In some sort of cruel twist of fate, after getting a slew of bad news relating to the Philadelphia Flyers, it turns out that their training camp will be starting this Wednesday and their preseason will start Saturday. Are we ready to watch this team again after a summer of acquiring some mediocre players and missing out on the obvious homecoming? Personally, I need a weekend retreat in the woods before I start watching the Flyers again, but that isn’t going to happen so we might as well think about training camp.
The roster has changed ever so slightly from the end of last season, but even when it comes to long-time Flyers, there are plenty of unanswered questions heading into the preseason that we hopefully will get more of an answer for in the coming weeks. There are five that come immediately to mind though.
How much opportunity will the try-outs get?
Earlier this week, the Flyers announced that they will be bringing in rugged veteran forward Antoine Roussel and former scoring center who just so happened to play for John Tortorella on the New York Rangers, Artem Anisimov, on some professional try-outs. While we have already assumed what the lineup is going to look like, these two new faces kind of put a little doubt into that.
It is common enough for players to come in on try-outs and just get kicked to the curb after having a decent training camp, but this is the Flyers, and it involves a former top-six center that played for the new coach. One has to think that they will both get a decent look through all of camp and might play prominent roles in the first few preseason games. But if we see some certain line combinations — like Anisimov playing with some cemented forwards like a Owen Tippett or something — deep into the preseason, then we can basically guarantee he’s going to get a deal out of it.
So we’ll just have to wait and see.
Where does Cam York fit?
While the forward lines are a little bit muddled and we could see some surprises at the start of the regular season, the blue line is a little bit more clear. Ivan Provorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Travis Sanheim, and Tony DeAngelo, will most likely be the top four blueliners to start the season. But could we see a surprise if one of the best young Flyers drops some jaws in the next couple of weeks?
Cam York is just a joy to watch and throughout his time in Philadelphia last season, he certainly surprised some folks by how stable he looked at times. Maybe it was more out of necessity but through the last two dozen or so games, York averaged around 20 minutes per game. That should not decrease just because the Flyers added one guy. As with any young NHLer during training camp, he will probably be put through the ringer and could see top-line action for the preseason. If he sticks around there in the last few exhibition games, then maybe Tortorella really wants to feature him even more.
Does Tortorella let the kids play while he can?
Speaking of the new coach, aside from York there is plenty of young talent on this team that should be pushed into a larger role when the games don’t matter. Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster, Noah Cates, Elliot Desnoyers, Olle Lycksell, Zayde Wisdom, Ronnie Attard, Egor Zamula — you get the idea. That’s a handful of names that we hope can see some prominent ice-time when the lineup hasn’t been decided and before any massive cuts are made.
Some will play more than others, and in the moment, we will assume that that means they are more likely to make the team or that Tortorella wants to give that player a test. But other than that, all we really hope for is to see some of the prospects play big minutes — and maybe with some full-time regulars — before they are eventually sent down because Nic Deslauriers will be on the fourth line or something.
How will the crease be handled?
The tandem has pretty much been already set, with Carter Hart the starter and Felix Sandstrom his backup. But how much we see Sandstrom play in the next few weeks might spell out how Tortorella will handle the crease in the first couple of months of the season. If the young Swede is given plenty of opportunity to really test himself — especially later in the preseason against NHL talent — then maybe it can be a more even split of starts than we originally thought. Or it means Hart is injured and we’re screwed even more. Fun!
Can the top defensemen not look terrible?
During the grueling time that was last season in Philadelphia, there wasn’t a game where some defenseman looked absolutely brutal. Maybe it is my distain for Keith Yandle being maybe the worst blueliner I have ever seen clouding up my memory, but there was a lot to be desired from the defensemen that were handed the most minutes. And again, it could just be the entire team being shelled most nights that is making every blueliner look bad, but I just hope to see some glimpse of good coming from the top-four, even if it is the older guys and not some young hotshot.
Hopefully, we get a little closer to the answers to these questions in the next few weeks and not just left wondering what this team even is when the real puck drops.