The Flyers’ main training camp will start Sept. 13 in Voorhees, and, yes, they have lots of work if they are going to make this a meaningful season.
Here are five questions heading into camp:
Hart, 21, said his goal is to earn a majority of the starts. Veteran Brian Elliott, who is solid when healthy but has had two straight injury-plagued seasons, will try to win the No. 1 job in training camp.
From here, if the Flyers are going to have a new identity, a fresh start, Hart needs to be The Guy and take another step toward what could be a long and elite career. Hey, Hart had a better pedigree on the junior level than Matt Murray and Carey Price, and they thrived in the NHL at young ages.
There are numerous candidates, but none have the same long-range potential as Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee, rookies with oh-so-promising futures. The Flyers have hinted they would like those forwards to first get a taste of the AHL, but that could change if one of them has a sensational training camp.
Others in the mix: Scott Laughton, Chris Stewart, Kurtis Gabriel, German Rubtsov, Nic Aube-Kubel, Andy Andreoff, Carsen Twarynski, and Mikhail Vorobyev.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said it will all be sorted out in training camp.
“I honestly don’t have any expectations for the young players coming into camp other than they come here in great shape and be ready to learn and ready to perform,” he said. “There’s no question if you look at our forward group, a lot of our depth is with our younger players, our first- and second-year players in particular. We’re going to need some of those players at some point in the season to step up and help us out. Now whether it’s out of camp or the second half of the season, that remains to be seen.”
The Flyers will have at least 11 experienced forwards in the lineup, “so we feel we’re pretty deep,” Fletcher said. “We have some other players like Andreoff and Gabriel and Vorobyev who have pro experience and will have an opportunity to show what they can do. And the young guys will have a chance to show what they can do. We clearly wanted to have some competition in camp. We wanted to leave spots open for guys to come in and earn a spot if they can do so.”
If not, it will be another playoff-less season.
The Flyers’ penalty kill was ranked 26th in the 31-team league last season, and the power play, despite an abundance of weapons, was just 22nd. Maybe Mike Yeo, who will coach the penalty-kill, and Michel Therrien (power-play coach) can turn things around.
New head coach Alain Vigneault said he doesn’t like having many players play on both the power play and penalty kill because it can wear them down. He also said he may rotate several people on the PP units when the team is in the middle of playing several games in a week.
Vigneault, who prefers playing an attacking style with lots of pace, spent the last week meeting with the players, whose feedback has been positive. They say their new coach is honest, a great communicator, and someone who takes interest in them and their families.
Will that, and the coach’s impressive track record, translate into the Flyers’ playing 60 hard minutes (or more) each game and avoiding the slow starts that led to too many early deficits last season?
We shall see.
One thing is certain, Vigneault, the 12th-winningest coach in NHL history, needs to change the culture of the team, one that always seemed to be chasing games last season. The Flyers faced a 2-0 deficit in a mind-boggling 32 games – and won just four of them.
Well, if Vigneault was convincing enough, they will.
In separate phone conversations recently, Vigneault told them he has nothing to do with contract negotiations, “but I did also make it very clear that since I’m a new coach and we’ve got a new staff, and we’re trying to put in a new system, that it would be helpful for them and the team to be here from the start,” he said Thursday. “I made that pretty clear to them that … finding a common ground and making it work would be beneficial to everybody.”
Vigneault said the two RFAs “seemed very excited about the upcoming year. Both seemed very anxious to get with their teammates.”
Fletcher said the players would sign after some of the league’s other quality RFAs agree to deals and set the contract bar for others.
Getting Konecny, a feisty right winger who could play on the top line, and Provorov in camp on time is important so they can learn the intricacies of Vigneault’s system and be ready when the season starts Oct. 4 in Prague against Chicago.
It is especially important for Provorov because he will need to develop chemistry with his new partner, likely Matt Niskanen.