Note: Yesterday was the start of my alphabetical season previews for each Flyer heading into next season. To see Sean Couturier’s click here.
The only free agent signed by the Philadelphia Flyers with a chance of making a big impact, Brian Elliott, experienced many ups-and-downs with the Calgary Flames last year.
In Elliott’s first year removed from the St. Louis Blues, where he spent six seasons, he got off to a rocky start, losing nine of his first 12 games, got back on track in the middle of the year and then hit a wall to end the season in the playoffs. All-in-all he finished with a 26-18-3 record in the regular season and was left spinning after four postseason games with a 3.89 goals-against-average and a .880 save percentage.
Unsurprisingly, the Flames decided to renew their search for a starting goalie, letting Elliott walk in free agency.
However, there was a reason why Calgary thought Elliott was the answer in the first place. During his time with the Blues, he could have been a number one starter, if it wasn’t for the team’s prerogative to not make him one.
Over Elliott’s six seasons in St. Louis, the now 32 year old combined for a .925 Sv% and a 2.01 GAA. He also saw fellow netminders Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller, Martin Brodeur and Jake Allen filter in and out, but it took until the 2016 offseason for the Blues to part with him.
Elliott’s roster battle with Michal Neuvirth will last from the first day of training camp until deep into the regular season. The Flyers may be planning on using a platoon goalie system, but that doesn’t mean the goalies won’t compete for more.
In St. Louis, Elliott played behind a strong defensive team with Ken Hitchcock, a defensive philosopher his entire career, as coach. With the Flames, he had problems adjusting to a new system that didn’t focus as much on defending the net.
That makes me a little leery in trusting Elliott’s potential in Philadelphia. The Flyers’ defense will be one of the best in the league one day, but that day won’t come during next season.
Still, I think Elliott’s a better netminder than Neuvirth and the lone season in Calgary may have been a good experience in adjusting to new and strange challenges. If he can bounce back to his Blues-days numbers, the Flyers are probably a playoff team.
But that seems unlikely. I’m expecting a bounceback season from Elliott, keeping his goals-against-average under 2.40 and a save percentage above .915.
Ultimately, the Flyers have created a platoon, and barring any major injury, I wouldn’t expect either goalie to see over 55 games.