The Philadelphia Flyers face a critical offseason that will help shape the direction of their rebuild. After the appointment of Danny Briere and Keith Jones in the newly-structured front office, the conversation has turned to Cutter Gauthier at the IIHF World Championship with Team USA and the reports of a Stadium Series game at MetLife Stadium in 2023-24. Plus, the Flyers might have to worry about a division opponent stealing from their bench.
Cutter Gauthier: IIHF World Championship
The 2022 fifth-overall pick has lit up the scoreboard with six goals, two assists, a plus-10 rating, and 44 shots on goal in seven games at the Worlds. Team USA finished the preliminary round with six regulation victories and one overtime victory. They’ll face Czechia in the quarterfinals on Thursday at Nokia Arena in Tampere, Finland.
Gauthier scored a hat trick against Team France in a 9-0 rout with the firepower of the Americans on full display. All three of his goals came from the same general area of the ice, on the goaltender’s left-hand side near or below the faceoff dot. He picked the corners with the incredibly quick wrists that made him such an attractive prospect for the US National Team Development Program leading into the draft last summer.
“There’s no windup on it (Gauthier’s shot). He just gets rid of the puck very quickly…His ability to go top shelf, he can just find a puck-size opening upstairs…It’s a heavy shot too. It’s hard to make clean saves on him,” Bill Meltzer said about Gauthier on the Flyers Daily podcast with Jason Myrtetus.
Meltzer also discussed Gauthier’s usage as a left winger for Team USA after playing mostly center during his freshman season at the NCAA level in 2022-23. He said that the Boston College sniper would have an easier time and a quicker path to the NHL as a left winger while his development as a center might take a little bit longer.
“He just doesn’t look like a player that’s phased by who he’s playing against, and he looks like one of those players. You see these guys every so often. It doesn’t matter what tournament he plays in (or) what competition he plays against. You just see (an) NHL scorer there, and you see the transferable skills no matter what level or who he’s playing against in what situation. When you see a great release, you see a great release,” Myrtetus added.
The lack of top-end skill players capable of first-line production has become a well-publicized issue in Philadelphia. The Flyers also need more centermen within the organization overall, and their power play is a major weakness after consecutive 32nd-place finishes, the only two in NHL history, the past two seasons. A top-line center who can shoot the puck well from the flank position on the man advantage would check all three boxes, and Gauthier has the physical tools to become exactly that.
Stadium Series: Flyers vs. Devils
After Kevin Weekes initially reported the NHL’s intention to hold two outdoor games at MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands in North Jersey next season, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported that the Flyers will play in one of them. They’ll face the New Jersey Devils one day after the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders face off to begin the 2024 Stadium Series.
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The Flyers were a popular draw as a participant in the outdoor games in the early years after the Winter Classic began in 2008. After keeping a relatively narrow vision in choosing the participating teams, the NHL had started to shift away from the most recognizable teams in the biggest hockey markets more recently. The Carolina Hurricanes, the Nashville Predators, and the Dallas Stars have all hosted outdoor games since 2020. However, the 2024 site right outside New York City indicates one example of a shift back towards the bigger markets. The weekends of Feb. 17-18 or Feb. 24-25 are the likeliest game dates.
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The outdoor games haven’t been kind to the Flyers. They lost the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park against the Boston Bruins, the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park against the Rangers, and the 2017 Stadium Series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They finally broke the slump with an incredible comeback victory against the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field in the 2019 Stadium Series, but they fell flat with a depleted lineup against the Bruins again in 2021 at Lake Tahoe.
Loose Pucks: Shaw, Playoffs, Laughton, Attard
Elliotte Friedman spoke on the 32 Thoughts podcast about interest in Flyers associate head coach Brad Shaw for a head coaching opportunity, possibly with the Anaheim Ducks. Anthony DiMarco then reported that the Ducks and the Washington Capitals both have interest. Shaw coached the defensemen and the penalty kill (PK) during his first season in Philadelphia in 2022-23. He got an opportunity to try out the reigns as a head coach when John Tortorella chose to watch some of the games in the final month of the 2022-23 season from the press box. He also coached under Tortorella for five seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Flyers finished 26th on the penalty kill in 2022-23 for the second consecutive season. They did, however, score 11 shorthanded goals to improve their net penalty kill percentage to 21st in the NHL. Shaw helped wingers Travis Konecny and Owen Tippett fit into his shorthanded system despite having no previous experience on NHL PK units.
Flyers fans with an eye on the Stanley Cup Playoffs saw an excellent performance from Sergei Bobrovsky in the Eastern Conference Final. He allowed just six goals in four games with a modest .966 save percentage (SV%). He finished with a .909 SV% in 83 games with Philadelphia in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Former Flyers Nick Cousins and Radko Gudas have dressed in every playoff game for the Eastern Conference champions, and journeyman goaltender Alex Lyon has become primarily a backup to Bobrovsky during the postseason.
Scott Laughton has one goal and four assists in seven games for Team Canada at the World Championship. He is an alternate captain while Tyler Toffoli has worn the “C” on his chest. The Canadians will face off against Team Finland in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Ronnie Attard has played in four of the seven games for Team USA. The 24-year-old defenseman has one goal and a plus-2 rating.