The Philadelphia Flyers are not starting their season with the best footing. After a summer full of transition and the result being the most shaken-up roster amidst the 32 NHL squads, they announced on Tuesday that they will be dropping the puck on Oct. 15 against the Vancouver Canucks without center Kevin Hayes, as well as depth blueliner Sam Morin, and roster hopeful Wade Allison.
All three of them will be away from the lineup for a significant amount of time – Allison being labelled as “out indefinitely – but the Flyers are purely hoping that the roster that GM Chuck Fletcher spent so much time on during the last few months tinkering with, can be able to withstand a couple of absences.
That is still a question heading into training camp, but there are some players that will be launched into new roles by trebuchet – hopefully they don’t splat against the Wells Fargo Center as some warm pink goo.
So who exactly can fill those holes? (hehe)
Easily the hardest to replace out of the wounded trio, Hayes was destined to be a middle-six center for the foreseeable future and is essentially the anchor of the Flyers’ offensive depth; a crucial part of their game plan to start the season not hurdling down the standings. While any team losing an important centerman would cause some fans to throw themselves down their home staircase, the Flyers at least have some internal options to ease the pain.
As always, Philadelphia might be leaning on Claude Giroux to get them out of this jam. He has succeeded as Sean Couturier’s winger for some seasons now, but the quasi former centerman might need to go back into position to keep head coach Alain Vigneault’s idea of endless waves of offense alive. It is just a tough calculation whether or not they should stick to what they know works so damn well in the Giroux-Couturier partnership, or stray from that idea and pray that they are still able to get enough help on the wings to keep this team competitive. If it ends up being the former, then a young prospect might need to be the solution.
Morgan Frost was supposed to be involved last season but an injury that allowed him only two professional hockey games (one against the Buffalo Sabres as well, ew gross) during the 2020-21 season. He has looked great in rookie camp and we will see how he impresses more during the Big Boy Camp, but with some coaching staff singing his praises already, he might just be given the keys to this jet engine and try to get some real NHL minutes for the first time in his short career. If everything goes well, then maybe Hayes will start on the third line when he comes back, who knows?
Of course there is always the gross, disgusting, smelly safe play of having an established veteran that I don’t think holds any expectation from any fan across the globe, to play more minutes than initially thought. It happened last year with Justin Braun taking over for Matt Niskanen, and now it might just be Derick Brassard ending up as the Flyers’ second-line center while Hayes deals with his problem. He certainly wasn’t signed to a one-year deal late into the summer to end up being the second option down the middle, but he’s been there before and is a somewhat capable NHL option. So if Vigneault is truly against running the risk of separating his two best forwards, or putting a young player in that spot, then Brassard might just find himself getting a lot of ice. Oh my God, are we going to see Derick Brassard on the power play???
Replacing a seventh defenseman is a pretty thankless task. You just need to throw a couple of key characteristics together and wham, you got yourself a physical blueliner that will be sitting in the press box unless a team really pisses off a coach and he wants some brains bashed around. Morin was the feel-good story in a Flyers season where nothing felt good and now he begins his campaign out with an injury.
Morin’s replacement can’t be too young, but can’t be too offensively-driven, so there’s really only one option to call-up: Nick Seeler. Just an older guy that was supposed to be in the AHL and he’ll be living the life in the NHL press box if that’s what management wants.
One other hypothetical transaction could be prospect Cam York making the team (like he damn should) and then everyone kind of shifts down, leaving Keith Yandle to be the sixth and Justin Braun as the seventh defenseman. This would cause more moving pieces as I’m sure Braun would tag-in for some appearances, but it just depends on who he’s tagging out – the young prospect or the well-seasoned veteran that literally has a streak for how many damn games he’s playing consecutively.
Allison is becoming a cult hero in Philadelphia and him getting injured in a dumb, meaningless prospect showcase game is kind of irritating but so is everything.
He is still technically on the Phantoms roster prior to training camp, but the way that he brought an intense amount of physicality and scoring punch to the bottom half of the lineup last season left me salivating. Now with him not being able to make his mark and bring that “fuck you” energy to the Flyers’ first half of the season, there are just a couple replacement options. It all depends on if he was meant to be in Philadelphia or Lehigh Valley.
Without Allison in the mix for the Flyers, this just means that more ice will be given and guaranteed to the other depth options. Whether it’s Oskar Lindblom, Nicolas (sp) Aube-Kubel or even the aforementioned Brassard (if he’s in his right place in the bottom-six), these guys will be leaned on more to give a physical edge to this team and that is a significant responsibility.
It also gives more to the Phantoms as well. Without Allison – if he was going to stay in the AHL – then more depth prospects like Isaac Ratcliffe and Linus Sandin will be given bigger roles in that lineup and can potentially develop more offensively while Wade isn’t depended on to be that top-line winger.
The one major question mark and point of intrigue for me personally is if Tyson Foerster sticks to the Phantoms – even though he’s 19 years old, since he played more than 20 AHL games last season, he can make the decision to stay in that league or go back to the OHL – then the teenaged wonderkid goalscorer can be given a very long leash to just shoot all the damn pucks he wants on the top line. I don’t want to say that Allison’s injury is helpful for the Flyers future players, but it does provide a hole that is in desperate need of filling.
Even when it comes to older guys getting a second shot, maybe Brassard will impress everyone and embark on a second wind of his already lengthy career. It’s more opportunity for players to take hold of their season and make it what they want it to be, and not be simply stuck as a depth option because better players are still there.
One thing is for certain: the Flyers season is already interesting and it’s not even the preseason.