers as deep an offense as there is in the NHL.
“In a cap world, you’re always going to have a weakness,” said Hextall in talking about strength from the goalie on out through the middle. “So you want the weakness on the wing, that’s how I think.”
That’s the perfect cap world. Until the Flyers get the perfect defenseman to fit that model, playing more in the offensive end makes the most sense.
And one more thing about one more goal scorer. Game Seven was in New York in part because the Flyers were 3-8 in shootouts. Irrelevant as is that skill is to winning playoff games, shootouts can’t be an afterthought when you are putting together your team.