Let's start with the center position, because I think there's a pretty obvious lineup of pivots for next season. Giroux, Filppula, Couturier, and Bellemare are all basically locked in.
This was easy.
This is a bit trickier, and if you ask ten Flyers fans for their top eight wings you would probably get ten different answers. Let's start with the obvious ones: Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Raffl, and Konecny will be five of the eight. Matt Read and Dale Weise are in contention. Jordan Weal, should be elect to re-sign in Philly this summer, should have a spot reserved for him.
So what does that mean for Nick Cousins, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, Oskar Lindblom, German Rubtsov, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel? That's six young players that are almost unquestionably more talented than the guys Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol will actually choose for bottom-six roles. Cousins and Leier have showed they can even play top-six minutes, and Lindblom is sneaky going to finish top-three on the team in goals next year.
My personal preference is to balance four lines that can all drive play and score. I'd like to ice four lines of decent hockey players, and it feels outrageous that saying that goes against the grain of actual professional NHL executives. I'd do something like this:
- Cut a deal with Vegas where they take Scott Laughton, Michal Neuvirth, and Andrew MacDonald. They get a former first-round pick who is just about to break out (wink), they get a backup goalie on a decent contract, and they get a veteran/locker room guy/nice person who also helps them reach the cap floor.
- If the Flyers don't re-sign Jordan Weal I'll be like 4/5 on the Mad On Line scale. It won't be like when they committed $10 million to Dale Weise instead of signing Ryan White for $1 million, but I definitely won't be happy.
- The Filppula trade was a slam dunk win for Ron Hextall.
- Oskar Lindblom should be a perfect complement to Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. He's positionally sound and defensively responsible, he can score, and it's not like this would even constitute "throwing him into the fire" because he's playing in like the third-best league in the world right now already.
- I've accepted that the fourth line will be The Bellemare Line, and I'm working through how to maximize that. Including Read and Cousins (or maybe Leier?) puts some speed and skill on the ice. Maybe Weise's decent play-driving ability would help? Read-Bellemare-Weise? But then what the hell do we do with Nick Cousins? Let's just move on.
There isn't quite as much variety on the back end, though there will certainly be some disagreements about which six players are the best unit. For me, it's these six (in these pairs):
When Provorov was drafted, I had dreams of a Provorov-Sanheim pair. All this season, I've been falling in love with the Sanheim-Morin pair. But Provorov and Gudas deserve to be the first pair, and a Sanheim-Myers pair would be among the best in the league if they develop together.
Pairing Gostisbehere with Morin gives us two primary benefits. First, it allows the coach to shelter the two defensemen he'd most want to protect. They'd want to shelter them for completely different reasons, but they would be able to play this pairing primarily against third and fourth lines. Second, it gives you a good balance of size between your pairs. I shouldn't have to give you any "size/toughness" related information for Gudas or Morin, but the Sanheim/Myers pair stand 6'4" and 6'5" and they should both be well over 200 pounds at the start of the season.
And, of course, Brandon Manning is the perfect seventh defenseman. Please do not direct any feedback in my direction on that point.
It's Steve Mason. Shut the fuck up about it.