Nicolas Aube-Kubel is struggling early on in 2021-2022. Undisciplined hockey hasn’t helped his case. Could the Philadelphia Flyers audition for a new 4RW?
Among the bottom six of a lineup should be a line that challenges the opposition in the neutral zone and another that remains physical along the boards, getting pucks deep into the offensive zone for the aces to attack off a change.
Early on, the Philadelphia Flyers’ third and fourth lines resemble that. Four of the top five hitters on the Flyers make their living in the bottom six. The only forward appearing in the top five of the Philadelphia shot blockers is Scott Laughton. These forwards are critical. Ultimately, they’re playing their role almost exactly right.
Keyword: almost. Nate Thompson is a guy who leads the team in penalty minutes but maintains the highest Corsi (44.2) of the bottom six forwards. Following Thompson is Nicolas Aube-Kubel. He’s taken his share of untimely penalties, hasn’t produced a point, and routinely places an already middling penalty kill in a precarious position.
Aube-Kubel isn’t out of the woods yet. If Wade Allison were healthy, he would’ve forced his way into the lineup. Alain Vigneault ought to shorten the leash on Aube-Kubel.
Suppressing Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s minutes seems to be the best way to manage him. He was one of the best players on the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Florida Panthers. What helped his metrics was playing only 7:19.
Sheltering minutes is a way to mitigate damage. Aube-Kubel is a high-energy player, but his physicality can become the Flyers’ weakness in critical situations. Consider the beginning stages of the third period versus the Panthers. With the game tied, 2-2, following a late goal from Owen Tippett, no one had momentum. A tripping penalty on Aube-Kubel didn’t help, though Philadelphia killed the penalty.
Disciplined hockey is paramount. Without discipline, teams give away critical points in the NHL standings.
Unfortunately, Aube-Kubel was a liability on his best night (in just over seven minutes of gameplay.)
The moment Aube-Kubel learns to limit penalties is the moment he becomes a premier fourth-liner. In 2019-2020, he registered fifteen points against the rest of the NHL. Since then, he’s done a little more harm than good. Are there sound replacements if Aube-Kubel overstays his welcome?
Brown, McEwen, and Allison
Wade Allison would’ve been an upgrade at 4RW over Nicolas Aube-Kubel in 2021-2022. They co-existed last season, but Allison jumped directly to 3RW, ahead of Aube-Kubel.
Chuck Fletcher found Zack MacEwen and Patrick Brown. There are replacements available. If Aube-Kubel continues at the rate he’s shown during these first four games, Alain Vigneault may call on Brown or McEwen sooner than later.
Unfortunately, Aube-Kubel is turning into an expendable commodity.
He’s safe because Fletcher and Vigneault haven’t utilized Brown or Allison in 2021-2022. They didn’t pass the eye test against the Boston Bruins. They both played about as well against the Florida Panthers. McEwen and Aube-Kubel do the same things while averaging nearly the same amount of ice time.
There’s a possibility that Vigneault includes Brown this week. Further evaluation is required to compare against Aube-Kubel. We’re all hopeful that Allison will return in 2021-2022. Until then, the Aube-Kubel of 2019-2020 needs to return quickly. If not, he’ll turn into the thirteenth forward.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre