The Flyers came up big to take the President’s Trophy winners to six games, especially when you consider the size differential between them and the Caps.
Washington’s eight defensemen outweighed 14 Flyer forwards trying to get to the net by 10.2 pounds. The six Philadelphia defensemen were an average of 7.7 pounds smaller than the Cap forwards the Flyers were trying to push away.
When this season started the Flyers were the 26th heaviest team, plus the 24th tallest, and that was before they dealt away two big boys in Luke Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier. So if you want to know how Philadelphia improves from eighth place and a first-round elimination, measure these words from Ron Hextall:
“Part of getting better is getting bigger and adding more skill,” the GM told reporters Tuesday.
There are 30 teams who want more big, fast and skilled guys. But not nearly that number have as many of those players coming as do the Flyers. Defenseman Sam Morin, the 2013 first pick, is big -- 6-foot-6 -- and winger Travis Konecny, one of the two 2015 #1’s, is 5-9 and fast but Hextall is adamant about not rushing prospects.
It’s been since 2012 that the Flyers have won a playoff round, so even fans happy with the improvement this season are entitled to their impatience. But this general manager will not be suffering any entitled young players on his watch.
There is not a prospect penciled into the lineup for October, not even the most advanced of them, defenseman Ivan Provorov. To make the team, he will need to have a much better camp than did Shayne Gostisbehere last fall. And to become the anchor defenseman of the Flyers’ dreams, Provorov will need years and patience, the latter of which this regime has in spades.
The infusion of prospects will be measured, like Hextall’s approach towards free agency.
“The first thing we have to look at is where we can get better from within,” said Hextall, who a few minutes later added he expects a better Jake Voracek next season. But that’s not what the GM meant when he talked about needing “some upgrades up front.”
“Goal scoring/playmaking would be our number one need. We'll try everything. We'll certainly look at the free agent market and if something makes sense, we'll look at the trade market.
“We weren’t in a very good (cap) position a year ago. Are we in a better position? Yes, but we have to be careful.”
Hextall has more cap room to do something than a year ago, but no desire to add a four or five-year contract that’s going to make it impossible to keep a Brayden Schenn, re-sign one of two good goaltenders, or keep together a nucleus that went 25-12-7 after January 4.
So the question is what he can get for what length of term, while continuing to slow cook the deepest set of prospects the franchise probably ever has had.
You don’t have to be Keith Allen to identify what the Flyers need to become an elite team.
1) One more skilled forward, preferably of some size.
2) At least one more big forward.
3) A 27-28 minutes-a game defenseman.
And you don’t have to belong to the Optimists Club to see the potential to fill all those needs from within the system, just not right away. Perhaps Hextall can fill one of them from outside.
Dave Hakstol cooks the meal, doesn’t buy the groceries. But playing the Penguins four times after they got their act together, then a series against the No. 1 seed was a picture window into what the Flyers need to be.
“Both teams played extremely hard, both teams played a physical series and a very competitive series, both teams defended hard,” said the coach Tuesday of the Capitals series. “They made more plays than we did.”
Therefore Hextall will be looking for another playmaker. But he won’t be setting any market for them on July 1. Not his style.