Flyers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager, Chuck Fletcher addressed the media on Tuesday, discussing the state of the team shortly before the NHL's All-Star break. While a good portion was focused on updates of Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom (see story HERE), there was plenty of other items discussed.
Here are five key quotes from the press conference, and their significance for the team over the remainder of the 2019-20 season:
1. "On the whole, I think everything's going in the right direction. But we have a lot of work to do."
As of this writing, the Flyers sit in the lower wildcard playoff position in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Florida Panthers. Despite the Flyers' recent 1-4-1 road trip, Philadelphia is within reasonable striking of both the upper wildcard spot in the East (the Carolina Hurricanes are four points plus a tiebreaker advantage ahead of the Flyers) and six points plus a tiebreaker disadvantage behind the New York Islanders in the battle for the automatic playoff spot that comes with third place in the Metro Division.
In the bigger picture, the team's number one goal heading into this season in terms of maximizing their playoff chances was to cut the team's goals against average.
"If you're into advanced stats, we're actually pretty good. I think we're a team that certainly has better structure we defended better or PK's better. I think it's up three and a half points this year. Power play's better, it's up two points this year."
2. "We have to be better on the road."
The disparity between the Flyers' home and road records -- and the underlying goals per game and goals against average numbers at the Wells Fargo Center and away -- is mystifying to the team.
"Our goals against on the road and special teams on the road have not been very good. A lot of our 5-on-5 numbers are OK. It's not like we're giving up a larger percentage of shots or things of that nature. Some of it's been goaltending, some of it's you fall behind and you chase the game, and when you chase the game you tend to open up and take chances, and it invites other bad things to happen," Fletcher said.
At home, the Flyers boast a 15-3-4 record, scoring an average 3.64 goals per game (6th-highest leaguewide), carrying a 2.05 goals against average (2nd in the NHL). The power play clocks in at 23.1 percent efficiency (9th), and the penalty kill is at 86.8 percent success (4th). On the road, the Flyers are 9-13-2, averaging 2.54 goals per game (21st), posting a 3.84 goals against average (30th), 14.7 percent power play (25th), and 77.1 percent penalty kill (24th).
3. "We are asking a lot out of our young players right now."
Six different players have made their NHL debuts this season for the Flyers. Additionally, the team has dressed several others who qualify as rookies this season under NHL rules. Fast-rising second-year goaltender Carter Hart is all of 21 years old. Meanwhile, the blueline regularly incorporates multiple players with had less than 200 games of NHL experience heading into this season.
"You kind of get reminded a little bit of the need to be patient with young players," Fletcher said of the ups and downs of many in the group, referring specifically in this instance to Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim. "We've got a lot of these kids to grow, so I don't know that we're looking to bump too many guys out of key spots right now."
Before 2017 first-round pick Morgan Frost would be recalled for a second stint with the big club, the organization wants to see the 20-year-old improve the consistency of his pacing and improve in various off-puck details as well as regaining his offensive confidence and mojo. A fellow first-rounder, 2018 selection Joel Farabee, remains with the big team despite some offensive struggles and reduced recent ice time. Fletcher said that the maturity of Farabee's all-around game makes the GM inclined to keep the 19-year-old with the NHL roster rather than have him re-join Frost with the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
"The thing with Joel is his game is so much more advanced than the other kids away from the puck and defensively. He's one of our best forwards in terms of puck management game management, which I think has slipped a little bit the last week, last week and a half. To me, he's still one of the best guys in our team that way so that that allows him to continue," Fletcher said.
4. "I don't know if it makes sense to pay a massive price for rental right now."
The NHL trade deadline is on Feb. 24. Fletcher said that he is open to deals that would fill a need on the roster but for various reasons -- salary cap constraints, a desire to continue developing youth that's within the organization, and the leaguewide difficulties in making in-season "hockey trades" for upper lineup players -- he has to be realistic about his approach to the deadline this year.
"You're always looking to see if you can improve your team. You're always on the phone talking to teams and those type of players, there's not a lot of them readily available. For our situation, I don't know if it makes sense to pay a massive price for rental right now. I don't think that that is the right move for this group but if we can add a forward that can help our team, sure," Fletcher said.
"But where are we going to be in six months or 12 months? I'm an optimistic guy, but I'm hoping Oskar [Lindblom] and Nolan [Patrick] are a big part of that, too, so if that's the case and, you always want to look at what you're giving up to get. Certainly we're looking at every situation and our goal is to make the playoffs. We want to get in."
5. "Braun has a chance for Saturday."
Veteran defenseman Justin Braun (groin injury) has missed the last four games. He was originally slated to be out until after the All-Star break. However, he has been skating regularly this week, and Fletcher said the player is a little bit ahead of schedule.
"He has a chance for Saturday and I think he has a strong chance for Tuesday, if that makes any sense. I think he's feeling better. I think it's likely we get him back before the break," Flyers said.
Fellow defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. Fletcher said the player's initial timetable is still in place, and he is expected to return for the team's Jan. 31 game in Pittsburgh.Video: Hear from Fletcher regarding Patrick and Lindblom