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Three important questions for the Flyers as Training Camp opens with Phase 3

Training Camp is here, but with it comes plenty of questions.

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Phase 3 is here!

The Philadelphia Flyers have had some of their players on the ice in recent weeks during Phase 2, but now things really get underway with Training Camp in Phase 3.

The Flyers have less than three weeks until their first round-robin game is scheduled. They must use that time wisely, and most importantly stay safe and healthy to get through this.

Here are three important questions as Training Camp opens with Phase 3:

Can the Flyers stay hot heading into the playoffs?

The Flyers were the hottest team in the league prior to the NHL being suspended on March 12th. Their second-half surge catapulted them all the way to the top of the Metropolitan Division – even if they were only in first place for a few fleeing moments. They solidified themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with a 19-6-1 record since January 8th, including a 14-4-0 record in February and March.

In early March, the Flyers were one of the teams to watch out for in the East. They had won nine games in a row (and 10 of 11 and 12 of 14) prior to a 2-0 loss to the Bruins in their final game of the regular season on March 10th. They took down everyone in their path to move out of the Wild Card race and into the race at the top of the Metro.

The Flyers were slated to go through a pretty tough stretch in the middle of March that was cancelled due to the suspension. From a pure hockey perspective, while acknowledging the heaviness of the global pandemic, they avoided a possible bump in the road on the way to the playoffs. Rather than potentially hitting a rut in March or April, the season was cancelled and the Flyers now head into the playoffs without going through those possible trials and tribulations that a rough stretch brings to a team.

The team proved that they were able to bounce back from losses during their winning streak as they did not lose back-to-back games after their four-game losing streak from December 31st to January 7th. However, they never really dealt with the adversity of losing multiple games in a row. They were able to respond earlier in the season to losing streaks, but the late-season roster only knew success. How will they respond to being off for four months? And how will they respond if they lose a few games in a row?

How will Alain Vigneault handle this unusual Training Camp?

Everyone knows what NHL Training Camp is typically for: getting into game shape, whittling down the roster, and positional battles. Players are learning new systems, creating chemistry under a new coach or with new players, and gearing up for a full 82-game slate (and hopefully more). But not this time around.

Players may need to get back into shape, depending on how much they were able to work out during quarantine over the last four months. While players like Ivan Provorov only used that time to work out, other players may not have had access to a hockey rink or professional gym equipment. Hopefully they all did, or made use of Phase 2 to do that, but it’s still a question mark.

This will be an unusual Training Camp for all teams around the NHL. The Flyers used their Training Camp last September to do all of those things mentioned above under a new coach. Now, with 69 regular-season games – including a torrid pace for a large portion of them – under their belt with that new coach, new system, and new teammates, they’re gearing up for the playoffs.

Now, they know Vigneault’s system and have perfected it to the tune of a nine-game winning streak and 12-2-0 stretch late in the season. Everything was clicking for them, and then it unexpectedly came to a halt. It’s unknown territory.

Vigneault likely knows what he wants most of his lineup to look like, but there are still sections that are in pencil, not ink. The Flyers have plenty of depth, and with everyone recovered from their injuries (namely James van Riemsdyk and Philippe Myers, but also Nate Thompson), there are more than 12 forwards and six defensemen that deserve a spot in the lineup.

What happens if there is an outbreak; will the playoffs actually happen?

We’re stepping away from the rink for this one and taking a broader look at things.

With everything going on with COVID-19 and several states seeing an increase in cases, I still have an eerie, sinking feeling that this will all end up not happening.

The NBA is trying to resume in a bubble in Orlando, and they’re already seeing some hiccups. The MLS returned recently, also in Orlando, but a game was cancelled on Sunday after COVID-19 test concerns. MLB is in the process of returning with Summer Camps at each team’s stadium, and there have been players and coaches testing positive for COVID-19.

Several NHL players have already opted out of Return to Play, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see more. Players should be prioritizing the health of themselves and their loved ones.

Max Domi is a great example of that. He’s probably the biggest name thus far to consider opting out. Domi has Type 1 diabetes and he will take 7-to-10 days before deciding if he will partake in Phase 3.

The NHL has acknowledged that one positive case won’t shut things down, and there is no set number (at least publicly). Bill Daly said that “there are no hard and fast numbers” that would shut down the postseason, and that “one positive test” should not shut things down. However, if there is an “outbreak situation,” the league would ask medical experts for guidance.

With Training Camps being held in 24 different cities, including some cities that are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases, there’s a larger chance that at least one team sees some sort of outbreak during Phase 3. However, if Phase 3 progresses smoothly, having the bubbles in Canada, where there are less cases, may lower the risk. But there will still be the risk of one player or coach getting infected and causing an outbreak.

At some point we have to ask ourselves “is this worth it?” Yes, we all want hockey back and it’s exciting to think about the playoffs in a few weeks and five or six games a day to watch, but will it happen? Should it happen?

It’s a fine line that the NHL is walking.

With that said, let’s get back to hockey to close things out.

Assuming that everything goes well for the NHL and the Flyers, there are just a few weeks until the playoffs begin. The Flyers will need to use this time to get back up to the level that they were at in February. If they can do that we might just see some Flyers playoff hockey in September.

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