Flyers Training Camp 2021-22 Season: 5 Questions Entering Camp
The Flyers officially get back on the ice on Thursday morning for the start of training camp. Technically, it is the second training camp of 2021, dating back to the previous season and the start of preparations for a 56-game season that went off the rails for the Flyers and led to an offseason of change.
That brings us to this point, the opening of training camp for the 2021-22 season. GM Chuck Fletcher’s busy offseason brought many new faces to Philadelphia, and there are certainly plenty of returning faces back at camp as well.
So with that, we look at the questions facing the Flyers as training camp begins. Here are five that should be the focus of camp.
1. Who Steps Up in the Absence of Kevin Hayes?
Three days ago, this wasn’t a question at all. But the news of Kevin Hayes’ abdominal surgery that will keep him out of action for 6-to-8 weeks certainly throws a wrench into the Flyers plans. This isn’t just the loss of another forward. This is a top-six forward that will miss significant time and significant games from the start of the season.
When Alain Vigneault spoke on Tuesday, we got some of the answers to this question. Certainly the goal is to have Morgan Frost step into a bigger role and take on some key responsibility. With that in mind, the Flyers also made offseason additions that put the emphasis on bringing more veteran presence to the team. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will shy away from letting a player like Frost have bigger responsibility, but don’t expect the leash to be long either. If nothing else, training camp and the preseason will allow for time to see if Frost is potentially the answer.
That’s not the only option the Flyers have. They can move Claude Giroux or Scott Laughton back to center if they choose, though the preference seems to be for both to play on the wing. They could also move Derick Brassard up on the depth chart. But they will need to find a way to fill that void and do so right away.
2. How Does Carter Hart Look?
This was always going to be the biggest question entering the Flyers season. It’s not a matter of whether or not Carter Hart can get back to form and play successfully. It’s how much the Flyers need him to do it quickly.
Make no mistake about it: the Flyers success this season depends on success in goal. Hart plays the most important role, and if the Flyers get what they got from him two seasons ago, a return to that form, they will be in good shape.
So much goes into that. It is on Hart to look like the goalie he was and track the puck well and refine his mechanics and technique. But it’s also on the team in front of him to do their part. A big part of that will be how Hart looks overall. Is he tracking well? Has he made the adjustments necessary? We’ll know soon enough.
3. Can a New-look Defense Find Quick Chemistry?
If the most critical part of the Flyers success in goal, at least it was known from the beginning that Hart was still the goalie of the present and future. The defense on the other hand needed some new additions, specifically a playing partner for Ivan Provorov.
Enter Ryan Ellis. In addition, another trade and signing brought in Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle. Half of the blue line has changed since last season.
So how quickly can the Flyers build chemistry on the blue line and become a more cohesive unit? That’s what this time is for. The Flyers have five full days of practice sessions before preparing for their first preseason game, the first chance for everyone to see the results of this practice time against an opponent.
Perhaps the three weeks of training camp practices and six preseason games can be enough to form that chemistry. That’s the best case scenario for the Flyers, but it could also take more time. How quickly the team can build chemistry could be the difference between improving and reaching the playoffs this season or another year with more of the same.
4. What are the Early Line Combinations?
When you make as many changes as the Flyers did this offseason, there are going to be new combinations.
At forward, the questions involve new addition Cam Atkinson and some of the younger players. In addition to Frost, who we already discussed, you can firmly include names like Giroux and Sean Couturier in the top six. You can also pencil in names like Atkinson, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, James van Riemsdyk, and a host of others.
It’s also a question as to what the bottom-six looks like. The Flyers brought in Brassard and Nate Thompson. They have Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Laughton, and Oskar Lindblom expected to be part of the bottom-six as well.
This is the first chance to see what Alain Vigneault has in mind, and to see how he makes adjustments throughout the preseason to eventually find the right combinations.
5. Will an Extended Camp and Preseason Make the Difference?
Vigneault stressed the importance of having a normal season. While there are certainly some aspects of the NHL season – and life in general – that are not the normal we knew prior to COVID-19, the Flyers do get an extended training camp and typical preseason. They are also playing the duration of an 82-game season schedule and not confined to playing East Division opponents for the entire season.
Could that help make a difference? It can’t hurt, that’s for sure.
So as training camp gets underway, it won’t be long before the games begin and everything is fully underway. Welcome to training camp.