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2018-19 Player Review: Brian Elliott, perfectly average

The veteran netminder paved the way to Carter Hart, and now his watch has ended.

Ottawa Senators v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Brian Elliott was signed by former then-Flyers GM Ron Hextall to essentially be a stopgap for the Flyers until the Carter Hart era could begin.

Thanks to the rapid deterioration of Elliott’s body, and the continued lifelessness of Michal Neuvirth’s, the Flyers were essentially forced for the Hart era to begin sooner than expected and for that we accept the veteran goaltenders as sacrificial lambs.

Elliott, now 34, entered the 2018-19 season as the Flyers’ de-facto No. 1 netminder with Neuvirth on the injured list to begin the season, and then for most of the season after that with a myriad of maladies. The veteran, coming off of core muscle surgery and hip surgery, was forced into a heavy workload early on as former coach Dave Hakstol trotted the goalie out in 14 of the Flyers’ first 19 games with Neuvirth out and emergency waiver snag Calvin Pickard playing like, well Calvin Pickard.

Despite racking up the minutes, Elliott was his usual fine self in helping weather the Flyers’ early season sleepwalk to the tune of a .911 save percentage and a 6-7 record through mid-November. On the 15th of November against the Devils, Elliott would be forced to leave with a lower-body injury trying to go post-to-post on a Kyle Palmieri wraparound.

Elliott wouldn’t return to action with the Flyers until Mid-February in relief of Carter Hart, who was called up in December as the team raced through an NHL-record eight goaltenders. With the Flyers’ postseason hopes only a slight possibility, Elliott gave way to Hart and then Cam Talbot later in the season, playing just 12 more games. In those games he posted a .902 save percentage despite posting a .933 mark during a 3-0-1 run in late February and early March as the Flyers tried to surge towards the playoffs.

The former Senators, Avalanche, Blues, and Flames netminder will hit the free agent market after completing the two-year, $5.5 million deal he signed with the Flyers on July 1 of 2017. Despite a slew of injuries looming large over his Flyers tenure, there’s a chance that the 2011-12 William M. Jennings Trophy winner (fewest goals against) returns to platoon with Hart in 2019-20, depending on what happens with Talbot among other things.


By The Numbers

Elliott Basic Stats

GP SV% GAA Record
GP SV% GAA Record
26 0.907 2.96 11 - 11 - 1
Data via HockeyReference

Though not the largest sample size of all-time, Elliott was just fine for the Flyers between the pipes this season —with the big caveat being him actually being in the crease. The injury robbed Elliott of what could have been another strong season playing in a timeshare for the Flyers, much like his 2017-18 season in which he posed a .909 save percentage and a respectable 2.66 goals-against average.

Elliott’s season was really a tale of two parts: First of which was pre-injury and second was post-injury.

Before suffering the groin injury against the Devils Elliott was everything the Flyers expected; nothing more, nothing less. He posted save percentages around league average, but helped the Flyers stay in games by rarely imploding like other goaltenders who suited up for the club during the season (looking at you, Neuvirth, Alex Lyon, Mike McKenna, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz). The team in front of Elliott was badly in need of at the very least a coaching change, and of course bad luck Brian saw the brunt of things before the axing of Hakstol.

When he returned from the injured list things were very different for the Flyers, and it showed in a few ways. For one, the Flyers were riding (mostly) a hot rookie goaltender possibly towards a late playoff charge but also letting the kid get his feet wet at the NHL level with a postseason berth being a cherry on top. The coaching staff got a shakeup and benefitted greatly from the presence of assistant coach Rick Wilson, who helped iron out some glaring issues on the the Flyers’ blue line in front of the goaltenders.

Elliott didn’t play as much, and the acquisition of Cam Talbot (who barely played either), further ate into the veteran’s minutes down the stretch as the Flyers’ playoffs hopes eventually faded. The sporadic game action didn’t do Elliott many favors as he tried to get up to speed after missing more than three months and a late season clunker at Toronto (seven goals on 51 shots) didn’t help his numbers much as he posted that .902 save percentage from February on.

When healthy, Elliott provided the Flyers with average NHL goaltending, something he brought since Day one and we pretty much expected all along. If injuries didn’t prop up for the veteran again this season there’s a chance that the Flyers don’t fall so far out of the playoff picture and we don’t even see Carter Hart in a Flyers jersey. That’s pretty insane to think about, but it also goes to show you just how bad the other goalies were that the Flyers trotted out this past season save for Hart and Elliott.

If this is it for Elliott in Philadelphia —and it very well could be— he provided the Flyers with everything that Hextall thought he was getting, and everything that we pretty much expected in his time here. We just wish he would have stayed healthier, so we wouldn’t have had to deal with the Calvin “Cal” Pickard experience. Or the Mike McKenna experience, or the Alex Lyon ex— you get the point.


Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for the season?

I’d say that he did, in terms of both on-ice play and durability. We came into the season expecting Elliott to be the guy mainly, and we also knew that meant that it could possibly bring in his recent injury issues to play as well. And well guess what, he hit on both: providing average NHL goaltending (average NHL save percentage was .905, he was .907) and missing a ton of games due to injury.

What do we expect from this player next season?

If current GM Chuck Fletcher is still keen on inking Talbot to be Hart’s backup/platoon mate, which always seemed like the plan, then nothing. But say the market for Talbot is more robust than Fletcher is thinking, perhaps the Flyers could bring back Elliott on a one-year deal since he’s familiar and wouldn’t be expected to play more than say 35 games in a perfect world.

The concerns with that plan is that Elliott is already showing major durablity issues in the past two seasons and Fletcher is in the business of making the Flyers better and fast. Say he improves the roster a ton this offseason (Kevin Hayes, hello), will he really leave the Flyers’ crease situation to a 21-year-old with all of 31 NHL games and a 34-year-old coming off an injury plagued season? Yeah, me either.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

At this stage of his career Elliott doesn’t really have much to improve upon as he’s a finished product, but perhaps some yoga could help keep his core muscles intact and take his flexibility to peak levels for his age.

Statistics courtesy of Hockeyreference.com

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