The Philadelphia Flyers continue to slide down the slippery slope of the NHL standings with a brutal lack of offense and an inability to match the skill of their opponents. They began their four-game road trip with overtime losses against the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 9 and the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 11. They followed it up with a 3-2 regulation loss against the Colorado Avalanche, but they fought hard to earn one victory to close out the trip against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 15. They own a better point percentage than just five NHL teams.
Tortorella Benches Hayes
Head coach John Tortorella made a curious decision that will stir up some chatter in the world of the Flyers. Kevin Hayes rode the bench for the entire third period of the victory against the Devils at the Prudential Center. While Tortorella did not specify the reason for his decision, Hayes committed a bad turnover in the final minute of the second period that led to a 2-on-1 rush the other way for New Jersey.
Hayes also sat for the entire third period against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 23 along with Travis Konecny. Tortorella has pointed to the defensive inconsistency of his leading point scorer as an area that needs improvement. He even moved Hayes to the wing in favor of developing rookie Noah Cates at center despite the obvious need for centers at the NHL level.
“There’s no problem between me and Torts (Tortorella). He’s benched me this season. He’s yelled at me in the locker room. We’ve had good conversations. We’ve had bad conversations. It’s pretty much been the same with every single coach I’ve had. There’s no bad blood there,” Hayes said prior to the benching in New Jersey (from The Athletic, How Flyers forward Kevin Hayes is working to win over John Tortorella, 12/7/22).
Hayes is publicly accepting the hard coaching despite the excellent offensive output of 29 points in 30 games. The .96 average points per game mark drastically exceeds his career average of .60 entering the 2022-23 season. Philadelphia’s struggling offense needs Hayes, but Tortorella will accept nothing less than a strong, two-way game.
Cam York Back in the NHL
Before the season began, Tortorella made the first contentious decision of his tenure in Philadelphia by sending defenseman Cam York to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL). The Flyers selected York in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, and an emphasis on evaluating young talent within the organization suggested that he would play a major role in 2022-23.
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“I just think there’s a lot there that Cam has. I just want him to offer it up a little bit more to the team. I’m not sure where the road goes, but he’s just got so many different abilities that could be very positive for the team,” Tortorella said on Oct. 4 after a preseason loss to the New York Islanders.
York showed flashes of what his coach was looking for during the four-game road trip. His confidence in carrying the puck must’ve caught Tortorella’s eye quickly. The former Michigan Wolverine quickly earned 24:08 of ice time in just his second NHL game of the season. He followed it up with 21:35 two days later. He posted a 56.69 percent share of the expected goals (xGF%) on the four-game road trip.
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His work on the power play could become his greatest contribution to a struggling offensive team. While he was on the ice for a shorthanded goal in the loss against the Avalanche, he will still see extended minutes with the man advantage at least for the remainder of Tony DeAngelo’s absence.
DeAngelo, Lycksell, Roster Moves
The Flyers placed DeAngelo on non-roster status due to a family matter. The 26-year-old defenseman last played on Dec. 7 in Philadelphia against the Washington Capitals. He has four goals and 10 assists in 26 games during his first season with the Flyers.
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They promoted Olle Lycksell in DeAngelo’s place for the game against New Jersey. The 23-year-old Swede showed promise during two September rookie games against the New York Rangers at the PPL Center in the Lehigh Valley. He continued to flash in the preseason in his first extended action in North America. However, after just one regular-season NHL game, the Flyers sent him to the Phantoms for lengthier development. He played 10:07 against the Devils.
Depth forwards Patrick Brown and Max Willman both missed the game against the Devils with upper-body injuries. If either player is available to return on Saturday to face the Rangers in Philadelphia, the Flyers will likely send Lycksell back to the Phantoms. It’s difficult for players without significant NHL experience to make an impression in limited action, and Lycksell deserves a bit more time to prove himself than two journeymen who don’t factor into the long-term plans of the organization.
The Flyers will return home for a matchup against the Rangers on Saturday, Dec. 17, and their final home game of the calendar year is against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Dec. 20.