There’s no one that takes more heat or creates more discussion in the Philadelphia Flyers organization than coach Dave Hakstol. Everything from his system choices to his line formations can jumpstart hundreds of Twitter debates.
General manager Ron Hextall doesn’t usually come under as much scrutiny, but with the Flyers morphing from re-tooler to playoff contender to someday more, every move he makes will become more crucial.
With those things in mind, this will be a weekly feature looking at the choices and moves – or none-moves – that both men in charge made over that past week.
Sam Morin & Mark Alt Recalled
Last Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, Philly lost Andrew MacDonald for four to six weeks to a lower-body injury. Hextall decided then to not recall Morin or any other Phantom blueliner since whoever was recalled would not play over the six defensemen already on the roster.
This past Saturday, Shayne Gostisbehere went down with an injury and left the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After Twitter speculation that Mark Alt or another veteran Phantoms defenseman would be recalled, the Flyers and Hextall announced that Morin would be joining the team.
Some wanted Morin recalled last week, but Hextall made the right choice by waiting. Recalling the 22 year old to sit in the pressbox for a month or more would be a waste of his development.
As it turned out, though, Alt would be joining Morin in Philadelphia less than a day later. Morin had a nagging injury that kept him out of Monday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. Why the 6-foot-7 defenseman was recalled in the first place then is a whole other question.
It’s unfortunate that Morin couldn’t play Tuesday, but if he heals quicker than Gostisbehere, he’ll likely see playing time. However, there’s no guarantee he’s here to stay. Both Hextall and Hakstol like the seven rearguards that were on the roster to begin with.
Brandon Manning may be the easiest to knock off, but he even had an impressive game Saturday night with a goal and an assist. It’s up to Morin now to prove he should stick around.
Fourth Line Reassembled
The same day that Elliotte Friedman reported in his 31 Thoughts that a scout thought the Flyers had the best fourth line in the league, Hakstol decided to break them up. The trio consisted of Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl and Taylor Leier, but last Tuesday the coach removed Leier and inserted Dale Weise.
Philly lost 6-2. Leier probably wouldn’t have changed that much, but the Flyers were outmatched by Anaheim’s speed more than its size. Speed and a counterpunch were the original fourth line’s fortes, though.
By Thursday, Hakstol had fixed his mistake, scratching Weise and inserting Leier back in the lineup. Since then, the line has been in tact and back to its usual ways, including helping to set up the Flyers’ first goal against the Maple Leafs.
Weise has been a healthy scratch for both games since underperforming on the fourth line.
New Third Line Formed
The Flyers have been hit with injuries early and often this year and the offense has not been excused from that. Leier, Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds have all been banged up in the first few weeks, but Nolan Patrick is the most worrisome and creates one of the bigger holes.
Patrick centered the third line and while he definitely had some less than stellar moments, specifically against the Ducks last Tuesday, he brought plenty of appreciated depth down the middle of the ice. In an effort to quell that, Hakstol has reformed the third line with Matt Read, Jori Lehtera and Travis Konecny.
To make room for Read, Weise was scratched after Tuesday’s game. The move has worked out so far.
According to Charlie O’Conner of The Athletic, the line led the team in both corsi and expected goals in both the Toronto and Arizona game. Konecny represented that the most against the Coyotes and may have been the Flyers’ best forward in an offensive-void game.
There’s no doubt Philly misses Patrick, but his replacements have done an adequate job replacing him in the lineup – and that’s due to Hakstol’s line formations.