The Saga Between Ellis and the Flyers Remains Murky

Flyers' Ryan Ellis
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 28: Philadelphia Flyers Defenseman Ryan Ellis (94) controls the puck during the first period of the National Hockey League game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers on September 28, 2021 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

On Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers finish the 2021-2022 season. A team who, on paper, looked like a team on the cusp of a playoff appearance had a disastrous year. Unbeknownst to us, an injury to Ryan Ellis began the unraveling.

Ellis has yet to play a moment of hockey in 2022. If he does, it’ll be during the 2022-2023 season. His last appearance in a Flyers sweater was against the Dallas Stars on November 13th, 2021. Keith Yandle was the best skater on the ice in a 5-2 loss.

That night in Dallas, Ellis played a little under 19 minutes of hockey as he notched an assist. Nothing seemed out of place in his game.

Then, poof.

Sure, Philadelphia began with a 6-2-2 record. Three of those games included Ellis. He disappeared after the third game of 2021-2022, a 6-3 win versus the Boston Bruins. Then, he returned for one game, the thirteenth of the season, against the Stars before ghosting. Ellis wasn’t even in the team photo earlier this month.

Do you want a good indication of how much a franchise values a player? Find their position in the team photo. Sean Couturier, also out for the season, was present. It begs the question surrounding the relationship between the Flyers and Ellis, who is due $6.25mil/AAV through 2026-2027.

Last season, Chuck Fletcher signed off on a trade for an injured player. What exactly is the injury? Is there a disposition between Ellis and the training staff, or is it a more pressing matter? There is a lack of understanding between the player, coaching staff, training staff, and management. Yet, per Dave Scott, Ellis is a core player in Philadelphia.

A lot has changed since Scott and Fletcher gave their state of the Flyers address back in January. Ultimately, does Ellis want to be here? It’ll be tough to move an injury-prone player who makes the money he does after a four-game campaign.

Ineffective communication means more lost time with Ellis on the payroll. Mike Yeo, who is about as transparent as they come as interim head coach, said this about Ellis following a skating session at the beginning of last month.

“He was just kind of there on skates, sort of gliding around. He certainly wasn’t pushing himself to any point where we would think he’s a possibility to return any time soon.”

Mike Yeo; 3/1/2022

This team must figure out where they stand with Ellis before making critical decisions about an “aggressive retool.”

The mystery surrounding the exact injury to Ellis makes everyone uneasy. He may be rehabbing with his doctors, which isn’t a stretch to believe. It also isn’t the best reflection of the team training staff.

Without question, Ellis elevates Philadelphia. He fits with Ivan Provorov, and the puck movement in the OZ was much crisper. This relationship between player and franchise was a catalyst to the downfall of the 2021-2022 Flyers. One player exited the lineup, and the entire paradigm shifted. To believe that a retool is the correct approach with no pieces in place if one fails is foolish.

Not long ago, we could all be confident that at least the top four defensemen were in place for 2022-2023. Rasmus Ristolainen and Travis Sanheim won’t go anywhere. Ivan Provorov is probably sticking around unless there is a big trade to shake the landscape. Suddenly, there’s reason to worry about who shares the top pair with Provorov.

Logistically speaking, Philadelphia returns back to square one with many of the same issues they faced before they entered the 2021-2022 void. They’ll have even fewer resources to overcome a much larger problem.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)