Flyers Must Find A Role for Cam York

Flyers' Cam York
BRIDGEPORT, CT – OCTOBER 05: Philadelphia Flyers Defenseman Cam York (45) looks to pass the puck during the second period of the pre-season National Hockey League game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders on October 5,2021, at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Forget about Ryan Ellis’ unavailability or the declining quality of Keith Yandle for one moment. There is a different issue that requires attention.

More than half of the defense will become a free agent. On the left side, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim remain. Yandle hasn’t been able to anchor the third pair as intended.

Before the puck dropped against the Anaheim Ducks, the Philadelphia Flyers recalled Cam York. Provorov entered COVID protocol, snapping his consecutive game streak at 403. Chuck Fletcher knew he could rely on York, based on a small sample size last season. Mike Yeo acknowledged his performance:

“If there’s one thing for me as a coach, or fans to feel good about, it was the play of Cam York. I thought he was outstanding tonight. We didn’t try to shelter him, let’s put it that way.”

MIke Yeo; 1/5/2022

He’s ready for the show.

Left-Hand Path

Before the season began, the identity of the third pair was Keith Yandle and Justin Braun. Ideally, Ivan Provorov finds the peas to his carrots with Ryan Ellis.

It hasn’t been anything close to that. Defensively, everything shifts without Ellis. The collapse on defense is two-fold. First, the reliance on Ellis is heavier than advertised. Also, Yandle is turning in a performance akin to a farewell tour from a rock band that doesn’t have it anymore.

Chuck Fletcher tried new combinations with Yandle, including Nick Seeler and Kevin Connauton. Last night, he may have uncovered an upgrade. Yandle paired with Connauton, but Cam York effectively paced the blue line with Braun. Based on the circumstance of performance, the loss to the Anaheim Ducks should act as his graduation from the AHL.

He’s the third man. The question becomes, “who does he pair with?” That depends on how patient Fletcher is.

York pairs with Braun on the third pair, as he did last night on the first, if Fletcher waits for Ellis to return.

Cam York (2020-2021)

Last season, under Alain Vigneault, Cam York made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals. He registered a shot on goal and managed to block a shot. After a victory in his debut, York played a better game the following night in an overtime loss. Then, he had a rough outing against the New Jersey Devils, where Braun left the game early.

A small sample size showed fluidity. Turnovers are a massive issue for the Philadelphia Flyers defensemen. York, at the NHL level, is more careful with the puck. Keeping him on the NHL roster alleviates players like Ivan Provorov, who often take too much ice time.

Cerebral players usually translate at the NHL level. In a sense, York might see the NHL game better than he does at the AHL level. There’s more structure, presenting more guidance.

How Could York Fit?

Or, how do the Philadelphia Flyers structure their defense around Cam York?

Ivan Provorov will return before Ryan Ellis. The odd man out is Keith Yandle. York won’t command an NHL powerplay immediately, but that will be his forte. For now, all York needs to do is play effective five-on-five hockey. In the process of doing so, eventually, Provorov won’t have to play on every detail.

Mike Yeo could structure his defensemen another way. York might fit with Kevin Connauton. If not, could Yandle manage a few games at RD? Either option would serve better than Nick Seeler, who tends to leave his partner out to dry due to his aggressiveness. If Yandle wants to capture Doug Jarvis’ consecutive game record, accomodating for York might be ideal.

Carter Hart had this to say about York:

“I think he was solid. We know he’s a good player. He’s got a lot of skill and a lot of talent. For his first game of the year, especially in his hometown here, I’m sure it was really special for him. It’s not easy stepping up into the first pair for your first game of the season. I thought he did a great job.”

Carter Hart; 1/5/2022

Upon rave reviews, the question ought to be, “how do we keep York in the lineup?” He’s the latest recalled player to perform well under Yeo, but arguably the most critically acclaimed.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)