Tippett Shows Signs of Potential in Flyers Debut
It was around 6 p.m. on Saturday evening when the hockey world started to learn that the Flyers had traded their captain. Claude Giroux was officially on his way to Florida.
Over the next hour, more details on the return and other inclusions in the deal started to come out. One part of the return was pretty obvious. Owen Tippett had been held out of the lineup for AHL Charlotte both for Thursday’s game and Saturday’s game. He was coming to Philadelphia.
The Flyers also sent Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov to Florida, along with a 2024 fifth-round pick, and also got a 2024 first-round pick and 2023 third-round pick back in the deal.
Later on Saturday night, the Flyers were able to get Tippett on a plane and headed to Philadelphia. By the time Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher addressed the media on Sunday at around noon, Tippett’s debut in the Orange and Black was just two hours away, just 20 hours after he even learned of the trade.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Tippett said. “Found out around six last night and a couple hours later I’m on a flight on my way here, and get right into it.”
Tippett came in without so much as a practice to get to know his new teammates. That didn’t seem to affect him any. Tippett was noticeable right away, drawing a penalty in the first period, nearly grabbing his first point as a Flyer on multiple occasions with nice passes, and ringing the iron with a quick release during the second period.
It seemed that playing without a practice had some benefits. Tippett seemed to be care-free, simply looking to make a strong first impression by showcasing the raw skills that are central to his game.
“Obviously when you jump right into things it kind of takes your mind off things and just getting ready to play another hockey game,” Tippett said, “although it’s a different team. I think having to practice might make me think a little bit more about playing, but jumping right into it was great.”
Mission accomplished in the eyes of Yeo.
“He looks like a hockey player to me,” Yeo said. “Loved parts of his game, obviously a heavy shot, scoring chances in the second period. Got off his stick in a hurry. I liked him shooting off the flank on the power play to set up [Kevin] Hayes’ power-play goal. Liked his wall play in a lot of areas and like I said in the coaches room there, for a guy who when I talked to him this morning said he was working on his 200-foot game, which means he’s trying to improve defensively, I didn’t have anything to point out or say to him today. So obviously a great start for him.”
Yeo agreed that the lack of a practice and the adrenaline of the events of the last 24 hours certainly may have played into Tippett’s favor. Tippett had averaged 12:32 this season playing for Florida, so an increased role and ice time present an opportunity to unlock some potential. Tippett played 14:38 in his Flyers debut.
“You could tell when I talked to him this morning he was very excited about this opportunity,” Yeo said. “Coming here, knowing the opportunity he’s going to get with the ice time, the potential that he has to play special teams. Obviously he came from an organization that has a lot of high-skilled players. So, tough for a younger player to crack into that, whether it’s playing in a skilled line or whether it’s playing in a power play and things like that. So I know he was very excited about that. It was great to get him in right off the hop.”
Tippett certainly has a long way to go to become a regular part of the Flyers lineup in critical roles. It’s important to understand exactly what kind of game this was for him, a first impression fresh off the trade involving a franchise icon. The lack of time to truly prepare for joining the Flyers – no systems talk, no video, no going through drills at practice – allowing his skill set to come through.
It’s not about whether he has the ability in him. That’s what got him drafted 10th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. It’s about if he can consistently have noticeable performances like the one on Sunday, especially if the opportunity for ice time and an increased role is there.
He wasn’t the only player to have a noticeable day. The line of Hayes, Joel Farabee, and Travis Konecny accounted for both goals. Hayes had the two tallies. Farabee and Konecny each had assists on both.
Morgan Frost, centering Tippett’s line, was also very noticeable. He didn’t score a goal or register a shot on goal – a point-blank attempt was thwarted by the long reach of 6’9” Zdeno Chara – but he appeared to be more confident with and without the puck.
“What I liked is he was playing center and he played a real good game today. We talked about it last game that there’s some challenges at center. There’s some different challenges at wing. This was, for me, one of his best center ice games,” Yeo said. “Looked confident and comfortable with his wingers and I think his wingers complimented him well. Definitely liked the way he played at both ends of the ice, which is obviously a real important part of being a centerman.”
Travis Sanheim also continued his run of confident play on the blue line, solid in his own zone and driving play offensively. In Yeo’s eyes, this was also a very strong game for Ivan Provorov, so much so that he felt the need to point that out on his own after the game.
“I would like to point out Provy’s game today. Nobody asked about him, obviously he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but I thought that he had a hell of a game today,” Yeo said. “I thought it was an outstanding reminder of what a great defender and what a great defenseman he is today.”
This isn’t necessarily the final group for the Flyers for the rest of the season. There is still a chance that a couple of players participating in Sunday’s game will be on the move by Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline. There could be new opportunities awaiting other players inside the Flyers organization or even possibly from outside it depending on what happens.
But for one afternoon, there was a lot of potential on display. The potential of the newcomer Tippett to the lineup. The potential of what Sanheim’s growth continues to be. The potential of a confident Frost. The potential of a healthy Hayes and a dominant Farabee and an energized Konecny. A lot of the future of the franchise depends on the consistency of all of it.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.