End of the Year Grades: The Forwards

Photo by Heather Barry

The Flyers’ season was basically over after their 4-3 loss to the Rangers when rational minds realized there was no way they could claw their way back into the playoffs, but now it’s officially over. There have been major highs and there have been major lows. It’s time to take a look back and see how the individual players performed.

Before we get to the grades themselves, let me explain how I approached the whole grading system. First and foremost, these grades are not based on each player’s season itself. They’re based on how they performed against early-season expectations. Additionally, the entire season was taken into account, from game 1 through game 82. As for the grades themselves, I gave each grade an accompanying benchmark:

A- They were much better than expected

B- They were better than expected

C- They were about what was expected

D- They were worse than expected

F- They were much worse than expected

This edition will just be the forwards. Look for the defense and goalies later.

Bellemare – C

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has taken a lot of heat since the trade deadline. First, he signed a two-year contract extension and then the next day he was named an alternate captain. For a guy who’s personality is pretty much exactly what Philadelphia sports fans typically love, he sure is hated. Personally, I don’t get it. He’s not the best player on the ice, sure. He doesn’t score goals or make fancy plays. But Bellemare wasn’t expected to be a goal scorer. He’s never been a goal scorer, his strengths lie in other areas. If you wanted 10+ goals from him, you need to reconsider your own expectations. I certainly wasn’t hoping for anything close to that from him. But crazy enough, there are things that are important to being a decent NHL player besides how many times you can put the puck into the back of the net. Just remember: Good leadership isn’t always visible, especially to the fans who really have no idea what happens once the team walks off the ice. Overall, an average grade for an expected season.

Editor’s note: I think the anger directed towards Bellemare is more a case of and not liking how much value the front office sees in him. While he may be a good locker room presence, being the worst scoring forwards in the NHL does not deserve a contract extension and a raise, especially when there are young forwards who would be much better in his place.

Cousins – D

Technically Nick Cousins has matched his career-high in goals. It’s not saying much since he’s played more games this season than he’s played the rest of his career. The expectations were high, though. He’s billed as an extremely talented bottom-nine goal scorer. But that talent just wasn’t evident this season and he has slid down the Flyers depth chart. He no longer fits in a center position with Filppula and Vecchione now in the lineup, and he might not have a spot on a wing either. Without an impressive performance, it’s hard to see where Cousins fits.

Couturier – C

The 2016-2017 season has been a tale of three Sean Couturiers. There was the Couturier who began the season centering the second line with Konecny and Voracek which was, at the time, one of the most dangerous second lines in the NHL. It was incredible. Amazing. We were gonna win the Stanley Cup and that second line was going to lead us there. But then there was a knee injury that sat Couturier out quite a while and the band had to break up. Since his return, there’s been the not-so-great Second Line Couturier and the much-better Third Line Couturier. His play on the second line has been iffy at best, he’s great at defending other teams’ top lines but doesn’t really have the offensive presence that you’d expect out of that role. The third line has been where he’s shined, though. He’s still put out on the ice against opponents’ top lines, but the pressure and expectation of being a huge goal-scorer is gone. In the end, it averages out to an average season.

Filppula – B

Judging Valtteri Filppula against early-season expectations is impossible because there were no early-season expectations for him. So I’ll grade him based on expectations at the trade deadline. He came to Philly with just seven goals on the season in 59 games, which was one of the main points for the trade’s critics. But in the twenty games since, he’s scored five more goals. This new pace would give him around 20-21 goals in a full season, which is close to his career-high. Overall his presence on the ice has provided a welcome boost to an otherwise lackluster offense, especially when he’s been put on a line with Travis Konecny. The only problem with his season in Philadelphia is that by the time he joined the team, they were already too far out of playoff contention for his addition to really make a difference.

Giroux – D

I originally gave Giroux a C but then I had to be honest with myself. This season wasn’t just “average” for him, it was bad. He recently admitted that he’s still been struggling to recover from last off season’s hip injury and it’s showed. The typical Giroux flair has been virtually non-existent, instead replaced with a “pass first” mentality and a clear lack of confidence. His season hasn’t been a complete failure, he still showed textbook Claude Giroux moments at certain points. But he definitely needs to take the time this offseason to make sure his body and mind are both completely healed and prepared before returning in the fall. Otherwise, it’ll be another long season with no payoff (or playoffs) at the end.

Editor’s note: A lot of information came out from accounts who track analytics that has shown a decline in Giroux’s game. His shot distance has been getting farther and farther from the net and his scoring has been declining for the past four seasons. It may be an issue of being coached to pass to the point or to be less aggressive in getting to the net, but it’s obvious that something needs to change.

Konecny – B/C

Travis if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. My heart wanted to give you all the As in the world, but unfortunately, my brain wouldn’t let me.

It’s been a rough first season in the NHL for Travis Konecny. The growing pains have been… painful. But they were expected, all rookies go through rough stretches where they learn more than they produce. The worst parts of his season haven’t actually been Konecny’s fault. Healthy scratches left and right and the inability to gel with a consistent line completely falls on Dave Hakstol’s shoulders. Plus his untimely injury in February was just bad luck. But Konecny has persisted through the struggles and shown moments of offensive greatness that this organization hasn’t seen in a very long time. Let’s get one thing straight: This kid is straight up talented. Let him grow a little, most importantly let him gain some confidence, and soon enough he’ll become one superstar no opponent will look forward to playing against. He’s just not there yet.

Lyubimov – B

Roman Lyubimov, like all KHL to Philly transfers, deserved better this season. Most of the time when you see someone with only 47 games played, there’s an injury to take into account. But that wasn’t the case for him. For whatever reason, Dave Hakstol continuously thought that playing guys like VandeVelde over Lyubimov was the right decision. I’m not sure why he thought that, but then again I’m not the coach. Expectations were low for Lyubimov since no one really knew a whole lot about him coming into the season. But in the few games he did get to play, he did good enough to be on the positive side of my grading curve. I hope wherever he ends up next season will treat him better than he was treated here.

Raffl – D

Michael Raffl only played 52 games this year, so at a quick glance, his numbers seem abysmal. One key thing to take into consideration is that Raffl doesn’t play on the power play, which is where the Flyers scored a majority of their goals in the first half of the season. The frustrating thing is that he’s got the talent and the potential to be a strong, reliable bottom-nine forward. He just couldn’t find his groove this year and got hurt before he could turn it around.

Read – C

Matt Read. What do I say about Matt Read? It’s been… a season. He’s played some games. He’s scored some goals. He’s killed some penalties. It happened and now it’s done. Overall, it was a typical season for Matt Read.

Editor’s note: Who doesn’t love MEAT READ though?

Schenn – C/D

Last year Brayden Schenn had the best season of his life. He set career numbers in goals, assists, and points that earned himself a fancy new contract over the offseason. He got paid pretty well, too. So it’s safe to say that expectations were high for him. Unfortunately, he’s failed to really live up to them. The thing is, Brayden Schenn this season was really good on the power play—his 17 goals tied him with Nikita Kucherov and Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in power play goals. But Brayden Schenn on the power play and Brayden Schenn at even strength were two completely different players. The bottom line is, he struggled at 5v5 scoring and unless he’s aiming to just be a power play specialist, that’s got to get better. With that being said, he did still come close to his career-high in goals, which is a plus.

Simmonds – A

Wayne Simmonds has been the undisputed star of this year’s team. He was expected to score goals, make good plays, and fight a few people, and lead this team to the best of his ability. He’s done all of those things and more. His 31 goals led the team and his 16 power play goals were just one shy of the league leaders. In addition, he was not only named to the All-Star team, but the wonderful surprise of the year was him being named the All-Star MVP. In a season filled with general ups and downs, Simmonds has been the one star that has consistently shined brighter than the rest. If there was a grade above an A, Wayne Simmonds would get it.

VandeVelde – D

Expectations for Chris VandeVelde this season were extremely low. Yet somehow he still managed to be a disappointment. Technically he tripled his goal total from last season if that makes a difference? Though tripling essentially nothing is still basically nothing. The worst part about his season is how many games he played – all but the last game of the season. On any of the playoff-bound teams, he would have sat in the press box the majority of the season. The best part about his season is that this is the end of his contract.

Vecchione – Ungraded

It’s completely unfair to grade someone who has only played two games with the team, but I didn’t want to make him feel left out. He gets an A+ for his choice in choosing to sign with the Flyers.

Voracek -C/D

Jake Voracek started the season looking like the player everyone expected. Strong, physical play and good hockey sense. He’s always hard to knock off the puck and always a threat on the power play. But, like the rest of the team, Jake’s strengths seemed to taper off in the month of January and he had a hard time recovering. He was still able to score 20 goals, just three shy of his career-high. Overall, I expected him to be better.

Weal – A

Jordan Weal has been probably the best surprise of the last few weeks of the season. He was called up on February 10th to fill in for Konecny while he was injured and it took him a little while before he found his footing. But since scoring his first NHL goal on March 28, he’s completely exploded. He’s scored eight goals and at one point he had a 4-game goal streak. He’s also proven that he can play anywhere Dave Hakstol decides to put him. Whether he’s on the top line with Giroux and Voracek or on the fourth line with Bellemare and VandeVelde, Jordan Weal is going to be a threat. I’d like to see how he does in a full NHL season now that he’s found so much confidence.

Weise – D

Last off-season, Dale Weise was presented to us as an “upgraded Ryan White.” He wasn’t an upgraded Ryan White. He certainly wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t exactly good, either. His play in the last ten games in the season softened the blow a little, especially his two-goal performance in last night’s game. In the end, he simply didn’t live up to the expectations.

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One thought on “End of the Year Grades: The Forwards

  1. Pingback: End of the Year Grades: The Defense and Goaltending |

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