The Flyers’ veteran lineup was badly outplayed by the Boston Bruins’ unofficial B team Thursday and dropped a 3-1 exhibition-game decision.
There were repercussions Friday.
New coach Alain Vigneault, whose team is 0-2-1 in the preseason and has scored a total of four goals, met with general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr on Friday morning and decided the veterans need more preseason action.
As a result, the Flyers made a slew of roster trims Friday, three days ahead of their original plan. Eighteen players were dropped from the roster, leaving the Flyers with 36 players (32 are healthy) in camp.
“After looking at the last couple days, I feel this is a different situation than I’m used to in the past,” said Vigneault, who formerly coached with Vancouver, Montreal, and the New York Rangers. “I’ve been used to coming to camp in the past and my teams have been in the playoffs [the previous year], so I usually give the veteran players three of the six or seven games we play. I feel that this time, our veteran players need more games than I originally planned. I’m going from the three games I originally planned to four and some might even get five out of the seven.”
Among the roster cuts: left winger Isaac Ratcliffe and goalie Felix Sandstrom, two highly promising players who were assigned to the AHL’s Phantoms.
The Flyers went 37-37-8 last season and failed to make the playoffs for the fourth time in seven years.
With a new system being implemented by a new coaching staff, the veteran players “need to get into more games,” Vigneault said.
Thirteen players were assigned to the Phantoms: Sandstrom, Ratcliffe, Cal O’Reilly, Greg Carey, Maksim Sushko, Kirill Ustimenko, Gerry Fitzgerald, David Drake, David Kase, Pascal Laberge, Matthew Strome, Rob Michel, and Josh Couturier. Five players (T.J. Brennan, Kyle Criscuolo, Tyler Wotherspoon, Reece Willcox, Nate Prosser) will be placed on waivers Saturday for the purpose of reporting to the Phantoms, assuming they are not claimed.
That left the Flyers with six lines, 10 defensemen, and four goaltenders.
Vigneault said he was accelerating the process “because this group needs that.” He clearly was not happy with Thursday’s performance and the team’s execution.
The Flyers will host the New York Rangers in their fourth preseason game Saturday night. Travis Konecny, who recently signed a six-year, $33 million contract, will play his first game of the preseason.
Vigneault said that when a team plays several playoff rounds the previous season, “that’s intense hockey. That’s a longer season. This group has been off for a while, and in my mind it just needs a little bit more preparation, and there’s nothing better than a game situation.”
The Flyers have four exhibition games left before starting the season Oct. 4 against Chicago in Prague.
The decision to reduce the roster so quickly had nothing to do with the outcomes of the preseason games, Vigneault said.
“It has everything to do with the process, and for me, the process needs to be accelerated. We’ll be down to one group, and once you get down to one group, the internal competition gets a little bit better also. ... We need to get down to one group to have everybody in the same room at the same time to make sure that they’re grasping the concepts that we’re trying to apply."
Vigneault, the 12th-winningest coach in NHL history, was asked if his track record permits him to make a change in the way the preseason is handled and have the players accept it.