The Philadelphia Flyers have returned home to the East Coast for a game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday and a short trip to Newark to face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. However, they certainly aren’t without their fair share of drama one week before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. A team coached by John Tortorella rarely stays out of the headlines, and Travis Sanheim and Joel Farabee are the latest Flyers in the news for the wrong reasons.
Farabee Trade Rumors
Frank Seravalli unleashed an unexpected trade rumor involving a member of the Flyers.
“Sources say Farabee’s camp has voiced their displeasure to the Flyers as to how this season has unfolded under coach John Tortorella,” he wrote on The Daily Faceoff.
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Seravalli did point out that there’s been no formal trade request and that any deal would be more likely to happen during the offseason. However, he mentioned Tortorella’s decision to sit Farabee against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 20 after just 3:52 of ice time and a demotion to the fourth line as the reasoning behind Farabee’s displeasure.
The 22-year-old winger has slipped in offensive production with just one point in his last 16 games. After disc replacement surgery over the offseason, he surprisingly appeared in the lineup for the first game of the regular season. He spent time to get his footing in the first few weeks, but both Farabee and Tortorella openly stated on Dec. 15 that the injury should no longer affect his performance.
“I’m not going to let him hide behind his injury, I think it’s plenty of time to get through that. I just think he has been inconsistent,” Tortorella said.
Farabee took accountability for his inconsistency the same December day that his head coach issued the public challenge.
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“I feel really good, honestly, body-wise. Definitely struggling offensively. Now I’m really just trying to simplify. (I) don’t want to turn too many pucks over because you do that, my night usually ends pretty quick,” he said.
While he’s clearly not in the best current standing, especially after an undisciplined penalty against the Oilers on Feb. 21, it’s highly unlikely that the Flyers will move Farabee before the deadline on March 3. While no player likes to get benched or demoted to a lesser role, Farabee hasn’t spent extended time on the fourth line this season. He’s been receptive to Tortorella’s demanding style publicly with no indication that he felt differently until Seravalli’s report.
Tortorella sat Sanheim against Calgary despite the 26-year-old defenseman’s connection to the area. Sanheim grew up in Manitoba, but he began his career with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) when he was 17 years old. His family members have traveled to Calgary to watch him play in the past.
Sanheim has struggled in 2022-23 after signing an eight-year, $50 million contract extension on the day of the regular-season opener. His point production has dropped. He’s posting the worst expected goal and Corsi shares of his career, and he has become a liability in the defensive zone. The optimism surrounding Sanheim’s 2021-22 season faded fast, and the Flyers now need to wonder before his new deal even begins in 2023-24 if general manager Chuck Fletcher made a mistake handing out such a lucrative contract.
Sanheim hasn’t met the standard set by Tortorella this season, and the first-year Flyers head coach hasn’t hesitated to sit veteran players with track records of success or pricey cap hits regardless of the opponent or situation. Kevin Hayes, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Tony DeAngelo have all sat as healthy scratches and returned to the lineup at different points this season.
The Flyers deliberately signed up for the hard-nosed attitude of John Tortorella with the hope that he would push the limits to get the most out of his players. They knew that a demanding coach might offend players by making decisions like this one. While the 2022-23 team has taken encouraging first steps toward a new standard in Philadelphia, Tortorella must also remain conscious of a line between demanding and fair. He spoke on Jan. 7 about empowering players based on the mindset of the modern athlete.
“I have to make that read with our athletes because it’s about them, not about me,” Tortorella said.
The NHL will have eyes on Tortorella to see if an unorthodox approach to his players can last during an era when head coaches need to show emotional intelligence.
While the team hasn’t released an official update, Travis Konecny left the Presidents’ Day matinee against the Flames with an upper-body injury and missed a game against the Edmonton Oilers the following night. He will be assessed by the team medical staff in Philadelphia. Julian McKenzie of The Athletic reported that he saw Konecny walking with a sling on his left arm after the Calgary game.
The injury occurred on a hit from MacKenzie Weegar in a puck battle below the Calgary goal line. Konecny attempted to shield a much bigger defender with his body, but Weegar didn’t hesitate to plow straight ahead and knock Philadelphia’s leading scorer out of the game.
Konecny has been incredibly streaky with his offensive production over the last two months. He caught fire with 20 points in 10 games from Dec. 20 until Jan. 11. However, he hit a wall with just three points over his next 13 games. Leading up to the injury, he began to bust out of the slump with three goals and two assists in three games. He is the offensive catalyst for a team that lacks top-line offensive playmakers. He has already set a career high in 2022-23 with 27 goals, and he’ll likely eclipse his career best in points if a long-term injury doesn’t get in his way.
West Coast Trip Recap
The Flyers started off their recent road trip with one of their worst performances since Tortorella took over to begin the 2022-23 season. The Seattle Kraken outworked them in all three zones in a 6-2 blowout at Climate Pledge Arena on Feb. 16. The laugher took place just four days after the Kraken defeated the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in a 4-3 game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Elias Pettersson then put a five-point effort on the Orange and Black in a 6-2 victory for the Vancouver Canucks, one of the few NHL franchises that comes anywhere close to matching the organizational chaos of the Flyers. The losing skid didn’t look pretty. However, a win against the Flames and a tightly-fought loss against the high-powered Oilers settled Tortorella’s overall point of view about the trip.
“Since that Seattle game (the 6-2 loss), we’ve just kind of kept on playing, playing the right way. We sharpened our bench tonight. We checked. We were above the puck. We did all the things to win a hockey game, and we don’t find a way to do it. But I think the group through this trip –it’s been a long trip– have handled themselves very well,” he said after the loss in Edmonton on Feb. 21.
The Flyers pulled off an improbable shootout victory against the Oilers on Feb. 9, and they led the Feb. 21 matchup 2-1 entering the third period. Leon Draisaitl tied the game, and Connor McDavid added two goals to avoid consecutive defeats against a team out of playoff contention.
“I think it’s two of the games we’ve been so focused on how we have to play, so I give our team a lot of credit although we lose tonight,” Tortorella said about Philadelphia’s effort in two games against the highest-scoring offense in the NHL.