By Connor Thomas
The Eagles and Flyers have each gone through their own tumultuous offseason over the past couple months, but which team was more successful? It’s a tough question to answer at this point, with so many question marks still existing with each team, but if you look at the acquisitions by Chuck Fletcher and Howie Roseman, it seems clear which team is ready to rebound faster thanks to those moves.
The Eagles added an incredibly dynamic offensive weapon in WR DeVonta Smith, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner. In a unit that has been an Achilles heel for the past 3(+) years, Smith represents the Eagles best receiving prospect since DeSean Jackson. Howie Roseman went out and got an NFL caliber linebacker in Eric Wilson, and also brought in Anthony Harris to lock down a starting safety spot next to Rodney McLeod. As recently as last week, he also filled out the team’s CB2 spot by signing Steven Nelson, who started every game for one of the best defenses in the NFL last year in Pittsburgh. The draft was uncharacteristically strong, the free agent acquisitions filled needs, and some players got healthy. In fact, I would argue that the Eagles had a sneaky good offseason all things considered. However, there were some huge losses over the past couple months as well. Starting QB Carson Wentz is now a member of the Colts, and injured again. Doug Pederson is no longer the head coach in Philly, replaced by newcomer Nick Sirianni. Jim Schwartz? He’s gone too, took off for a fake retirement party and an advisor role in Tennessee with the Titans. Jalen Mills, Alshon Jeffery, and DeSean Jackson have all flown the coop as well. While the Eagles have had some strong additions, they have also had some major subtractions. Will they be better this year? It’s hard to say.
The Flyers have been busy as well, making a multitude of moves to try and remedy what was by all accounts a terrible 2020 season. They traded for a top tier defenseman in Ryan Ellis, added a 2nd pair D-man in Rasmus Ristolainen, and even strengthened their 3rd defensive pairing (and locker room) by signing Keith Yandle. Defense was a major issue for the Flyers last year, and Chuck Fletcher clearly and effectively addressed the issue. He also worked some cap magic, dumping Shayne Gostisbehere’s contract on the Arizona Coyotes, and trading the expensive contract of Jakub Voracek for the cheaper and possibly more effective Cam Atkinson. Atkinson saves the Flyers money compared to Voracek and also is a very willing shooter, something the orange and black have been longing for over the past couple seasons. The subtractions? Brian Elliott is no longer the backup goalie in Philly, but veteran Martin Jones should be able to fill his role adequately. Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers both were moved in the trade for Ellis, but neither gave incredibly strong contributions to the team last year. Gostisbehere was a liability, and an expensive one. Voracek was still a productive player to some extent, but was aging and costly. Carsen Twarynski, who went to Seattle in an expansion draft, was not an impact player for the Flyers either. Some familiar faces are gone, but every single move either filled a need or improved upon a position from last year.
The Eagles had a strong offseason, but there are still too many holes. QB is a question mark, along with the entire coaching staff, the defensive secondary depth, the wide receiver corps, and the health of the offensive line. The Flyers meanwhile are a clearly better hockey team now than they were when the 2020 season concluded. Both teams may be improved, but it seems abundantly clear that the Flyers are in the better position to bounce back in 2021. They may even be a playoff team, while the Eagles are just trying to get near .500. The Eagles seem to be on the path to an eventual rebound, but the Flyers have already rebounded, and it’s thanks to a very strong offseason from Chuck Fletcher and the front office.