Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers added another cherry on top of the worst sundae in team history. Already, this team endured two double-digit losing streaks. The 6-3 loss against the Detroit Red Wings meant the Flyers extended their road losing streak to thirteen games. They haven’t won away from the Wells Fargo Center in 2022.
An ugly first period by Rasmus Ristolainen translated directly to a 2-0 lead for the Red Wings. Joseph Veleno (1st; 14:43) had a lot of time to place the puck on a wraparound attempt because Ristolainen interfered with Carter Hart. Jakub Vrana (1st; 10:45) had the next one, taking the puck away from Ristolainen. No one was open for a pass in transition to the OZ, so Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi swarmed. Instead of clearing the zone, Vrana kickstarted his scoring play.
Lucas Raymond (2nd; 18:53) separated himself from Ivan Provorov to uncork a one-timer past Hart. Later, Ristolainen tried to force a long pass to Patrick Brown. It was intercepted in the NZ, turning into a quick one-timer goal by Vrana (2nd; 1:09) for his second of the game.
Joel Farabee (2nd; 18:28,) Oskar Lindblom (2nd; 12:04,) and James van Riemsdyk (3rd; 8:37) made the game interesting. Oskar Sundqvist (3rd; 2:51) and Bertuzzi (3rd; 1:11) scored empty-net goals to increase the lead, securing the win.
An Expensive Culture Investment (-)
Sellers at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline for a second straight season, Chuck Fletcher has the heat on him to create a winning culture. Many of his offseason acquisitions were supposed to supplement that. Then, Alain Vigneault was relieved of his head coaching duties as the wheels fell off.
Three trades acted as a baseline for contention in the last offseason. Fletcher sent Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick to the Nashville Predators for Ryan Ellis; Robert Hagg, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Ristolainen; and Jakub Voracek to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Cam Atkinson. Atkinson is panning out, the jury is still out on Ellis, and Ristolainen already received a 5yr/$25.5mil extension. Investing in a winning culture still means the team has to win, and that’s the issue.
Last night, Mike Yeo had this to say about Ristolainen:
“Risto’s a warrior for us. He had a couple mistakes, a couple plays end up in the back of the net. I’d also point out that we put him in a tough position a couple of times.”Mike Yeo; 3/22/2022
A few times, especially since the extension, there’s almost been an emphasis on clearing his name. Yeo also did it following the meltdown against the Montreal Canadiens.
“First off, they get a pretty darn good look off the hop, so Risto has to go prone body or slide to deny that play. He ends up in the corner. We still had a chance to be first on the puck, but we end up losing it.”Mike Yeo; 3/13/2022
Ristolainen is an appreciated presence in the locker room. His performance on the ice isn’t worth the term or price of his contract. The best defense for Ristolainen doesn’t take place behind a microphone at a podium. It must take place on the ice. Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever been sound defensively.
Swiss-Army Farabee (+)
It’s almost poetic that Claude Giroux named Farabee the player who will break his records with the Philadelphia Flyers. Three games later, he’s already taking on the former captain’s versatility.
This lost season allows a scorer like Farabee to move from the wings, playing minutes at center. It likely won’t be a typical sight, but it’ll let Farabee improve his defensive game. He provided this very self-aware answer last night, exactly what you want to hear from a 22-year-old scorer with his whole career ahead of him:
“Out in the d-zone, I felt pretty comfortable down there. It creates a lot of opportunities. You can touch the puck a little bit more just because you’re always under it. It’s a work in progress, something I want to add to my game.”Joel Farabee; 3/22/2022
In the last five games, Farabee defended at an above-average rate twice. One of those games was last night; the other was against the Ottawa Senators. He wants to be a two-way forward with a scoring touch. It’s a great plan if he plans to compete with the legacy Giroux built.
Call Up Those Prospects (-)
For all intents and purposes, this season may not be a true representation of the Philadelphia Flyers. For the majority of the season, the Flyers were the most damaged team in the NHL. The change over from Vigneault to Yeo didn’t benefit the record of the team. It’s an issue that begins atop the head coach, with Fletcher.
We now know what this defense is without Ellis and Justin Braun. Cam York isn’t playing to his natural side. Ristolainen will be the only natural RD in Philadelphia next season with more than fifty games played in 2021-2022. Before diving headfirst into an “aggressive retool” this offseason, Fletcher would be wise to play some prospects. Close this season by calling up Ronnie Attard or Wyatte Wylie for a stint.
Ellis and Ristolainen will take on their 1RD and 2RD roles next season. Attard and Wylie are both waivers exempt. It wouldn’t take much for the reward to be greater than the risk.
(Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire)