The Philadelphia Flyers looked primed to add the superstar player they lacked when Johnny Gaudreau, a native of the Philadelphia area who grew up rooting for the team, entered free agency yesterday. General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher balked at his best chance to “aggressively retool” the roster back into contention and instead focused on minor moves. Catch up on how the Flyers got to a point where their GM is now under serious fire from the fan base.
No Aggressive Moves in Free Agency
The Flyers signed Justin Braun and Nicolas Deslauriers on the first day of free agency. Braun is a serviceable, stay-at-home defenseman who returns just four months after Fletcher dealt him to the New York Rangers ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Deslauriers brings a physical presence that will help restore the attitude the Flyers want to carry with new head coach John Tortorella.
The sentiment of frustration from the Philadelphia fan base has less to do with signing Braun and Deslauriers and more to do with Fletcher’s proclamation of being “out on the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes” just hours before the South Jersey product signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fans shouldn’t expect much further action.
“We’re out on all the remaining free agents with the reality of our cap situation right now. It probably precluded us from looking at some of the more expensive options… in the market today. Today, to us, was more about depth signings, getting guys to make us a little bit harder to play against and making sure we have some players on two-way contracts that, again, can move between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia.”
The Flyers also signed Kevin Connauton, Troy Grosenick, Louis Belpedio, Cooper Marody, and Adam Brooks. All five are more likely to contribute in the American Hockey League (AHL) next season. Connauton was the most notable after he played 26 of his 39 NHL games on the depleted Philadelphia blue line in 2021-22.
Saying Goodbye to Oskar Lindblom
The organization placed Oskar Lindblom on waivers for the purposes of a buyout on Tuesday morning. The Swedish winger left the team in December 2019 after getting diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He then wrote his own story of perseverance and inspiration by returning to play in two NHL playoff games in the Toronto bubble in September 2020. He scored 97 points in 263 games in five seasons in Philadelphia.
The business decision created $3.33 million in cap space in 2021-22, and Lindblom signed a two-year contract with the San Jose Sharks just one day later. The Flyers also announced that Flyers Charities will make a $100,000 donation in Lindblom’s name to a local organization that supports families impacted by cancer.
Thompson to Coach Flyers Power Play
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet expects Rocky Thompson to join Tortorella’s staff in 2021-22. The Flyers brought in Brad Shaw to coach the defensemen and the penalty kill, but the bigger question mark was the power-play coach. The Blue Jackets ranked 29th in the league on the power play during Tortorella’s seven-year tenure. The Vancouver Canucks ranked 26th in his only season, and the Rangers ranked 28th with the man advantage during his five-year tenure.
Thompson famously made headlines in 2020 during his tenure with the Sharks after reportedly ripping off his shirt in a power-play meeting and challenging Evander Kane to a fight. He left the position in 2021 out of necessity because of health protocols. During his playing career, Thompson was a feared enforcer who racked up 117 penalty minutes (PIM) without recording a point in 25 career NHL games. However, he showed excellent knowledge of the evolution of the offensive game on TSN Radio when he began his tenure with the Sharks.
“A good quarterback on the power play creates space for the flanks. And if the flanks can get some space, you’re going to be able to generate some offense in various ways,” Thompson said.
His lengthy philosophy aligns with Fletcher’s emphasis on the need for skilled players to shoot from the flank areas on a successful power play in the modern NHL.
With Fletcher’s admission that the Flyers don’t plan to continue pursuing free agents, the majority of the 2022-23 roster is already set. Things didn’t pan out the way most people envisioned in free agency, but then again, they rarely do in the world of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.