Any way you slice it, the news that Travis Konecny is out indefinitely with a concussion presents a challenge for the Philadelphia Flyers; as it would for any team to be without their leading scorer. The team will have to make adjustments in the lineup, both at 5-on-5 and on the power play.
"I'm still not there yet," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in regard to the specific personnel adjustments the team will make.
"I'm contemplating a few things. I want to watch Colorado's game too [on Monday against Calgary] and then I'll sort that out."
The Flyers had a pre-scheduled skills day at practice on Monday. before departing for Denver on Tuesday, the team will hold a regular practice at which the lineup tweaks will become more evident.
Vigneault indicated on Monday that the team is not currently planning to make any callups from the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the road trip. Chris Stewart will rejoin the Flyers lineup. As of now, Konecny is not slated to travel with the team on the trip.
"He's been our best scorer and he's found a way to contribute, not just offensively but he's been playing well defensively also. We use him heavily on five-on-five and on the power play. But that's going to give an opportunity for someone else to get a bigger role and get a little more ice time. There's no doubt there's a challenge there, but injuries are part of a season. You have to expect it," Vigneault said.
Here are five possibilities the Flyers might employ:
1. Breaking up the Hayes line: The combination of Kevin Hayes centering Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee has solidified the Flyers' third line into a team strength in recent weeks.
Vigneault was reluctant to break up the trio to address the absence of Michael Raffl (who would himself have been a stopgap option to move up in the lineup had he not recently been lost for four weeks due to a broken finger). If the line is altered now with Konecny out, either Laughton or Farabee could play a wing on Giroux's line. However, if it's Farabee, the Flyers would have 19-year-old (Farabee) and 20-year-old (Morgan Frost) rookies on the same line.
2. Move up JVR: If the current Hayes line is kept intact, the Flyers might up to elevate James van Riemsdyk to the line with Giroux and Frost. The sticking point here is that JVR is exclusively a left wing and Giroux also prefers the left wing at this stage of his career. The Flyers could alternatively move Giroux back to center and either experiment with Frost on a wing or move him down in the lineup.
3. Opt for Voracek: Jakub Voracek has started to find his groove again recently since being reunited with Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom. However, he also has considerable experience playing with Giroux over the years, and his big frame would bring some size to a line centered by Frost.
One drawback potentially is that all three among Giroux, Voracek and Frost are pass-first players by preference. Every line needs at least one player who prefers to shoot. Frost has been trying to shoot the puck with regularity since his callup, although he's always been a playmaker first and scorer second.
4. Hayes on PP2: Kevin Hayes started the season out seeing time on the power play but was taken off fairly early when he was struggling offensively. The absence of Konecny might open a spot on the second unit for Hayes if Couturier goes back (as he did the previous two seasons with strong success) to Giroux's unit.
5. Consider a callup: Although the current plan is not to call up anyone from Lehigh Valley, that could change if Konecny's absence extends beyond the upcoming road trip. There is no one player the Flyers could recall who would bring everything that Konecny does, but there are some players who offer desirable elements.
Connor Bunnaman has been back in the Phantoms lineup for several games after missing a month-plus due to injury shortly after the Flyers sent him down. David Kase brings some of the speed and motor that Konecny has, although he's not an equivalent offensive talent. Carsen Twarynski has had two stints on the NHL roster this season and could play in the bottom six again if JVR or Farabee moves up and combos are switched around accordingly.