Since the idea of having nice things and expecting them to work right is too much for us, fans of the local ice hockey team, to ask, the Philadelphia Flyers broke the news this morning that recent free-agent signing James van Riemsdyk will be out 5-6 weeks with a “lower-body injury”.
INJURY UPDATE: James van Riemsdyk will be out approximately 5-6 weeks with a lower-body injury. https://t.co/RZBDTeIcp8— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) October 8, 2018
The injury in question is almost certainly a knee issue, as van Riemsdyk left last Saturday’s game in Colorado after taking a clearing attempt from Colorado’s Mark Barberio off of the inside of his right knee. It’s a freak injury and some bad luck for JVR, who only had one major injury during his six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to signing with the Flyers.
van Riemsdyk had one assist in his first four periods with the Flyers, so he’ll have to wait a while to get his first goal in his second stint with the team. Five weeks from today would be November 12, meaning that even if JVR were to end up on the early side of the team’s stated recovery window and be available for a November 13 contest against the Florida Panthers, he’d still miss 15 games. (Then again, the Flyers recently declared that Andrew MacDonald would be out for six weeks and then he showed up on the ice after two, so who knows?)
For now, the Flyers’ course of action appears to be to move Jordan Weal back into their lineup right into JVR’s place alongside Mikhail Vorobyev and Wayne Simmonds. Weal was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the season, but it appears he’ll get the first crack at trying to replace van Riemsdyk’s production in the top-9. After getting pumped up by the front office all summer as a potential option at third-line center, Weal will get his chance to stick back in the lineup on the wing.
If that doesn’t work out, it’s tough to guess where the Flyers would go from there. Dale Weise could move back into the lineup, either into the top-9 or on the fourth line while Scott Laughton or Michael Raffl would move up. There’s no clear-cut top-9 winger replacement currently on the Phantoms; Nicolas Aube-Kubel is probably the best bet among the players up in Lehigh Valley if the Flyers elected to try and plug in a JVR replacement, or they could recall Taylor Leier as a fourth-liner while moving up Laughton or Raffl.
Roster-wise, it wouldn’t be surprising — as Flyers website writer Bill Meltzer points out — to just see the team roll with 13 forwards and 7 defensemen for the time being, giving them the chance to kick the can down the road on a goaltending decision when Michal Neuvirth eventually gets healthy.
Whatever the decision, this is certainly a buzzkill for the Flyers, who are now essentially icing the same forward lineup as last season with the one exception of Mikhail Vorobyev being in for Valtteri Filppula. We’re about to get a good look at exactly how much of an improvement that change was, and how much other players in the lineup have improved or dropped off year-over-year.