By the end of this week, the Flyers’ final 13 regular-season games will have been postponed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Will they ever be played?
From here, the regular-season games should be scrapped and the league should start forming plans for the playoffs — if the season is resumed.
The lost regular-season games will hurt teams financially, and that is one of the reasons the league is hoping they can be played.
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The NHL has asked teams for their arena availability through August, so this season might not end for a while if it restarts. (Yes, there would be lots of bad ice surfaces if games were played while outside temperatures were in the 90s.)
Referring to games in late August, Bill Daly, the league’s deputy commissioner, told NHL.com it “remains our hope, if not our goal, to be playing hockey sooner than then.”
Daly hopes the season can resume sometime this spring.
Chuck Fletcher, the Flyers’ general manager, believes if the season resumes, an abbreviated training camp would first have to be held. During a conference call with reporters Monday, he was asked if a two-week camp would be enough to get players in playing shape.
Fletcher called hockey players “tremendous athletes” who “take care of themselves. We have had other instances where we have had work stoppages and we’ve had shorter training camps to get ready for the season. Players have been able to manage it.
“Certainly two weeks, in my opinion, would be sufficient to get guys up to speed," Fletcher added. "Obviously you have normal conditioning and you have game conditioning that may take a little time for guys to get to where they were when the pause happened. Again, these guys are great athletes and I think that could be sufficient.”
During the work stoppage, Fletcher has been in contact with James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers’ player representative; captain Claude Giroux; and others.
“Just making sure everyone is safe and their families are safe, and if there is anything they need from us to get through this time and stage where we are all at,” Fletcher said. “We want to help out any way we can. Obviously we have some injured players that we have been trying to get healthy and make sure they are in a good spot.”
Trainer Jim McCrossin has been “working very hard at keeping in touch with the players that were banged up,” Fletcher said, referring to van Riemsdyk (broken right hand), Phil Myers (broken right kneecap) and Nate Thompson (sprained left knee). “Right now, it’s about doing what we can to make sure players are in good spot. Again, as things are resolved and things get to a different stage and we can start talking about playing hockey again in a more realistic manner, communication will ramp up.”
All three injured players should be ready to play if the season resumes in May.
Fletcher has been in contact with front-office personnel, including Dave Scott, Bob Clarke and Paul Holmgren; assistant general managers; coaches; and scouts since the season was paused.
“We’re all trying to stay in touch and do what we can,” he said. “Again, for obvious reasons, a lot of our business has been shut down right now. Most of the things we can focus on are matters going forward, whether that’s the draft or signing some of our players. Maybe planning some things for the future."
Besides center Kevin Hayes’ strong play in all situations, Fletcher talked Monday about his impact off the ice: “He’s a beauty. I think we all knew he had a strong personality, but he’s had a very positive impact on our franchise.”
I’m working on a series that features the Flyers’ 10 best playoff wins in franchise history. The two Stanley Cup wins are obvious, and I have eight others I’ve tentatively picked — and will have to leave a couple of great games off the list. Would love your feedback on some games that would be on your list. If you’d like, kindly email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your suggestions.
May 10: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the cancellation or postponement of all events with 50 or more people until this date. We shall see if this date is extended.
Whose the odd man out when the season resumes, assuming JVR and Myers are good to go? — @Girardistan on Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Dyl. Thompson, the fourth-line center, is also expected to be ready if the season resumes, so that makes the lineup decisions even more difficult.
Since the Flyers were dominating with Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup — they won nine straight at one point — I’d assume he would become a healthy scratch when Myers returns. Van Riemsdyk figures to go back to his spot as the third-line left winger. That would put Scott Laughton back as the No. 2 left winger, and send Joel Farabee to the bench. Farabee has played well, but I believe the Flyers would stay with an experienced lineup.
Another option: Making Laughton the fourth-line center, keeping Farabee as the second-line left winger, and having Thompson sit out. This team is very deep, so it would be a good problem to have.