Will the Flyers offseason just come to an end already? C’mon, the proud orange-clad fans want something to cheer about. In over a month, we will find out if Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers have made the right moves to help progress this team into contention.
With the roster overhaul that has ensued this offseason, there is still one glaring hole missing from the Flyers roster, toughness and grit. It just adds another level of energy and the skilled players will not get pushed around or off the puck as often. After the Flyers moved on from Wayne Simmonds, and now Ryan Hartman, the Flyers are lacking that energy guy that can stick up for skilled players such as, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, and Travis Konecny. The Flyers could ill afford to lose one of these players for a five-minute fighting major.
Currently, Tyler Pitlick stands as the lone guy that can be physical, however, his game has been inconsistent due to injuries. A wrist injury kept him out eight weeks last year, and an upper-body injury also kept him sidelined for a few weeks). In addition, Pitlick only managed to register six Penalty Minutes in 47 games played last season. All in all, the Flyers cannot rely on Pitlick alone for this type of service.
Toughness and grit will add another dimension to the Flyers offense. It can provide energy. Lay a big hit and see if that doesn’t provide energy for a club. For example, look at Tom Wilson and the Washington Capitals. Wilson lays a big hit, and a player like Devante Smith-Pelly then takes the puck and pots a goal. The world saw this happen in Game 5 of the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights. If the Flyers want to take the next step this season, they cannot wait for NAK or Kurtis Gabriel to get called up to the big club due to injury. The time is now to either add a player for toughness and grit or use the current crop of players they have on their roster.
Yes, the Flyers will be against the cap by the time Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov re-sign their new contracts. However, the Flyers could use NAK or Samuel Morin for a level of toughness and grit. They should both stay up with the big club, as they could really use their services. NAK is no stranger to laying a big hit. He obtained multiple suspensions in March and May of 2018. NAK can pot a big goal, as he registered 16 goals in 54 games last season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Moreover, Morin would also make players fear to come into Carter Hart’s crease, with “Big Sam” standing in the way. Morin could also drop the mitts with the best of them, as well, while sticking up for his netminder, or Giroux for that matter.
As it stands right now Morin is the seventh defensemen, and NAK is the 13th or 14th forward. If both of these young men have a good training camp and preseason, then one or both should figure into the lineup somehow. The Flyers desperately need toughness and grit, and both of these players can provide that. This will also hopefully help make the Flyers a consistent hockey team in the long run.
Make no mistake about it, the Flyers are on the right path for long-term success with how deep their farm system is. This is thanks in large part to the job that General Manager Ron Hextall did in prior years. Let’s hope Fletcher understands this area of concern within the Flyers lineup, and hopefully, he can plug this hole in training camp. This can provide immediate relief into this glaring hole of the Flyers lineup, and possibly make them a dangerous hockey team to play against once again. One thing is certain this is a great time to be a Flyer fan.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jamey Baskow, 34, Flyers Guru, Sports Enthuiast
Follow me on Twitter@JameyBaskow