Flyers Mailbag: Playoffs (and other things) edition

Some chit chat on a Wednesday

It’s game day, everybody! Hopefully all goes well tonight, or at least better than it did on Sunday *shudders*.

But, anyway, you sent us some questions! And I answered them! We said “let’s chat” so let’s get right into it.

This seems to be the buzz topic since the news out of practice dropped yesterday, so we may as well hit on that first. Obviously the best case scenario means us not having to find an answer to this question in the first place, so we’re going to put all of our energy into willing that into existence.

I didn’t make it to practice yesterday, but per Dave Isaac, after Couturier left the ice, Patrick moved up in his stead. Does this absolutely mean this is what they’d do for the game? Not necessarily. But if you think about all the time and energy they’ve spent retraining Giroux as a winger this season, and combine it with the fact that Patrick’s done well enough in matching up against Malkin, it seems the most reasonable course of action to move him up. Does that still make you a little nervous? Sure. A rookie in his first playoff series put out against Sidney Crosby? Not ideal, no matter how well he’s been playing of late (which, to be fair, is very well!). But it still seems the best course of action.

All that said: Sean, buddy, please be okay.

Oh man, you could do a whole deep dive article on this question. This may seem like a bit of a cop out, but I do think it’s a bit of both.

Does Hakstol need to make sure they’re prepared to play? And find a way to kill the penalty-taking streak? And put some energy back into them when they’ve fallen behind and are dragging? And could he have put together some lines that are more conducive to success against Pittsburgh? (Okay wow that’s actually a lot of things) But absolutely. Some of their biggest hindrances in those loses were preparation and discipline, and those two fall pretty heavily on the coach.

That said, the players also need to step up. You hate to play this game, but if they had just closed on one or two of the chances they generated in the first periods of Games 1 and 3, things could have gone very differently for them. They need more from their top players, but they really need more from just about everybody.

It’s super weird, right? It’s hard to say, of course, without being inside Hakstol’s brain, but it definitely does feel like he’s doing everything he can to keep from putting Travis Konecny back on that top line. And it could really be any number of things, but if I had to guess, it would come down to defensive responsibility and size.

We’ve seen Konecny be stapled to the bench late in games when the Flyers are trying to protect a lead, and Hakstol’s pretty clearly suggested with that move that he thinks of Konecny as something of a defensive liability. Maybe he doesn’t trust him to match up defensively against Pittsburgh’s top line. And to the size thing, Hakstol talked in his presser after either the Hurricanes or Rangers game about liking the look of the top line with Michael Raffl on it, the heaviness he adds. Hakstol loves his gritty, beefy boys, and Konecny doesn’t quite fit that mold.

As for Hornqvist being out, I don’t want to get too excited and risk jinxing something, but it feels like a pretty big deal. Hornqvist has been a pretty big producer for them—a goal and an assist on the series, along with a pretty stellar 60.31 CF% at 5-on-5—so they’ll figure to be missing those contributions. It also means that they’ve had to shuffle their probable lines, putting Kessel on the second line, Rust bumped down to the third, and some guy named Dominik Simon on the top line (he was healthy scratched in the first three games). And I’ll just leave that one there.

And, of course, the downside is that the Flyers will have to draw their embellishment penalties from elsewhere. Oh well.

The question of handedness and balance is a good one, and while I suspect I’m not as stringent about this balance as, say, a Mike Babcock, there’s still something to be said for it. You’re right, the Flyers could probably use another good right handed defenseman, and I think I have one in mind, and he’s pretty close by! (More on him very soon!)

What a segue! It’s like you guys coordinated these questions with each other! Wow!

Admittedly, I haven’t gotten to see as much of the Phantoms this season as I would have liked to, but taking the bit I have seen and mixing it in with my memory of training camp/pre-season, and what I’ve seen from Brad’s tracked numbers (hi, Brad!), there are a handful of Phantoms that I could definitely see cracking the Flyers’ roster next season.

The Flyers, assuming they don’t resign Valtteri Filppula (I have a suspicion that there’s going to be a lot of this here, “assuming they don’t do [such and such] thing,” apologies in advance), figure to have a 3C vacancy to fill for next season. And there’s been some talk that Morgan Frost could come in and just have an unreal camp and make the jump right up from Juniors (which he could!), I’ve been more or less penciling Mikhail Vorobyev into that spot in my mind for a while. He’s not a super high volume scorer, but he does a lot of very nice setup work for the pretty scoring chances, and, per Brad’s numbers, it sure seems like no matter who they’ve put on his wings, he’s found a way to make sure they’re outshooting the opposition while he’s on the ice. He’s at a 55.67 CF% on the season, which is second among Phantoms, behind just Travis Sanheim. Which seems pretty good. I’m into it.

The defense is also kind of an interesting case. Assuming they don’t resign Manning, that leaves one open spot for one of Samuel Morin or Philippe Myers (that RHD we just alluded to!) to jump in (this could be doubled to two spots if they decide to try to move one of MacDonald or Gudas in the offseason, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves). For me, I’m a lot higher on Myers, but I think Morin would be more of a lock to make the team out of camp. I think Myers’s upside is a lot higher (in my mind, he’s a more defensively responsible  Sanheim) but I also think the fact that Morin’s no longer waiver exempt will help his case a fair bit (see also: Taylor Leier). To be clear, I don’t dislike Morin, but he’s more of a question mark for me, than anything else—he was fine in pre-season, he was fine in his couple of games with the Flyers, but he’s also only played 15 games with the Phantoms so far this season. So I’m going to hold off a little longer on making a full judgement on him.

And, of course, there’s the ever-tumultuous goalie situation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flyers trade Michal Neuvirth in the offseason, and if that happens, Alex Lyon could move up to back up Elliott. I don’t know that for sure that this is something that would happen, but they seemed to have soured on Neuvirth pretty quickly, and Lyon, who’s been up already and done pretty well, seems the most logical choice for promotion. So we’ll see.

I don’t see him getting traded, honestly. Considering he put up some pretty good numbers in St. Louis, and he was still basically a throw-in with the two first round picks in exchange for Brayden Schenn, and his numbers are much less good this season, I can’t imagine his trade value is terribly high right now. That said, that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily stuck with him for another season, until his contract’s up—the Flyers figure to have a bit of wiggle room with their cap, and it wouldn’t kill them if they opted to just buy him out.

Good question! You’ve got to figure it would take a lot for him to make his way back into lineup regular status seeing as he’s spent so much time in the press box, and what with so many prospects (who the team would still seem more deeply invested in) knocking on the door, looking for roster spots. I could see them maybe trying to trade him, give him a shot on another team that might think he could offer something to them in the way of depth. Or they Matt Read him, and bury him in the AHL for a chunk of the season. Or maybe nothing changes—maybe they keep him with the team and park him in the press box until they find themselves decimated by injuries or something. But, yeah, it definitely seems like the team’s moved on from him, mentally, at least.

Thanks to everybody who submitted questions (and sorry if I couldn’t get to yours)! This was fun, let’s do it again soon! Go, the Flyers!