During pandemic hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers need to experiment with their lineup to find optimization. Zayde Wisdom could help.
Pandemic hockey has sliced the Philadelphia Flyers thin. Any team without five of their top-nine forwards will struggle. First, the New York Rangers earned a shootout victory. Yesterday, the Boston Bruins put up a touchdown.
Tinkering with the lineup allows the front office to see what players are nearing ready for the NHL. In the current state of hockey, usual processes are out of the window. Usually, a prospect takes his time in the AHL to further develop his game before being recalled to the NHL. Typically, the NHL doesn’t feature a taxi-squad. Perhaps, though, the Flyers should take a look at a player from the 2020 draft class.
Zayde Wisdom has been electric during his first handful of games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In four games, he tallied five points (4G, 1A) and a plus-three rating. The sample size is small, but Philadelphia could be wise to capture lightning in a bottle with players listed in COVID protocol.
Vigneault Would Welcome His Style
Drastic personnel changes have become a theme for the Flyers. Alain Vigneault has asked for physical play to take precedence. Dating back to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Vigneault expressed his disdain regarding a lack of physicality. It is the reason why Samuel Morin made a position change to the left-wing.
Morin took on a role akin to the New York Islanders’ Matt Martin. In Lake Tahoe, Mark Friedman became the second defenseman to relocate to the wing. Ideally, Friedman would have had a hand in winning more neutral zone puck battles. Unfortunately, the defensemen shifting to forwards acted as a focal point for the Bruins gameplan.
Wisdom is a natural forward. His style of play includes a focus on the forecheck to create offense. Through four games in the AHL, he’s exhibited a knack to score goals. Including Wisdom on the fourth-line with Morin means that the bottom-six remains physical while increasing scoring potential.
Philadelphia is wildly shorthanded. While the brunt of their roster remains in COVID protocol, Chuck Fletcher needs to think quickly. The object of any lineup should include optimization.
Where Does Wisdom Fit on the Flyers?
He fits perfectly as a fourth-line center. Andy Andreoff would be the odd-man-out. The entire fourth-line needs a facelift. Curious decisions versus Boston did not pay off for Vigneault. Before a rematch against the Rangers, correcting those decisions could allow the Flyers to see where they stand.
Bruce Cassidy realized how often he could take advantage of Philadelphia’s fourth-line. Facing two defensemen conversions and an AHL journeyman center, the Bruins designed a line change attack. In theory, Friedman playing right-wing could have paid off defensively. In reality, the fourth-line as a whole stunk.
Updating the fourth-line is easy. Morin should maintain his role. David Kase would have been the correct decision in place of Friedman on the right-wing. He is a player who has the flexibility to play all forward positions. Already, featuring Wisdom at the center, this improved line could have helped the Flyers.
Does Wisdom Provide Longevity?
Of course, he does. It would be short-sighted to not plan for players missing time in COVID protocol. The players out for Philadelphia could return relatively soon from quarantine. They’ll likely miss Wednesday’s battle versus the Rangers, however. Earning a win would help the Flyers climb out of a three-way tie for third place in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division standings.
Employing Wisdom to the fourth-line for Wednesday means Philadelphia gives themselves a better opportunity to win. Giving Wisdom a chance means the Flyers know, first hand, what he can do at the NHL level. If he does the small things the right way, he could recycle to the taxi-squad. Philadelphia has everything to gain in a time where they need to play with their lineup.
Furthermore, Wisdom would not be eligible for the NHL Expansion Draft. Depending on who the Seattle Kraken draft, having Wisdom as an ace-in-the-hole becomes a strategy for 2021-2022. Long-term booking could pay dividends for Fletcher and Vigneault. While starters are unavailable, calling up Wisdom is an intelligent experiment.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre