Imagine, for a moment: what if we took this Flyers team that has won five games in a row, tore through the month of February to the point where it’s a legitimate threat to win its division, and made that team better? Well, that might be what’s happening here.
From the Flyers, this fine Saturday evening:
Joel Farabee, the Flyers’ 2018 first-round pick, was sent down to the AHL this past Monday, moments before the trade deadline. It was a move that initially looked like a “paper transaction” that would allow the team to maintain some roster flexibility down the stretch, but was quickly revealed by GM Chuck Fletcher to be a move that would actually keep him down in Lehigh Valley for a bit:
Fletcher on Farabee going to Lehigh Valley (2/2): "He’s only 19. He’s been a big part of our team but he’s going to be an even bigger part of our future…I have no doubt he’ll be back with us and help us.”— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 24, 2020
But, as mentioned there by Fletcher, it seemed likely at the time that Farabee would be back up at some point. Granted, this seems sooner than most probably would have anticipated — Farabee played in one game with the Phantoms, just this past Friday night, before being called back up today.
The timing is curious, for a couple of reasons. If the Flyers were hoping that Farabee’s trip to Lehigh Valley was going to be some kind of a learning experience, calling him back up after one game does not seem particularly fulfilling in that sense. Additionally, it’s not like the Flyers have been struggling without him — they rolled in each of their two games this past week, both wins over the Sharks and Rangers — and when the lineup is working like it is top-to-bottom, the team usually doesn’t make changes like this.
Knowing that, it would seem that if this is a permanent recall, it’s an upside play. Even with how well they played without him, and with new acquisitions Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, the Flyers probably know that the highest-ceiling version of this team includes Farabee. With the leeway that they’ve earned for themselves in the standings, they can try and break him back in.
If that’s the case, then. That said, it’s worth noting that Grant was not on the ice at practice today, even though Alain Vigneault said at the time that he expected him to play tomorrow:
AV said maintenance day for both Derek Grant and Travis Sanheim. Expectation is that both will play tomorrow afternoon.— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) February 29, 2020
Carter Hart gets the nod at noon tomorrow.
The lines tomorrow will be the same as last night, per AV. JvR and Laughton switched because of jersey color today (different because of special teams roles).— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) February 29, 2020
Meaning, this could very well just be the Flyers needing an injury reinforcement for tomorrow when they travel. Heck, maybe they just are bringing him along to be safe and he won’t even play before being sent back to Lehigh Valley on Monday. Hopefully that’s not the case — as mentioned, the best version of this team given its current options has Farabee on it — but we’ll find out within the next couple of days.
Until then, welcome back to Philadelphia’s favorite sports-playing Joel. [Do not fact-check this statement.]