Not much has gone right for the Philadelphia Flyers this season — or since before the season even started.
In June, long before the start of the regular season, Joel Farabee suffered a neck injury during offseason workouts that required disc replacement surgery. Only two other players in NHL history — Jack Eichel and Tyler Johnson — are known to have undergone disc replacement surgery.
In September, Sean Couturier, whose 2021-22 season was cut short due to back surgery, reaggravated his back during off-ice training. Weeks later, Couturier ended up getting back surgery for the second time in less than a year. He has yet to make his season debut.
And, of course, there are the season-ending injuries to Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson. Ellis is still recovering from an injury to “the complex of the whole pelvic region” that held him to just four games in 2021-22 while Atkinson underwent neck surgery in December.
Now, the Flyers are 16-18-7, endured a 10-game losing streak and sit seven points behind the New York Islanders for sixth place in the Metropolitan Division.
But, against all odds, not everything has been bad for the Flyers this season. In fact, one thing has been quite good. Very good, actually.
Konecny has been a cornerstone on the Flyers roster for some time now. Selected No. 24 overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, it only took him one additional year in the OHL before cementing himself as a bona fide NHLer. Going into this season, the London, Ontario native already had a solid track record in six seasons with the Flyers — three 24-goal campaigns, a 61-point breakout campaign in 2019-20 and an All-Star nod.
But none of that compares to what Konecny’s done this season.
Now 25 years old, Konecny is playing the best hockey of his life, and he’s on pace to set career highs in goals, assists and points. Konecny is currently riding a nine-game point streak. Seven of those performances were multi-point outings. Since December 20, not a single player in the NHL — not Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak or even Connor McDavid — have logged as many points as Konecny.
But Konecny isn’t just making an impact offensively. For the first time in his career, he’s being used heavily in shorthanded situations — a role he was never trusted to take on under Alain Vigneault or Dave Hakstol. But this season, new Flyers head coach John Tortorella gave Konecny an opportunity on the penalty kill, and he’s running with it.
“I really enjoy the PK,” said Konecny prior to his three-point performance against the Arizona Coyotes. “I feel like in certain ways if I’m not necessarily in at 5-on-5 or my legs may not feel like they’re there in a game, I feel like the PK gets me more involved and it’s an opportunity to maybe get my feet going or maybe get a block or feel like you’re kind of in the game, part of the game. I feel like it just keeps me more involved and I really enjoy it so far.”
Konecny has been on the ice for five of the Flyers’ league-leading seven shorthanded markers this season, and he was the goal-scorer for two of them.
Konecny still isn’t a perfect player, and it’s no secret that he makes his bench boss want to scream at times. But Tortorella, who at one time benched Konecny during the third period of the Flyers’ October 23 game against the San Jose Sharks, has grown to appreciate what he has in the feisty winger. And at this point, Konecny has earned himself a longer leash than many of his teammates have.
“I trust him. I’m always looking for him,” said Tortorella on the night Konecny scored his first-ever shorthanded tally. “He does some crazy stuff at times. We need to work on situational play with him. He’s just a reaction type player. You’ve got to be really careful how you coach him, because I need to let him go. Teach him a couple things along the way, but I need to let him go because that’s when he’s at his best.”
Travis Konecny is still Travis Konecny. He still gets involved in scrums after the whistle and takes unnecessary penalties at times, but his vigor is what makes him such a special player for a Flyers team that sorely needs more ultra-competitive figures in the lineup.
“He’s a bundle of energy, and I love that about him,” said Tortorella. “With a bundle of energy, there’s going to be some crazy stuff that happens. I don’t want to overcoach him, but when we get to being a team that is competing in big games, playoffs and all that, when we get there as a team, hopefully at that time he’ll lead the way as far as situational play. He’s still a pretty young man in this game. I’m hoping he leads the way as far as understanding some of those things when you’re in those key type of situations.”
The only downside to Konecny’s exceptional campaign is its timing. The Flyers are still the 25th-ranked team in the NHL, and their odds of earning a playoff spot are miniscule. One could argue Konecny would be better off playing for a contending team while he’s at the height of his career, and as was reported earlier this week, the Flyers are going to “consider everything” as they shift toward embarking on a potential rebuild. Given the right return, perhaps Konecny could be shipped to a team with championship aspirations in the not-too-distant future.
But for right now, Konecny is a Flyer, and he’s probably the best, most quintessential Flyer on the entire roster.