Maybe it was just an honest answer with no ulterior motive.
Or maybe Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, when mentioning that the Flyers have not found a reliable replacement for Matt Niskanen, was indirectly asking general manager Chuck Fletcher to add a proven defenseman before the April 12 trade deadline.
The Flyers have tried four different defensemen as Ivan Provorov’s partner on the top pairing this season. None have shown the steadiness provided by Niskanen, who surprisingly retired after last season.
Phil Myers, Provorov’s latest partner, has disappointed his coach.
“He’s just not consistent,” Vigneault said after having Myers paired with Nate Prosser with the extra defensemen at Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees. “He’s getting opportunities to be first on the puck, a big body like himself. We’ve talked to him about it, we’ve shown him video. We expect him to be better than he’s shown so far.”
The Flyers are allowing 3.09 goals per game, 21st in the NHL. Last year, they allowed 2.77 goals per game, seventh in the league.
Poor coverage down low has led to too many high-quality chances for opponents this season.
“Obviously, we haven’t found, in my estimation, the Nisky that was playing with Provy back there,” Vigneault said. “We’ve tried different people, Phil being one of them. I like the way Ghost [Shayne Gostisbehere] has been playing. I don’t mind the way Gus [Erik Gustafsson] has been playing the last few games. I just need Phil to be more consistent. I do need somebody to step up and play in that role. ... We’ve given Phil some looks and he hasn’t taken advantage of it. He’s still a very young player. He has to push himself and demand more of himself. If he does that, maybe we’ll find the defenseman we need to play with Provy.”
Vigneault didn’t sound as if he wants to break up the second pairing of Travis Sanheim and Justin Braun, saying they “seem to have some good chemistry.”
This season, Provorov has been paired with Braun, Sanheim, Gostisbehere, and Myers at different times. Some of it has to do with the continuity that has been disrupted by injuries and the COVID-19 protocol, and some of it can be attributed to missing Niskanen.
“By now, I’m comfortable with playing with whoever is on my right side,” said Provorov, unconvincingly.
NHL on ESPN
The NHL is returning to ESPN next season for the first time since 2004.
The league and the network agreed on a seven-year deal that will include four Stanley Cup Finals that will be broadcast on ABC.
ESPN and ABC will broadcast 25 regular-season games, along with early-round playoff games and one conference final each year. ESPN+ will stream more than 1,000 games per season.
Hulu, which has over 39 million subscribers, and ESPN+ will deliver 75 ESPN-produced exclusive telecasts per season. Those games won’t have local TV simulcasts, which means any Flyers games in those 75 will only be available through the subscription online streaming platforms.
It is not known if the deal will boost the NHL’s salary cap.
NBC’s deal with the NHL is set to expire after this season. An NBC spokesperson said the network might still be involved with the NHL.
“We continue to discuss a potential future with the league as we focus on the season at hand,” the spokesperson said.
Vigneault was asked about the impact of having ESPN involved with the NHL again.
“I’m in the coaching business. I’m not in the finance business,” Vigneault said. “... I will say, though, in the conversations I’ve had with Chuck [Fletcher], it is something they see as very positive for obviously the players and the franchises. It’s a 50/50 business and if there’s more revenue, it’s a positive for everyone.”
Michael Raffl, who has missed the last two games with an injured right hand, skated before practice and it is not known if he can return Thursday against the Caps. ... The Flyers loaned goaltender Alex Lyon from their taxi squad to the Phantoms, and they recalled Phantoms goalie Felix Sandstrom and placed him on the taxi squad.