"You are what your record says you are."
Former NFL head coach Bill Parcells made this statement and it has become one of the most frequently used sports axioms ever since. For this year's Flyers, it holds thus far. Their 7-7-1 record through fifteen games is very much an indicator of how they have performed early in this NHL season. There have been some positive signs and there have been some troublesome areas.
With a .500 club, I suppose it comes down to whether you are a glass half full or a glass half empty individual.
GLASS HALF FULL
ROAD TRIP REVIVAL: The Flyers have begun November by closing out a very successful road swing through the west. Gathering seven out of a possible eight points on any trip is impressive, but on this particular journey, the team had to execute a quick reversal of fortune after having lost three straight, including a demoralizing 6-1 home loss to the Islanders. However, there's no better deodorant than winning and the team showed plenty of resolve in putting their past troubles behind them and generating some positive momentum. They hope to parlay this into improved play at home as they will play five straight at the Wells Fargo Center upon their return.
EMERGENCE OF YOUTH: Perhaps the most important issue to monitor all season will be the level of contributions from the many young players on the roster. From a big picture perspective, it's vital that progress is made. There are definitely signs of that progress. Nolan Patrick overcame a minor injury to assert himself in the early going.
His numbers are fine but his development goes far beyond the statistics. His puck pursuit, defensive determination, faceoff excellence, and general strength have all taken a step in the right direction. He's developed some chemistry with another young gun in Oskar Lindblom and they've given the team some balance.
Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim have also become bigger factors from the blue line. Travis Konecny has been snakebitten around the net, but figures to start getting some puck luck soon. Youth is being served.
CAPTAIN PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF: Claude Giroux looks poised for another outstanding season. After finishing second in NHL scoring last season and getting some Hart Trophy consideration, Giroux is off to a productive start. He's on a 93 point pace so far and this is with the power play not quite going on all cylinders. Giroux is climbing the charts among all-time Flyers in several categories, but his biggest attribute is his desire to win. It's time he's looked at as one of the all-time great Flyers, because that's what he is. He's just 30 and appears to have a lot of great hockey left in him.
PROVOROV AND COUTURIER: They are the respective ice time leaders among defensemen and forwards so it is no leap to say that Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier are two of the most important players on the Philadelphia roster. Neither started the season performing to the level they did last season. However, on the road trip west, there were signs that they were both finding their games. As players that Dave Hakstol would employ whether up a goal or down a goal, it's imperative that they return to their two way excellence from 2017-18. It appears the two are rounding into form.
GLASS HALF EMPTY
PUCK MANAGEMENT: Even in going 3-0-1 on the four game road trip, there were still stretches of play when the Flyers execution and decisions with the puck were sloppy at best. Frequent turnovers in the defensive zone and neutral zone have led to Grade A scoring chances for opponents. Fortunately, the goaltenders made some big stops or we wouldn't be talking about a successful road trip. The Flyers have to clean this up or in the long run, they will be allowing too many goals to consistently win. Even highly skilled players have to think simple north-south hockey sometimes instead of east-west.
PENALTY KILL: It had its positive moments out west, but the bottom line is the Flyers' penalty killing unit remains near the bottom of the league rankings and has allowed a power-play goal in eight straight games as they come home. The Coyotes have established a tremendous penalty killing unit this season using the approach of "structured aggressiveness." Perhaps, the Flyers can take a page from that.
POWERPLAY: The Flyers were aware the penalty kill from last season needed work. I doubt they were expecting to have a power play that has been so uneven in its production. Hakstol has made personnel adjustments and done some subtle structural tinkering to try and find a solution after a one power-play goal in seven game stretch. There were some better results after Patrick and Konecny joined the top unit. It would seem there's just too much talent on hand and too much of a positive track record for the overall power play numbers not to improve. It's important because several of the Flyer's top offensive performers feed off of their powerplay success.
THE GOALTENDING CAROUSEL: The Flyers have five goaltenders under contract with NHL experience and a sixth who is one of the top netminding prospects in all of hockey. So, there is quantity and the hope for quality. Injuries have made it a challenge. Four of the six goalies have either spent some time injured or are coming off of major surgery and in some cases, both. It is difficult for the team to build confidence around a situation like that. Give Brian Elliott and Cal Pickard credit for battling through it all though and on most nights giving the team a chance to win. The hope is that one of the bevy of goalies can get on a roll, stay healthy, and help improve the team's overall .880 save percentage.
The Flyers, through 15 games, are indeed what their record says they are. As we move through November, we will find out if they can earn more of a half full assessment. Signs of improvement were there out west. Flyers fans, whether half full or half empty, are hoping it's just the start of better things to come.