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Offseason fitness will play a bigger role for Flyers this season | On the Fly

Unlike the old days, NHL players generally arrive at training camp in great shape. That will be even more important this season because of a shortened camp.

Despite a shortened training camp, GM Chuck Fletcher believes the Flyers will be in great shape when the season starts.
Despite a shortened training camp, GM Chuck Fletcher believes the Flyers will be in great shape when the season starts.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Hockey in 2020 is a lot different from when the Broad Street Bullies were winning Stanley Cups in the 1970s.

Back then, players used training camp to get in shape after an offseason that wasn’t known for conditioning drills — unless you count lifting a beer as an arm curl.

Today, there is too much money at stake for players to come into training camp out of shape, especially this season, when teams will have just nine on-ice sessions (starting Jan. 4) before the opener is played.

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29 to make the cut

When camp sessions start Monday, teams are allowed to have 36 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders. During the season, which will begin Jan. 13, rosters can have a maximum of 23 players, and a four- to six-player taxi squad, created because the coronavirus can play havoc with teams.

A maximum of 29 players will travel and practice with the team during the 56-game season.

If you arrive at camp out of shape, there’s a good chance you won’t be on the 23-man roster.

General manager Chuck Fletcher has casually observed players who have arrived early to skate and work out at the team’s Voorhees practice facility.

“First thing is you have to hope everybody’s put in the time and effort to come to into camp in great shape,” he said. “If players are behind the eight ball in conditioning, it’s going to be difficult to get them where you want them to be by the start of the season.

“That’s the first part. At this stage, there’s not much we can do about that,” he added last week. “We’ve obviously been checking in with players and giving them detailed programs. The ones that I’ve seen around here look like they’ve put a lot of time and effort in. We’ll hope for the best in that regard. We’ll hope that we’re healthy.”

Fitness and medical tests will be held Jan. 3, one day before drills begin.

“The most important thing you can do is have as many game-like situations as possible in practice, whether that’s scrimmaging or drills, working on the shootout, whatever that may be,” Fletcher said. “You want to make things as game-like as possible and get as ready as you can be without playing a game.”

There will not be any exhibition games, which is why the Flyers will scrimmage at most training-camp sessions.

The fact the Flyers made few offseason moves and have their entire coaching staff back for their second year should help the team make a smooth transition into the season, center Sean Couturier said.

“At the same time, I think every team is in the same situation,” Couturier said. “It’s going to be up to each guy to show up to camp in great shape and go from there.”

Things to know

  1. Flyers center Sean Couturier, recalling the past, says getting off to a fast start is imperative in a shortened season.

  2. As training camp nears, the Flyers gear for a “lot of battling” to prepare for a 56-game season.

  3. The Flyers schedule, which starts with a pair of games against the hated Penguins, reminds Ed Barkowitz of the 1980s. Barko has the story.

  4. Yes, it’s a little far-fetched. But stranger things have happened. Here’s a movie-like ending to the Flyers’ coming season. My column.

  5. There will be lots of competition for three of the Flyers’ defensive spots.

Intriguing camp question

One of the biggest questions that will be answered in training camp: Who will replace retired Matt Niskanen and be Ivan Provorov’s partner on the top pairing?

From here, Phil Myers makes the most sense. He’s right-handed, and he has the skills and size to complement Provorov nicely.

That said, it’s worth noting that Fletcher last week said he liked the chemistry Myers and Travis Sanheim developed on the second pairing last season. Maybe it was an innocent comment. Or maybe in discussions with head coach Alain Vigneault, they are against breaking up the No. 2 duo.

If the second-pairing defenders remain together, that would make Erik Gustafsson and Justin Braun the only defensemen who could be paired with Provorov if Vigneault decides he wants a right-hander on that unit.

These would be my pairings: Provorov-Myers; Sanheim-Gustafsson; and Robert Hagg or Shayne Gostisbehere and Braun.

Important dates

Tuesday: USA, whose team includes Flyers prospects Cam York and Bobby Brink, vs. the Czech Republic in the World Juniors at 2 p.m. (NHL Network).

Thursday: USA vs. Sweden in the World Juniors at 9:30 p.m. on the NHL Network. Besides Brink and York, Flyers prospect Emil Andrae, a defenseman for Sweden, will compete in this matchup.

Saturday: World Juniors quarterfinals at noon, 3:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. — all on the NHL Network.

Sunday: Flyers fitness and medical testing at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. Of particular interest: How center Nolan Patrick fares in his medical exam. He missed all of last season because of a migraine disorder but has been skating in Voorhees and, from all reports, feeling better.

Monday: Flyers open training camp in Voorhees.

Monday: World Juniors semifinals at 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., both on NHL Network.

Jan. 5: Championship game of the World Juniors at 9:30 p.m. on the NHL Network.

Jan. 13: Flyers host Pittsburgh Penguins in an NHL opener for both teams.

From the mailbag

Question: Which Flyer do you think will be the next to win an end-of-the-year trophy like our boy Coots as the Selke winner? — Brian Wert, @brianwert13, on Twitter

Answer: Thanks for the question, Brian. I think unflappable Carter Hart will be the next one. He might not win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie this season, but I believe there is one in his future. The last Flyer to win the award? Ron Hextall in 1987. Pelle Lindbergh (1985) and Bernie Parent (1974 and 1975) were other Flyers goalies who were Vezina winners.

Send questions by email ( or on Twitter (@broadstbull), and they could be answered in a future edition.