It was a light week for the Philadelphia Flyers over the past seven days. They played just twice and tonight, they’ll take to the ice for the first time in four days.
Not coincidentally, this week’s look at coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall is also on the lighter side, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to examine. Young player’s ice time, Nolan Patrick not released for the World Junior Championship and Alex Lyon are the topics in this week’s grading of Hak and Hex.
Konency, Sanheim, Patrick Ice Time
The Flyers played just two games this week and in those two contests combined, Konecny played 21 minutes, Travis Sanheim played 24 (just 10 against the Edmonton Oilers) and Nolan Patrick played 18. To Flyers fans, those lack of minutes shouldn’t come as any surprise.
Coach Dave Hakstol has a history of managing his young players in questionable ways and this past week was no different. However, I can see the thinking behind it.
For all three players, they saw fewer minutes against the Oilers — a game where the Flyers only had four power plays and led at the end of the second period. Philly desperately needs points in the standings and none of the young trio are defensively reliable in their young careers just yet. Players like Scott Laughton and Valtteri Filppula are more likely to hold onto the win.
Against the Vancouver Canucks, Konecny, Patrick and Sanheim all saw better ice time. However, that can be chalked up to the team’s six man advantages and holding just a one-goal lead in the second stanza. None of the three played many minutes in the third period of either game.
To put it in another perspective, Hakstol played his better defensive players when his team was holding onto leads in the past two games. Unfortunately, the players that aren’t strong defensively, are the young players and future of the team.
Simple fact is those players need the minutes to develop. They also need to improve defensively. Those things clearly go hand-in-hand with Hakstol, but there needs to be a happy medium where Konecny, Sanheim and Patrick play more than bottom line and pairing minutes.
Patrick Not Going to WJC
If the Flyers hadn’t suffered their 10-game losing streak, this probably isn’t even a topic. It also doesn’t help that Patrick hasn’t set the world on fire thus far in his rookie year, but here we are.
The World Junior Championship is an annual international tournament comprised of only under-20 players. At 19 years old, Patrick is eligible to play — and would be there if he was still in juniors.
But NHL teams typically don’t release their under-20 players for the tournament since they need those players’ contributions in their league and the WJC is usually a step down for them. However, teams do on occasion allow players to play in the WJC — the Montreal Canadiens are one of them this year, allowing Victor Mete to represent Canada.
Playoffs seem like a reach for the Flyers this year and Patrick could probably use a confidence boost after a six-points in 20 games start to the season, which sparked the discussion among Flyers fans.
Hextall didn’t like that idea, though, and confirmed Sunday that Patrick would not be joining his native Canada for the tournament.
This was a tough decision for Hextall. Going to the WJC could have improved Patrick’s confidence, but that also means the Flyers didn’t think they needed his game in the NHL. It’s not very often that a second overall pick is allowed to leave his club for the WJC.
Besides that, it’s also a small admittance that Hextall already sees this season as done. The Flyers are only six points out of the last Wild Card spot. Admitting defeat now — even by a small standard — seems rash.
Lyon Recalled Over Tokarski
In the grand scheme of things, this move probably doesn’t mean a whole lot but with a slow week, it’s worth going over a little.
Michal Neuvirth was put on injured reserve Wednesday and is expected to miss about one to two weeks from that point. Although whichever Phantoms netminder was recalled was unlikely to play, the Flyers still needed to make a roster move.
Alex Lyon got the call, but there was plenty of reason that veteran Dustin Tokarski could have been the one promoted.
For one, Tokarski has a good deal more of NHL experience with 34 regular season games under his belt and even five playoff games while with the Montreal Canadiens. Lyon’s also struggling a bit this year, posting a 3.31 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage with Lehigh Valley. Tokarski’s numbers are only slightly better at 3.15 and .895, respectively.
The Flyers have to expect the worst for the situation, though. They may hope that Brian Elliott can play every game during Neuvirth’s absence, but he could suffer an injury himself.
Recalling Lyon shows they still have him above Tokarski in the organization right now. It will be about improving his standing for the future that’s important for Lyon.