The much-anticipated 2023 NHL Trade Deadline came and went without much activity from the Philadelphia Flyers. The more compelling action happened off the ice with major backlash from the media and the fan base directed at Chuck Fletcher. The Philadelphia general manager (GM) took intense criticism and even some boos in front of a small crowd of season ticket holders gathered for the organization’s town hall meeting at Xfinity Live in South Philadelphia across the street from the Wells Fargo Center.
Related: Fletcher Fails Flyers with NHL Trade Deadline Blunder
The Flyers pulled off a 3-1 home victory in their first game after the deadline disaster against a tired Detroit Red Wings team slipping out of realistic playoff contention. However, their inadequate talent caught up to them against two quality opponents on the road. They lost 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 7 and 1-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 9. They have scored just 11 goals in their last seven games.
Tony DeAngelo Suspension
Jeff Marek put it best when he talked about how the Flyers have driven the conversation on the sports talk radio platform because of their seemingly constant polarizing storylines. A team with the always-intriguing John Tortorella as its head coach and a volatile situation in the front office found its way to the headlines for another reason less than one week after the deadline.
“The Philadelphia Flyers have been a gift, and another chapter (was) written last night with Tony DeAngelo and Corey Perry,” Marek said.
DeAngelo picked up a major penalty and a game misconduct for spearing Perry in the crotch with 2:40 remaining in the third period while the Flyers faced a two-goal deficit. The league suspended the 27-year-old defenseman for two games following the incident.
“He (Perry) tried to slash the stick out of my hands the second beforehand. He talks all game. I asked him to fight. He doesn’t want to fight. He’ll tell you he’s asked me to fight for years. I don’t say no,” DeAngelo said with a vehement tone after the game. “I took 30 punches on the ground, and when I get up, they don’t let me do what I’ve got to do.”
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John Tortorella consistently talks about DeAngelo’s fire and competitive edge as the type of attitude that can feed a team’s winning mentality. However, he also acknowledged that his defenseman crossed the line against Perry.
Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers
The Flyers called up Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers on emergency conditions after short-term injuries to Brendan Lemieux and Wade Allison left the Flyers shorthanded in Raleigh. The two rookies were bright spots in a forgettable shutout loss against a franchise in a completely different position than the Flyers.
Foerster finished with 13:51 of time on ice (TOI), including 1:03 on the power play. He skated confidently with the puck and created space for himself in transition to generate scoring opportunities. The 2020 first-round pick also blocked three shots, including one that undoubtedly saved a goal off the stick of Andrei Svechnikov. Tortorella spoke optimistically about the rookie after the game.
“(Foerster) played very well. I thought he was one of the better players with the puck. (He had) poise with the puck. His first game against a top team like this, it’s encouraging. I thought he was one of our better players offensively,” he said.
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Desnoyers now has three games under his belt in the NHL. He brings a reputation as a gritter who skates hard on the forecheck and sticks up for teammates with an impressive will. The former fifth-rounder has increased his TOI in each game since his debut with 10:30 in his first game, 14:53 in his second, and 15:24 in his third. He played nearly double the time of teammates Tanner Laczynski and Kieffer Bellows against Carolina, indicating the increasing trust of his head coach. Tortorella spoke on Feb. 25 about Desnoyers after his NHL debut against the New Jersey Devils.
“I thought he was terrific. Usually, when a young guy comes in, I don’t notice him sometimes. You guys have asked before when some guys have come up, and I have to look at the tape. I watch him. He was involved. He banged. Certainly checked forward, wasn’t intimidated by anything,” the head coach said.
Tortorella on Fletcher, Remainder of 2022-23
Tortorella spoke one day after the trade deadline. He shaped some of the expectations fans should have for the Flyers for the remainder of the 2022-23 season, and he defended his GM against the strong criticism from the media.
“Don’t get me wrong. We need to grow some skin around here. Criticism is all part of it, and we deserve some criticism as far as where we’re at as a team. I just don’t like the unjustified (criticism). You have enough things to criticize me or Chuck about. I don’t think criticizing Chuck about his day yesterday is warranted because him and the scouts were waiting, willing, and able, and it just didn’t happen,” Tortorella said.
The fiery bench boss also called Fletcher’s decision not to sign Johnny Gaudreau in July 2022 “the greatest non-move” for the franchise. Tortorella insisted that the organization needs to load its foundation before adding a player like Gaudreau with a major financial investment. However, his logic didn’t address the undeniable need for top-end talent on the roster or the salary cap situation that is still doomed because of the long-term investments made in players who aren’t nearly as talented as Gaudreau.
His emphasis on the value of young players contributing to the playoff push for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms suggests that Foerster and Desnoyers won’t stay with the team long. The Flyers won’t carry Sam Ersson as their backup goaltender so that the 23-year-old can play consistent, meaningful games in the American Hockey League (AHL). They have limited call-ups remaining.
Travis Konecny seems unlikely to return for the remainder of the 2022-23 season. The Flyers will give Lemieux, who is an impending unrestricted free agent (UFA), a shot with some ice time in a grinder role to evaluate him as an option for 2023-24. The final 17 games will also factor into the evaluation of players like Allison, Morgan Frost, and Cam York to see where they fit into the organization’s plans in the big picture.