Anyone who knows me knows that I thrive on randomness. In that spirit, I’ve decided to do something new this season here at Philly is Flyer. This year I’ll be putting all my random Flyers and hockey thoughts on paper… or in words on the internet. From my recliner directly to your eyes, be prepared to take a journey through the cloudy wilderness that is my mind.
First things first: I absolutely despise summer. The heat, the long work days, and the beach can all take a one way rocket ship ride to the deepest darkest part of the Milky Way. There’s also no hockey.
But this time of year, at the end of summer, means the beginning of hockey season. In addition to lower temperatures and shorter days, we are all about to strap into the emotional roller coaster that is the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers returned to the ice Monday in a 3-1 preseason loss to the Islanders, but the outcome of the game really isn’t important at all this time of year. A win or loss in September certainly doesn’t affect the team’s chase for glory. What is important is how how the new guys mesh with their teammates, how the new coaching staff implements their systems, and which young guys can impress enough to get a chance to crack the pro roster when the season opens on October 4.
The player that stood out most to me in the first preseason game was Kevin Hayes. While he isn’t a flashy highlight-making goal scorer, the new center is a strong force with the puck who uses his body to make plays both for himself and his teammates. The line combination of Hayes, Voracek and JVR, or the Beef Line as I’ve dubbed them, looked to have a ton of chemistry together. Their natural ability to work together was especially apparent as they scored the lone Flyer goal. The Flyers now have the best of both worlds with their top two lines. With Giroux, Couturier, and the recently signed Konecny (more on that soon), the top two lines have a combination of flashy goal scoring and intelligent playmaking, all with a high skill set. The Beef Line also provides a strong physical play style that, should they stay together once the regular season begins, will make opposing teams work for every possession. This new line, and especially Hayes’ presence in the center of it, creates depth and versatility that the Flyers haven’t had in a very long time.
Some more quick hits on this game:
-In addition to his play in the offensive zone, Hayes was instrumental in the Flyers killing off an Isles 5-on-3 powerplay, which just adds to his value to the team.
-Gostisbehere looked like himself again. His speed and shifty skating ability was on full display. His health is huge for the team this year and so far things are trending in the right direction for #53.
-Zamula, Zamula, ZAMULA. This kid was all over the ice and made several defensive plays that broke up scoring chances for New York. He’s still young and has more developing to do, but the Flyers may have another gem to add to their crowded cupboard of young high-end blue liners.
-Chris Stewart made middle aged Flyers fans all over the Delaware Valley jump for joy when he dropped the gloves, but he shouldn’t be wearing #44. Apparently not having a former Flyer in the front office means the legends of ex-players like Kimmo Timonen are doomed to be forgotten.
-Phil Myers. That’s it.
-Justin Braun had a strong game even though he wears a prospect’s number. He was physical in his own zone and tenacious in his puck pursuit.
After the free agency frenzy in early July came and went, the only thing we fans cared about was the Flyers signing their top two RFAs, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. It took a lot longer than anyone really wanted, especially TK who has already missed four days of camp, but both players are now signed to six-year deals at TREMENDOUSLY team friendly numbers.
Ivan Provorov has the potential to be a Norris Trophy candidate for all six of the seasons he’s signed for. The $6.75M AAV on his contract is almost unfathomable considering his skill set and potential to be one of the best defensemen in the sport. Provorov is the quintessential work horse d-man that every team in the NHL would kill to have. His work ethic is second to none, just like his desire to be best. The Flyers hit a home run with Provorov (shout out Ron Hextall) and I, for one, can’t wait to see him eat ALL of the playoff minutes and dominate when it matters most.
How about that TK guy? Number 11 in your programs, number 1 in my heart. He will officially be here until I’m 33 (gross). Konecny is a Flyers fan’s dream. The small pugnacious player will dangle past defensemen for a goal and let them hear about it the rest of the game. His sound bites from the Stadium Series against the Penguins are already the stuff of legend in Philadelphia, and the legend will continue to grow. I hate to say it because I hate the term, but TK is a “Philly Guy.” All the extracurriculars and wild hair aside, I expect big things from Konecny over the next six seasons. Now that the contract won’t be looming over his head and Dave Hakstol wont be around to screw with his ice time, TK is poised for a breakout. I’m making the guarantee right now that he will get his first of many 30 goal seasons in 2019. He has the speed, elusiveness and ability to net 30 and I think he’s going to thrive in Vigneault’s fast paced system.
A lot can happen in the next six years. Hell, a lot can happen in the next six hours. Who knows how these two contracts will ultimately play out or if these guys will still be in orange and black when the contracts expire. As I see it right now, the Flyers got great value on these deals and have locked up two corner stone players who will be leaders and the foundation of the next core of this team. If I had to bet, I’d say one of them will one day succeed Giroux as Flyers captain.
One last thing I want to mention: GETTIN’ BULLIED IS COMING BACK! The President of Flyers Twitter Dan Silver and myself host our favorite Flyers podcast, part of The Hockey Podcast Network this season. We love the Flyers and love talking about them, for better or worse.