Flyers News & Rumors: 9 Losses, Horvat, Hayes & Tortorella

A new coach stands behind the bench for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2022-23, but not much else has changed. One season after an injury-plagued team painfully limped its way through losing streaks of 10 and 13 in 2021-22, they’ve lost nine in a row for the first signs of trouble during the John Tortorella era. A 4-1 blowout loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday was the ugliest effort to date for a shorthanded lineup.

Tension Between Tortorella and Hayes

Kevin Hayes leads the Flyers in scoring with 20 points (six goals and 14 assists) through 21 games. He is the only remaining healthy veteran forward with an established scoring track record currently in the lineup. However, Charlie O’Connor spoke about “low-key tension” between Tortorella and Hayes.

Kevin Hayes Philadelphia Flyers
Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 6-foot-5 forward played most of Saturday night’s loss against the Montreal Canadiens on a line with Patrick Brown and Max Willman, a pair of bottom-six wingers with minimal NHL experience who would be unlikely to crack the lineup for a healthy NHL team. Hayes did not play the final shift while Philadelphia blew a one-goal cushion on a Cole Caufield goal with 1.9 seconds left. Tortorella responded after the game to questions about how much he trusts his veterans in defensive situations.

“You saw the guys I had out on the ice at the end. That kind of spells it out for you. I don’t need to answer that question, you can just tell by the people I’m putting on the ice,” Tortorella said.

Related: Tortorella Making Contentious Flyers Lineup Decisions

Tortorella moved Hayes to the wing in favor of playing Noah Cates at center for the next two games, saying the rookie is “more responsible down low defensively” than a player brought to Philadelphia three years ago on a seven-year contract worth $50 million. Tortorella specifically named Hayes as a player he would look to get more from in 2022-23 during his introductory press conference. Hayes doesn’t seem to have impressed his new head coach so far.

Injury Updates

What would a weekly Flyers News & Rumors column be without updates on injuries to key players? The Flyers have played the last three games without six forwards who could’ve reasonably been counted on as lineup regulars in 2022-23 if they were healthy. Five of the six forwards on the roster with the highest career point totals are currently injured. The organization provided updates as of Tuesday, Nov. 22:

  • Travis Konecny is expected to miss 10-14 days with an upper-body injury.
  • Wade Allison is expected to miss two-three weeks with a hip pointer/oblique muscle strain.
  • Cam Atkinson remains week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
  • Sean Couturier is on track to meet his initial timetable of a three-four month recovery after his surgery on Oct. 27.
  • James van Riemsdyk is still expected to meet his timetable of a six-week recovery after his surgery on Oct. 28.
  • Scott Laughton will miss approximately two weeks with an upper-body injury.
  • Bobby Brink is progressing well from hip surgery on July 21 expected to keep him out for five months.

Entering the overtime period of Wednesday night’s loss against the Washington Capitals, TNT/Flyers color analyst Keith Jones pointed to the starting three on each side. He noted that the Flyers simply don’t have the top-end players to compete with Washington, a team also dealing with an incredible amount of injuries. His analysis quickly came to fruition when Alexander Ovechkin, arguably the greatest goal scorer in NHL history, lit the lamp for the game-winner.

Bo Horvat Trade Rumors

Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat could be on the move soon. Jeff Marek discussed the Flyers as a potential fit after the injury to Couturier because of their long-term uncertainty at the center position. A 27-year-old captain with 16 goals in just 20 games would look good on a team void of offensive firepower. Horvat is also the cousin of Konecny. Bill Meltzer and Jason Myrtetus discussed the likelihood of a trade on the Flyers Daily podcast

Bo Horvat Vancouver Canucks
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Every team wants Bo Horvat on their team. It’s not even a question of ‘would he help’ or ‘is he a player you’d want.’ No question. He’s a leader. He’s a tone-setter and a center, which is such a thin position for the Flyers. He just checks so many boxes,” Meltzer said.

However, they identified financial complications that will probably prevent a trade from happening. Horvat, a free agent after the 2022-23 season, likely won’t sign an extension during the season with the possibility of the salary cap rising during the offseason. The Flyers have no reason to aggressively pursue a player in-season who will be on the market this summer regardless. The long-term possibility still exists, but don’t expect a blockbuster deal between the Flyers and the Canucks in the coming weeks. 

Embarrassment Against Penguins

Since Sidney Crosby entered the league in 2005-06, the Penguins have won three Stanley Cups while the Flyers have drifted all the way down to a low point in their franchise history. At one point in time, however, the Flyers seemed to have a knack for turning the tides and negating the top-end talent of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin by playing a chippy game that ignited a fierce and chaotic rivalry.

The tenure of Mike Sullivan has gone differently, and Pittsburgh’s victory on Friday provided a great example of how much things have changed. The Penguins took a 2-0 lead to the locker room at the first intermission. Nicolas Deslauriers attempted to spark a struggling team by squaring up with Marcus Pettersson. The fight ignited the home crowd, but the Penguins went up 3-0 less than a minute later. Pittsburgh didn’t take the bait against an inferior opponent who simply doesn’t match their talent level anymore.

Sullivan spoke about the talent on his roster before the season began (from The Athletic, How Mike Sullivan and the Penguins became a perfect fit: ‘He’s the only coach for this team,’ 10/11/22). 

“I believe in this group more than ever. I don’t subscribe to the narrative that, because a team is a little older, that it can’t win a championship. I don’t believe that for a second. I just believe in this group,” he said.

The two franchises have grown worlds apart over the past decade since they matched up in the wildest postseason series in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2012. Pittsburgh looks like they’ll contend for their 17th consecutive postseason appearance while the Flyers will likely fall out of contention by the time the trade deadline comes around.