Flyers Will Benefit From the NHL Season Pause

Thanks to the massive coronavirus outbreak, the NHL season has officially been paused at arguably the most critical time of the season for the league. Teams are preparing to make their final push for the postseason, with everyone left to play 12 or fewer games as we head into the spring months.

Regardless of how much will be missed during its postponement, safety and health are the priorities that each and every member of the hockey community is and should be focused on.

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For the Philadelphia Flyers, the unfortunate circumstances couldn’t have come at a worse time, putting a halt on one of the best seasons in recent memory. Currently, in second place in the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers’ had high hopes for a playoff appearance and a potential division crown.

Michel Therrien Alain Vigneault Mike Yeo Philadelphia Flyers
Michel Therrien, Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

However, the suspension of the 2019-20 NHL season isn’t entirely a bad thing for the Flyers. With some key injuries taking out players on the front and back ends, they might see some benefit from some time off. Depending largely on when, and if, the NHL season returns, the Flyers are going to have to quickly return to their winning ways and a fully healthy roster would provide some much-needed assistance.

The Injuries

The month of March has not been a kind one to the Flyers. On top of all the health issues that the Flyers have persevered through this season, they’ve been hit by an injury bug right as they were one of the hottest teams in hockey. The recent wave of injuries has plagued pretty much every position in their lineup besides their goaltenders.

James van Riemsdyk

The first Flyer snakebitten by injury was James van Riemsdyk. In the midst of a decent 40-point season, JvR suffered a broken right hand after blocking a shot in the Flyers’ 5-2 win over the Capitals earlier this month.

Philadelphia Flyers' James van Riemsdyk Dallas Stars Anton Khudobin
Philadelphia Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk scores on Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Van Riemsdyk has been instrumental in the Flyers’ lineup, occupying a third-line role and earning minutes on the top power-play unit. In fact, before his injury, the team was 22-5-0 in games he recorded a point. JvR seemed like he was just starting to turn up his offensive production once again after some time struggling to get on the scoresheet.

Although there hasn’t been a clear date noted for JvR’s return, the season suspension could result in him actually participating in the last stretch of the regular season. With just over a week since the 30-year-old forward was taken out of the lineup, he still has about 3-5 weeks before he’s expected to be back at full health.

Philippe Myers

Much like the injury to JvR, defenseman Phil Myers’ knee injury was slated to keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. Healing a fractured patella on his right knee, the 23-year-old big man was expected to be healthy enough to return just in time for his first shot at the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Myers was just starting to develop a true role in the Flyers defensive core, manning the second pairing with Travis Sanheim. He’s added physicality and strength in the defensive zone while maintaining a legitimate offensive presence. In his second year, with 50 games played, Myers owns the best plus/minus rating (plus-17) of any Flyers defensemen and second overall on the team.

The knee injury was expected to sideline Myers for four weeks, but like all these injuries, that’ll be affected by the postponed season. Shayne Gostisbehere was set to fulfill Myers’ role on the blue line, but if the postponement lasts as long as three or four weeks, Myers could be back to full health by the time the league returns.

Nate Thompson

Journeyman Nate Thompson was just starting to find his bearings with his new team and teammates, quickly accumulating to his role as the fourth line center and occasional penalty killer. Unfortunately, however, he fell victim to a sprained left knee that’s set to sideline him two weeks.

Even though Thompson’s injury isn’t quite as serious as van Riemsdyk’s or Myers’, it still had its roster implications for the remainder of the year.

Nate Thompson Philadelphia Flyers
Nate Thompson, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the NHL season officially suspended, there’s really no telling where Thompson will fit back into the lineup. His spot will be one of the many questions the Flyers will need to answer.

The Replacements

With key players out of the lineup, there have obviously been some familiar faces taking their place. When van Riemsdyk went down, it was Joel Farabee. For Thompson, it was Connor Bunnaman. In the case of Myers, it actually presented Shayne Gostisbehere the chance to rejoin the starting lineup.

Joel Farabee Philadelphia Flyers
Joel Farabee, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Farabee’s spot in the lineup has been up in the air since Thompson and Derek Grant arrived in Philadelphia, but he’s been a staple in the roster throughout this whole season. After just a brief stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after the deadline, you’d have to imagine he’d return to the lineup once the postseason rolls around. Hopefully, both Farabee and van Riemsdyk find themselves in the final roster for the first round.

Both Bunnaman and Gostisbehere haven’t exactly been regulars for the Flyers this year. The veteran defenseman has recently dealt with injuries of his own, clawing his way back into the lineup as a reserve defenseman while the 21-year-old forward has been up and down between the Flyers and Phantoms all season long. Depending on when both Thompson and especially Myers, return to full health, Bunnaman and Ghost could quickly find themselves on the reserves list once again.

The Benefits

The only real way for the Flyers to benefit from the NHL season’s postponement is the same for every team across the league. They’ll have a chance to reset their lineup and get those injured players either back to full health or through the majority of their healing periods.

Considering no one seems to know just how long this suspension will last, there’s no way to accurately say that these players will be back to full health once the season resumes. In an ideal world, the suspension will stretch on just long enough to match the injury timetables of players like van Riemsdyk and Myers.

With so much uncertainty about how this suspension will play out, it’s hard to assume anything about when the NHL will actually be back in action. (from ‘NHL already working in hopes of restarting season,’ New York Post, 03/14/2020) However, in order to persevere through this period with no hockey, we have to look for silver linings, even if they’re just barely shining through.

Although this suspension certainly thwarts the momentum and heat that the Flyers were beginning to build on the ice, it’ll hopefully serve as a period to solely focus on health. If they can manage to get, and remain, at full health over the next few weeks to a month and make the necessary preparations for when, or if, the season comes back, they’ll be perfectly fine.