There are a couple of rooting interests for Flyers fans in this year’s Stanley Cup finals matchup between the Predators and Penguins.
The obvious one is to pull for any team that is playing against hated Sidney Crosby and Company. Watching coach Peter Laviolette, who guided the Flyers to their last Cup appearance in 2010, try to capture the second title of his career behind the Predators’ bench is another.
However, Flyers fans wonder how long it will take before they’re rooting for their team in June.
The bad news is the Flyers are still in rebuilding mode, have missed the playoffs in two of the last three years and appear years away from sniffing a deep postseason run. The good news is they either have some key pieces already in place or on the way from within their own minor league system or will arrive at this summer’s draft.
Here are five things that must happen for the Flyers to enter Cup contender status in the next three-to-four years.
1. Win big at the 2017 Draft
The Flyers defied long odds – less than a three-percent chance – to land the second overall pick in what many experts have called a two-player draft. Regardless of whether they select gifted forward Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, they need to hit a home run. Whichever 18-year-old they get better develop into a generational player, much like Connor McDavid and Austin Matthews have, and lead the team for the next 10-plus years.
2. Sign a sniper
It doesn’t have to be this offseason but General Manager Ron Hextall must eventually find that elusive 40-goal scorer to play alongside Claude Giroux or Mr. Second Overall pick. It’s a hole the organization has failed to fill since Jeff Carter was traded in 2011.
3. Find a No. 1 goalie
Thanks to minor league free agent signings and a bevy of draft picks, they have about six netminders from within the organization to assume the role. If one of them doesn’t pan out, then open the Comcast checkbook and sign a consistent and reliable goalie.
4. Develop their young defensemen
The transition from rebuilding team to Eastern Conference champions will occur quickly if defensive prospects Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Phillipe Myers turn out to be as talented, or even remotely as skilled, as rookie Ivan Provorov was this season. Add Shayne Gostisbehere, who should have a bounce-back year, to the mix, and their blueline has the potential to be the envy of every team in the league.
Whether it’s in the form of health, matchups or even a few fortuitous bounces, every team needs it before to hoist that silver chalice in the air.