Today, against the Los Angeles Kings, the Philadelphia Flyers finally put an end to their 13-game losing streak in overtime. However, they’re not out of the woods yet. The rash of Flyers injuries that kept key players out of the lineup during the losing streak isn’t going away anytime soon. Plus, with few reinforcements on the way, the Flyers will need to find a way to to move forward with a patchwork roster.
Flyers Still Hindered by Injuries
The Lineup From Then to Now
At the beginning of the Flyers’ season, the lineup looked good on paper. Really good… even. Offseason trades had brought in Cam Atkinson to add a pure goal-scorer to the forward corps; Rasmus Ristolainen, to provide a physical edge; and, perhaps most importantly, Ryan Ellis, to stabilize the defence. With those players in the mix, the roster for the first game looked like this (via the Flyers’ NHL site):
Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
Farabee – Brassard – Atkinson
Lindblom – Laughton – van Riemsdyk
Willman – Thompson – Aube-Kubel
Provorov – Ellis
Sanheim – Braun
Yandle – Seeler
In that lineup, Max Willman was the only player who had not played in an NHL game. Perhaps Nick Seeler was another player straddling the line between AHL and NHL, but they were the only ones. Now consider the Flyers’ lines from their game against the Kings:
Lindblom – Giroux – Atkinson
van Riemsdyk – Laughton – Konecny
Mayhew – Frost – Willman
Ratcliffe – Bunnaman – MacEwen
Provorov – Braun
Sanheim – Ristolainen
Yandle – York
At this point, the Flyers’ bottom-six is made nearly entirely of AHL players. Cam York was another mid season call up, although he has quickly emerged as one of the team’s better defencemen. The Flyers are playing with around a third of their roster composed of borderline-NHL players and players with no NHL experience before the start of the season. Why? Because a huge chunk of the Flyers’ lineup is out with injuries.
The Missing Pieces
Of course, the absences of Ellis, Sean Couturier, and Joel Farabee are bound to hurt. They were expected to be part of the backbone of the team. But then there’s Derick Brassard, who was doing surprisingly well in a middle-six role. And don’t forget Nate Thompson, who rounded out the fourth line.
Even comparing the season opening lineup to the roster today doesn’t capture the full magnitude of the Flyers’ injury woes. Kevin Hayes was out at the beginning of the season, and he’s out again now. Patrick Brown, a reliable bottom-six player obtained from the Vegas Golden Knights midseason, is sidelined with a knee injury. Wade Allison, who was supposed to be a promising call up option, is now out with the latest in an increasingly-concerning string of injuries. Sam Morin and Tanner Laczynski, two more borderline-NHL players, are on injured reserve.
Naturally, as most of the injured players are forwards, the Flyers’ scoring ability has suffered. Getting more than three goals in a game has been a struggle all season. The power play is a mess, made worse by the absence of Farabee’s shot. Ivan Provorov has been far less effective without the partnership of Ellis, a steady veteran. Without Couturier’s two-way game in the mix, the defence has become even shakier, making Carter Hart and Martin Jones’ jobs a whole lot more difficult. Right now, the sheer number of injuries is taking a significant toll on all aspects of the Flyers’ game.
The Flyers’ injury situation certainly isn’t good in the present. But could it affect the future, too? Take Ryan Ellis, for example. He came to Philadelphia with an already-extensive injury history. He played three games, went out with an unspecified injury, came back for one game in November, and re aggravated the injury. Now, he’s missed several months, and according to recent reports is “not making a lot of progress right now” in terms of his recovery. A similar thing seems to be happening with Hayes, who saw his core injury flare up again not just once, but twice and is now out following a procedure to drain fluid from his adductor.
This begs the question of whether injuries sustained this season could affect the future of other players, too. Allison and Morin have struggled to stay healthy for nearly the entirety of their careers, and the likelihood that they’ll make the jump to the NHL becomes slimmer with each new ailment. Couturier suffered a costochondral separation (a tear in the cartilage that connects the ribs and breastbone) last year, causing him to miss about a month. The upper body issue that currently has him sidelined looks keep him out for even longer than that. The increasing severity of the injuries is concerning, to say the least.
And then there’s Joel Farabee. This season, he sustained two upper body injuries – both seemingly to his left shoulder – just a month apart. Having issues like these at just 21 years old isn’t a good sign for Farabee or the Flyers. The future of the forward corps rests largely on his shoulders, and sustaining too many injuries early on may hinder his ability to stay healthy further down the road.
Granted, maybe these injuries won’t affect the players down the line. But the number of compounded problems that many of them have experienced this season suggests that there might be some reason for concern.
It’s hard to blame anyone for injuries. They’re usually just bad luck, and unfortunately, the Flyers seem to have been struck by a boatload of bad luck. However, now might actually be a good time for the team to get the injury bug out of its system.
Think of it this way – although it would be nice to be competitive for the rest of the season, there’s really no reward for doing so. The 13-game losing streak nullified the Flyers’ chances of making the postseason. This gives the team an incentive to be careful with how they handle their injured players. Initially, with Hayes and Ellis, there was a big push to return as soon as possible. After all, the early stages of the season had the Flyers thinking that they could potentially make the playoffs, if only they could get missing players back in time. Now, with those short-term hopes snuffed out, it’s more beneficial to the team’s long-term goals to keep their injured players out for longer and hopefully avoid reaggravating their issues.
At the end of the day, the best option for the Flyers may simply be to deal with a depleted roster now with the focus on getting healthy for next season.