Flyers Exit Interview: Ellis Update, Atkinson, Laughton, Provorov
As players rolled in one by one on Saturday morning and into the afternoon for exit interviews following the 2021-22 season, the situation for the Flyers players couldn’t be more uncertain. There is sure to be plenty of movement and decisions coming soon that will influence what the roster will look like next season and beyond. There were several players who will be left to wait and see what comes in the offseason.
This is usually a time for players to have one final message before the summer months. What are the areas they want to focus on or the team to address? What do they have to take away from this season?
It wasn’t all that noteworthy to hear players speak of the frustrations of the season, the losing streaks and such that made this a historically bad season for the Flyers. There were a few players that addressed it in a way that rang through louder than others.
Cam Atkinson may have been a newcomer to the team, but he was arguably the most accountable in postgame situations. He addressed the lack of success, the struggles, the frustrations, and the like head on. He shouldered that, playing through injury for some time before he felt his play was hurting the team more than helping and ultimately ending his season nine games early.
“It's a pretty crappy feeling being out of the playoffs by January. Every guy’s got to look hard in the mirror and realize we never want to be in this spot again,” Atkinson said. “What an embarrassment it was for the organization, the fan base and the city itself. It’s hard to build a culture within an organization and it’s just as easy to lose that. We need to find a way to stick together and build that winning culture.
“Coming to the rink and expecting to win, not hoping to win. I’m just embarrassed, I guess. It’s a crappy feeling. Almost a waste of a year in my mind, but I hope Chuck is going to do some things in the summer to help this team.
“I want to be here. I want to win here. We will turn this thing around. Have a good summer and get back at it for next year.”
Scott Laughton seemed to have similar sentiments. One thing that players have said in the past is about becoming a harder team to play against. The moves of last offseason were supposed to help with that.
“Even with the injuries this year and everything, I don’t think we were playing the right way even before the injuries,” Laughton said. “We were chasing games. We didn’t play with the puck and breaking habits. I think it’s working together and being able to play the right way.
“I think every guy's got to take a hard look at the mirror this summer and see what went wrong in their game individually to try and help the team. That’s when it really comes together. These last two years I don’t think we necessarily played good hockey or been a hard team to play against. That’s what we have to get back to, especially in Philly at the Wells Fargo in front of your fans. I think they demand that. They expect it, and we have to get back to that. That will be a work in progress.”
Travis Sanheim was also very direct with his comments, not focusing on the injuries the blue line faced, but focusing on the need to make major improvements.
“Obviously, injuries didn’t help. I still think there’s a lot our group needs to improve on and get better at,” Sanheim said. “It’s not all about injuries. There were areas of our game that you could definitely see needs a lot of improvement and that’s something we have to change going forward.”
One of the more noteworthy moments of exit day came from Ivan Provorov. There’s certainly going to be strong speculation about almost every player on the roster and their future within the organization. After a season like this, everything is on the table. In Provorov’s case, replacing a player that can be in his role is never easy. Defensemen who face the opposition’s best and play 25 minutes a night don’t just grow on trees. But Provorov had yet another down season with very little support on the blue line, due in part to injuries, that will no doubt bring questions about his own future. Provorov didn’t seem to want to provide any thoughts on his season.
“No matter what I say, you guys are going to give me your own grades. It doesn’t matter. You’re all experts in hockey, so you’re going to give me your all-super experienced grades,” Provorov said. “I don’t think my opinion matters too much to you guys.
“I don't need anyone to write glory stories on me. You all have an opinion and I have my opinion.”
This was not a good look for Provorov, especially when other teammates had no issues discussing their shortcomings this season and needs for major improvement. If this is his response to the season on camera and in front of the media, what is his demeanor during game situations or after practices behind closed doors?
Speaking of the blue line, Ryan Ellis became an enigma during the season. As his injury progressed and kept him out of the lineup, it became abundantly clear that Ellis was going to see his first season as a Flyer go to waste, playing in just four games this season.
Ellis met with the media for the first time since November at exit interviews and laid out some details of the injury and the plan moving forward.
“It’s just more or less a multi-layered problem. It wasn’t just a one thing fix all and that was the
problem, trying to figure out what was going on. It had multiple levels of what the problem was,” Ellis said. “We have a plan. Everyone’s very happy and comfortable with the plan and I’m excited to be ready for training camp. It’s going to be a long summer, trying to get through it all, but I’m excited.”
Ellis described the injury being in the pelvic/hip region. The plan is to go through a series of workouts and therapy to strengthen the muscle tissue. Ellis expects to be back in the gym over the next month or so and then taking to the ice possibly a couple weeks after to start skating again. He expects to ramp things up in July and August to be ready for training camp next season.
There were reportedly questions about Ellis’ involvement with the team. He wasn’t a regular among the scratches in attendance at games. He wasn’t in the team photo. It seemed he was distancing himself from the team. Ellis assured that he is excited about the plan moving forward and ready to help the team in the future.
“It’s honestly been the hardest year of my life,” Ellis said. “Can’t say I’ve been through anything harder. Coming to a new team, this year is probably the most excited I’ve been for hockey. New team, new city, new fans, new building, you name it. Everything was new and exciting. Our team had unbelievable upside to it all. I think with the amount of injuries and whatnot obviously didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.
“I obviously just want to play hockey again is the main thing. Get back on the ice, score a goal, shoot, block a shot, whatever it is. To be honest, it’s kind of sad, but I miss getting hit with a puck and it hurting. Coming off and being like ‘I think I hurt my foot’ or ‘I need an ice bag,’ even the scrums in front of the net, like getting punched in the face. Like you don’t do that after doing it forever. It’s sad, but I miss it.
“It’s been tough in that sense, but I just want to play here. I want to be part of the solution here. I think I can really help out this team. My family loves it here. My kids love it here. Like if I were playing, this would be heaven for me. The only reason it is not, because I’m not playing.”
The final bow will be put on the season on Tuesday. That’s when Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher are scheduled to meet with the media. Then the real work begins, as the Flyers offseason gets underway with many key decisions ahead.
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