Nearly two months after Ryan Ellis was placed on injured reserve following a lower-body injury that was going to keep him out 6-to-8 weeks, the Philadelphia Flyers are unfortunately still wondering when their top-pair defenseman will return to the lineup.
According to reports, Ellis returned to the ice prior to the NHL-mandated three-day holiday break for rehab and was hoping to return sometime in early January as originally expected. More information was to be provided by the team after the holiday break.
“Making progress,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. “It’s still week to week, doing better. He’s been skating a little bit, so that’s progress. He’s feeling better. Once we come out of the break, we’re hopeful that he’ll be closer to playing, but it’s still a week-to-week situation.”
His absence from the lineup during the last eight weeks has clearly affected the team in more ways than one. From a 10 game losing streak to a carousel of defensive replacements, the Flyers are in desperate need of the return of their top-pair defenseman, but only if he is fully healthy and ready to return to the lineup.
“One player shouldn’t be enough to sink our team, but Ryan Ellis is an elite puck mover, he’s elite in transition, he would allow us to put everybody in the right chair,” Fletcher said during the team’s 10-game losing streak.
While it might seem like an eternity since he last played a game for the orange and black, his health moving forward is way more important at the moment. He undoubtedly rushed back into the lineup earlier this season, so the Flyers need to avoid that type of situation altogether to make sure he is ready to go once the time comes.
Frustrating Times Ahead
As it was previously mentioned, the Flyers aimed to have Ellis back sometime in early January, but that does not seem like it is going to be the case anymore. After the holiday break, he continued to skate in an attempt to make a return to the lineup sometime in the near future. Per interim head coach Mike Yeo, the Flyers officially do not have a timeline for Ellis’ return.
“I know Ryan’s frustrated,” Yeo said. “He’s a player that we really miss. He is a very, very strong player on both sides of the puck. When you don’t have a guy like that in your lineup, you feel it defensively and you also see it in the execution part of our game. The game that we want to play, we want to play a fast game, we want to get on the attack, we want to get to the offensive zone. He’s a guy that helps you do those things.
“It’s tough not having him and I know it’s been a real frustrating time for him. It’s just not making a lot of progress right now, so hopefully something changes there very soon.”
The injury has not been confirmed by the team, but it appears to be in the hip/groin area. He has had issues with this area earlier in the season, and many times during his career, which is no surprise that this is happening again. The 31-year old defenseman is, unfortunately, injury-prone.
Since being acquired this offseason from the Nashville Predators, Ellis has only played four games for the orange and black in which he recorded five points (1 goal, 4 assists). He is a pivotal piece to the success of the team on the backend, but only if he is able to stay healthy. While the situation certainly puts a damper on the season, there is nothing that can really be done about it other than finding a suitable replacement, which the team has not done a great job of doing.
Moving Forward without Ellis
For the time being, the Flyers need to come up with a solution to fill the role of Ellis. One of those options seems to be Cam York if he is not able to return in the coming weeks. York is currently on the Flyers taxi squad and has spent the majority of the season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The young defenseman certainly proved he is ready to take on a bigger role with the Flyers, but still needs a bit more time to fully develop his game. The highly anticipated defenseman is long been waited upon by Flyers fans since he was drafted 14th overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
He might not be the answer to the problem, but it is worth taking a risk for in an attempt to find a solution. The team was greatly impressed by his play last season in the three games he played with the club, so it might be worth giving him a shot (from ‘Flyers forwards Kevin Hayes and Morgan Frost removed from COVID-19 protocols; defenseman Cam York recalled from Phantoms,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/28/2021).
“Obviously Yorkie, in seeing what he did for us at the end of the year last year and seeing how his game is progressing and coming along this year and we know what he’s capable of, he’s a guy that we’re comfortable putting in the lineup if that opportunity’s there for him,” Yeo said.
With the Phantoms this season, he has put up eight points (1G, 7A) in 21 games played so far. At any given point he is able to break out and earn his spot in the lineup.
Ellis’ Teammates React to the Situation
Regardless of the situation at hand and attempting to find a replacement, Ellis is still a member of the Flyers and an important part of the locker room. He quickly became a favorite among the team as his talents boosted the team, so his absence is clearly felt each day.
“Obviously that’s a tough situation for Elly, coming into a new team and not really being able to get going,” said Scott Laughton following Monday’s practice. “I think once you start playing games, that’s when you really get to know the guy and he gets to know us and everything like that.
“We’ve seen him around the rink and try to keep him in the loop. I’ve talked to him quite a bit since Christmas break, too. Just try and reach out whenever you can and kind of keep him in the loop. I know he’s watching the games and eager to get back out there.”
All the Flyers can do is hope that he is able to make a full recovery over the next couple of weeks and he will be back on the ice before the team knows it. The next couple of weeks are obviously going to be tough, but the team needs to continue holding things together to the best of their ability.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator and serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo in articles like this one.