Flyers might have found a couple keepers
With the Flyers about to shut it down, who survived the stress test?
We’ve focused a lot on the future.
Danny Briere wasn’t afraid of the “R word,” so we’ve wondered what he’s learned up to this point in his career, what his vision is, what modern rebuilds have looked like, along with a number of other fantastic posts that you should definitely continue to patronize.
But if a rebuild is starting in earnest this summer, what does that make this year?
I’m calling it a rescue. And if you’ve spent hours sprawled out on your couch on a Sunday afternoon watching overwhelmed bar owners being given the keys to success, you can probably already hear Jon Taffer screeching in disgust.
Think about it – a brazen and volatile outsider, let’s call him Jon, no, wait, John, steps in and makes some observations about what’s failing. He watches Kevin (Hayes) try to cook and realizes the kitchen (the defensive zone) hasn’t been cleaned in years! There’s mold (scoring chances) everywhere! He’s going to kill someone (Carter Hart)! He tells management all of its concepts were dumb (scratches basically every recent acquisition) and reiterates how much work needs to be done despite management’s insistence that it’s not that bad (five points from a playoff spot). Partender (CapFriendly) shows us how much money we’ve wasted.
Now that we’re past the portion of the show/season where we identified everything that sucks, where do we go? The stress test. The bar/team is put into positions where they’re overwhelmed and doomed for failure. In the same way failing bars have to deal with a rush of customers, this team’s young players are now tasked with top-of-the-lineup roles and expanded responsibilities. Despite five points in their last three games, the Flyers remain terrible. They’re still sixth from the bottom of the league standings. But there are some signs of hope that this rescue could be a success.
No player embodies the concept of a stress test more than Tippett, who played more than 27 minutes in a game against the Rangers this month because, well, who else is going to score? He has made the most of the opportunity, though. Tippett, 24, was the 10th pick of the 2017 draft and is having a breakout year in his first full season in the NHL. He has career bests with 21 goals and 39 points in 65 games, including four goals (on 42 shots!) and seven points over his last nine. Additionally, on the back of his offensive production, his play-driving metrics are strong relative to his teammates. This has come despite playing with an unproven center, Morgan Frost, and a guy Chuck Fletcher would tell you no team wants, James van Riemsdyk. He could be provide legitimate secondary scoring to a contender in a few years.
With Sean Couturier out this year and Kevin Hayes banished to wing, Cates made an unexpected move to center and flourished. Among forwards with more than 45 minutes played, he’s second in goals against per 60 at 1.75 and even garnered some Selke attention from the national media. He’s even up to 31 points with four over his past two games. If the Flyers ever get the kind of top-end talent that can take over games, Cates could become the two-way guy who frees them up for easier matchups by chewing up tough minutes, a la Anthony Cirelli for Tampa Bay.
While York didn’t break camp with the big club, he quickly acclimated himself after he was called up and was thrown into the deep end to be a life raft for Ivan Provorov. He’s continued to have success. York leads Flyers defensemen in expected-goal percentage (53.88) and is second in points per 60 minutes (0.86). Although plus-minus is a flawed stat, it’s impressive that he’s plus-four on a team that’s been outscored by 45 goals. He may not pop the way superstar defensemen do, but York looks like he can handle any situation admirably.
In less than a month the stress test/season ends. The bar/team will be rebuilt and will look a lot different. We won’t know if the rescue was a success for some time and it will depend on whether management makes the most of this opportunity. Regardless, we did learn there are members of the staff/team who could help turn this around.
This season forced the Flyers to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make a call for help, but before they unveiled a new concept/core, they learned they have a couple keepers along the way.