Similar to how hockey fans are feeling right now, eight years prior in 2013, Flyers fans were feeling just as anxious and excited. In 2013, the NHL was planning to begin the season on January 19th due to a dispute between the NHL and the NHLPA. That dispute lead to a lockout prior to the season starting in early October. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the end of last season and postponing the Stanley Cup Playoffs to when the regular season typically starts, the NHL is now starting the season on January 13th. These seasons have much in common, but also have a lot of differences.
The 2013 season was shortened to 48 games that saw teams only playing teams within their conference, whereas the 2021 season will have 56 games where divisions were restructured. The 2013 season allowed teams to carry a full NHL roster, while 2021’s roster will have a 23 player roster accompanied by a “taxi squad” of four to six players. Players were playing for other teams during the 2012-2013 NHL Lockout, whereas 2021 players were isolating and working out from home due to the pandemic.
Similarly, both seasons had a training camp that lasted one week prior to the NHL start date. There also won’t be any preseason games leading up to each team’s first game of the regular season. Some familiar faces for the Flyers this season compared to eight years ago would be Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Scott Laughton. The Philadelphia Flyers will also begin their season against their interstate rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins just like they had eight seasons ago. Let’s pick apart the Flyers 2012-2013 season and investigate how that team’s successes and failures may translate to this season.
After coming off of a second round playoff exit to the New Jersey Devils, there were very high expectations for the Philadelphia Flyers coming into the 2013 season. The Flyers failed to make the playoffs after posting a 23-22-3 record that year, placing them in fourth place in the Atlantic division. A team mixed with plenty of veterans and a couple of new faces, they were held to a higher standard than what they had produced. A shaky defensive core, an even weaker goaltending core, and an aging offensive unit brought this team short of its expectations.
The defensive unit of 2013 saw the likes of Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nick Grossman, Kurtis Foster, Bruno Gervais, Erik Gustafson (not the same Gustafsson that we just signed in 2020), and Luke Schenn. These players played at least 20 games during the season. There were sprinkles of other faces for the defense, but the players mentioned were the core. Besides Timonen, Coburn, Grossman and Schenn, what other players were they supposed to use? Pronger had all but played his last game of his career the season prior and Andrej Meszaros had surgery during the offseason that had delayed his season as well.
Entering the 2021 season, the Flyers defensive core might be the highest ranked core that they have dressed in a long time. With Provorov, Myers, Sanheim, Hagg, Braun, and Gostisbehere, this blueline core is the youngest and most talented that fans have seen in a while. Between the 2013 and the 2021 defenses, fans should be more confident in the 2021 core. Yeah, it would be nice to sprinkle some of those 2013 players, but only when they were in their prime. Imagine an in-prime Timonen paired with Provorov – wow, right? Too bad they were two different generational players. Now, who wants to relive the disastrous goaltending of 2013?
The 2013 team had some of the worst goaltending this Flyers franchise has ever seen. Ilya Bryzgaloz and Steve Mason were believed to be the duo to lead us to the playoffs Instead they combined for a .922 save percentage and a 2.345 goals against average. Bryzgalov started 40 games and Mason started 6 games. The other two games were picked up by Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. Isn’t it nice that we don’t have to deal with the tandem of Bryzgalov and Mason anymore?
There isn’t much to talk about with the 2021 goaltending duo. Carter Hart and Brian Elliott led the Flyers to its first playoff series win since the 2012 season. They combined for a .907 save percentage and a 2.645 goals against average. The goals against stat isn’t as good as the Bryzgalov/Mason tandem, but Hart is still developing his game in the NHL. Be prepared for Hart and Elliot to have a 60/40 percent split for started games this upcoming season. Also expect to see the goals against average drop as well since they will be seeing the same seven opponents. Let’s take a look into the offense, shall we?
Much like today’s roster, 2013’s team had a good mix of veterans and fresh new faces, but their bottom 12 wasn’t as deep as it is now. Consisting of an aging Ruslan Fedotenko, a very young Couturier, Matt Read, Eric Wellwood, Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo, expectations should be low. They also had the great Jody Shelley to plug in wherever needed. But reading those names, how much did you get disgusted at those being on the third line except for Couturier?
Eight years later and Couturier is now centering the 1st line and the bottom six looks completely different. JVR, Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, Nic Aube-Kubel, Jakub Voracek, and Michael Raffl. Compared to the 2013 roster, 2021’s bottom six has a lot more skill and NHL experience. Three former first round picks on your third and fourth lines explains how much depth your team has. Expect Patrick to center JVR and Voracek on the third line while Raffl will center the fourth line with Scott Laughton and NAK.
Back in 2013, the Philadelphia Flyers began their season against their inter-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They dropped that game 3-1 and then went on to drop two more against the Sabres (5-2) and Devils (3-0). If they have a similar slow start in this year’s season, they will be finding themselves in the same position they were in 2013, missing the playoffs. A hot start is very important during a condensed schedule and also while playing the same teams over and over. If a team loses a game, they need to learn to bounce back quickly and win the next one to get a streak going.
Come Wednesday evening, the Flyers have a tall task to take on. They kickoff the entire NHL regular season with a 5:30 PM start time, once again, against their inter-state rivals. Expect the Flyers to come out with a lot of speed and energy against the Penguins. Fans should be excited to see this team take the ice this year. The depth and experience of this team should help propel this team past any of their divisional teams this year. This team is built completely different than the team that took the ice eight years ago.
Photo Credit – Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire