The Philadelphia Flyers finally found their offensive stroke after it was too late. They’ve scored 20 goals in their last four games on their way to a 3-0-1 record against teams all still in contention for playoff position. However, the focus of the organization has shifted away from the ice with a crucial offseason ahead as another year of the worst era in franchise history will end without a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Head coach John Tortorella revealed a concerning reality about the organization’s procedures off the ice, and Kyle Dubas of the Toronto Maple Leafs has now surfaced in rumors connected to the open positions in the Philadelphia front office.
Dubas to Flyers Rumors
The looming front office changes are the talk of the town in Philadelphia. Danny Brière looks like the logical choice to become the full-time general manager (GM) after the 2022-23 season, but who will the organization hire as the President of Hockey Operations? Dubas might not return to the Maple Leafs as the GM in 2023-24, and he could be a perfect fit for the Flyers.
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“Word around the NHL now is this: If the Leafs don’t choose to retain Dubas as general manager, he won’t be out of work for long,” claimed Steve Simmons of The Toronto Sun (from The Toronto Sun, SIMMONS SAYS: GM Kyle Dubas could be hot commodity if let go by Maple Leafs, 3/19/23).
Dubas does not have a contract beyond this season. The Maple Leafs will earn their fifth playoff berth in as many seasons under their current GM in 2022-23, but they have failed to break their playoff series victory drought that stretches all the way back to 2004. Dubas also served as the assistant GM for the previous four seasons, three of them under legendary NHL executive Lou Lamoriello.
The 37-year-old brings the experience of building a feared top offensive unit in Toronto with former top-10 picks William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews. His experience in a major market with heavy media scrutiny and intense pressure from the fan base has done more than enough to prepare him for the passion surrounding Philadelphia sports. The Flyers have also kept their personnel choices too close to their own inner circle, and an outsider’s perspective could help the organization move toward a new era.
Related: Flyers’ Rebuild Hinges on Carter Hart Trade Decision
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The problem is that Dubas is still employed by Toronto, a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The young GM spent aggressively at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline with the acquisitions of Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Jake McCabe, and Luke Schenn. The expectation that they don’t bring Dubas back is based on the assumption of a seventh straight first-round playoff exit forcing the hand of a desperate organization. Even if the Maple Leafs continue the astonishing streak of early exits, will the blame fall on a GM who has gone all in to construct a roster loaded with talent? The Flyers will have a close eye on how the Toronto soap opera unfolds this spring.
Tortorella Calls Out Medical Situation
Tortorella shared some feelings about the organization’s history of medical practices. He spoke bluntly on March 17 with words that not many members of the organization would admit publicly. Although his statement didn’t address any immediate issue with the team, it reflected on the level of dysfunction in Philadelphia.
“I think there’s a huge scab on this organization with the medical situation that was prior. I was hired June 16 (2022). That was the number one thing in my mind going on here. How are we going to get this straightened out, as far as making sure they (the players) are more confident, as far as how they are being treated?… I think it’s just doing it the right way. I didn’t realize when I took the job how long some of the medical problems and how things were being handled. It’s been going on for years here. It’s not criticizing any one person, but it’s been a mess. It’s still something that’s on one of our main burners to continue to get better. I think we have stabilized it.”-John Tortorella
The Flyers finished third in the NHL in man games lost in 2021-22 with 490 and third from the bottom of the league in Cap Hit Injured Players (CHIP), measuring the impact of players out of the lineup based on their collective salary. Joel Farabee, Ryan Ellis, and Derick Brassard were among players who reaggravated previous injuries by returning to action too soon.
The Flyers hired Ian McKeown in August 2022 to “oversee a comprehensive and coordinated health and wellness program for all players within the Flyers organization while working closely with the team of doctors and specialists at Penn Medicine,” according to the official press release. They made three more related hires in September 2022.
The 2022-23 season began with Cam Atkinson as an unexpected scratch. His injury timeline slowly stretched in the same mysterious way that Flyers fans became too familiar with when Ellis missed the majority of the 2021-22 season. Atkinson eventually decided on season-ending neck surgery in December around the same time as the team dealt with a barrage of other injuries to its most experienced forwards.
The injury problems have fizzled during the second half of the 2022-23 season. Tortorella believes they have started to stabilize the situation and instill confidence in the players to trust the medical staff again. However, the bold admission is another case of the first-year head coach identifying the magnitude of the disastrous mess the Flyers have become in recent years.
Tippett Hot Streak
Owen Tippett has all of a sudden stepped into a role as one of the featured offensive players on the team in the absence of Travis Konecny. He scored his first NHL hat trick on March 17 against the Buffalo Sabres on the one-year anniversary of Claude Giroux’s 1000th and final game with the Flyers. The 23-year-old winger has reached a new level of confidence since coming to Philadelphia in the return package for the franchise legend.
Tippett has scored 21 goals and added 18 assists in 66 games in 2022-23. All three are career highs. His career shooting percentage (SH%) entering the season sat at just 7.9%, but he has been able to release the cannon for an 11% rate this season. His play-driving metrics sit slightly below average, but they will improve drastically if he continues to create scoring chances as well as he has on his recent hot streak and improve his overall defense.
“He thinks he’s it. He thinks he’s a really good player. You don’t know how exciting it is for a coach when you see a player cross that bridge mentally, thinking ‘I’m a good player. I’m going to take chances. I’m going to try things.’ That’s what it is right now,” Tortorella said on March 23 about how Tippett has kept up his confidence level in three games since notching the hat trick.
Tippett had just turned the puck over late in a tie game against the Minnesota Wild and ended up taking a poorly-timed penalty. Players guilty of those types of mistakes don’t usually earn compliments from Tortorella immediately afterward, but Tippett has clearly reached the good graces of his head coach.
Loose Pucks: Foerster, Carnival, Flyers Cup
Tyson Foerster played the first three games of his NHL career without recording a point. However, his hustle and hard forechecking have paid off with a six-point surge in his last four games. The Flyers selected him in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, and he’s risen to become one of the top prospects in their system. His improved skating ability and lethal wrist shot have shown in a seven-game NHL stint that will come to a close after the weekend when he rejoins the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for an American Hockey League (AHL) playoff run.
The Flyers Charities Carnival (formerly the Flyers Wives Carnival) will return to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 26 for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic. Tickets are available on PhiladelphiaFlyers.com.
The Flyers Cup winners in local high school hockey were determined this week. LaSalle won the AAA division while Pennsbury took the AA crown. West Chester East took the A division. Salesianum won the Delaware/South Jersey bracket, and Downingtown West won the girl’s division.