The Philadelphia Flyers have major injury problems to address over two months before training camp is even scheduled to begin. Joel Farabee, one of the best offensive players on the team in 2021-22, underwent disc replacement surgery on June 24 after suffering an injury during an offseason workout. He will miss the start of camp and likely the beginning of the regular season.
“Hopefully, there are no more surprises this summer in a negative sense. Like a week and a half ago when I got the call that Joel Farabee had numbness and pain in his neck and it could be pretty bad. I was like are you kidding me. Hopefully, there are no more of those,” general manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher said on June 29.
In the same press conference, Fletcher spoke about projected top defenseman Ryan Ellis, who played just four games in 2021-22 due to a multilayered pelvic injury. The hits keep coming, as news broke about a long-term injury to top prospect Bobby Brink on Sunday night.
The Flyers are looking to move into a new era after two of the worst seasons in franchise history and their first time missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1992-93 and 1993-94. Optimism surrounding the start of newly-hired head coach John Tortorella’s tenure and the selection of Cutter Gauthier with the fifth-overall pick now comes with a black cloud that the organization has failed miserably to overcome in recent history.
Injuries Get the Best of the Flyers
The Flyers had the third-most man games lost in the NHL in 2021-22, a stat that had a direct correlation with the league standings. They were third from the bottom of the league in Cap Hit Injured Players (CHIP), which measures the impact of injuries by measuring the net difference in total average annual value (AAV) of players injured or out of the lineup because of illness between the two opponents in each NHL game.
The absence of Ellis created the most glaring need on the roster last season. The lack of a top-pair, right-handed defenseman proved to be an obstacle the blueliners couldn’t handle. The uncertainty surrounding his injury led Jason Myrtetus to question whether the former Nashville Predators standout will ever play in the NHL again. The acquisition of righty Tony DeAngelo indicates the organization’s lack of confidence in Ellis’ health.
Farabee was the only young player in the organization who made significant strides in his development at the NHL level in each of the past two seasons. When healthy, he is capable of occupying a top-six forward position. Brink is the third-ranked prospect in Philadelphia’s system (from The Athletic, Top 20 Flyers prospects: Cam York, Egor Zamula and Bobby Brink a cut above the rest, 2/22/22). He notched four points in his first 10 NHL games last season and showed promising poise with his puck control. He could’ve competed for a roster spot in 2022-23, but the hip issue will stunt his development. When faced with the question of whether Brink’s season is over, Bill Meltzer couldn’t commit either way because of the generally severe nature of hip injuries.
Tyson Foerster, Zayde Wisdom, Tanner Laczynski, Samuel Ersson, Isaac Ratcliffe, Wade Allison, and Jay O’Brien are all top-20 prospects in Philadelphia’s system who have dealt with significant injuries along the path to the NHL. Brink joins the list in an organization that has struggled to maintain depth at its lower levels when faced with misfortunes.
Fletcher Questions Medical Staff
The reaggrevation of previous injuries became a recurring issue for the 2021-22 Flyers. Both Farabee and Ellis reinjured themselves after returning to game action too soon, and now-departed veteran Derick Brassard entered and exited the lineup continuously because of a lingering hip injury. Fletcher acknowledged the situation in his exit availability in May.
“I am going to sit down with our doctors, strength staff, and strength and conditioning coach in the next couple weeks. Just a lot of questions: what we do well, not doing well, is there something we need to do more of, and things we can do from an injury prevention standpoint. We are going to look at our entire structure in terms of our medical side, analytics, amateur scouting, pro-scouting. We are certainly going to look into ways we can invest and improve that entire area. Questions have already been asked. We will get together and dig down. See what is preventable, what is bad luck and where do we need to add.”-Chuck Fletcher
The subjective nature of injury luck makes it difficult for hockey operations personnel, media, and fans to draw conclusions about the effective performance of a medical staff. Many of the prospect injuries have also come while the players were on loan outside the organization. Fletcher’s hopes for a fresh start after the nightmare of 2021-22 and his offseason evaluation of the medical staff have gotten off to a terrible start, and the misfortune is something the 2022-23 Flyers will need to take in stride.