Flyers

Flyers' Mike Vecchione beat out by Will Butcher for 2017 Hobey Baker Award

Flyers' Mike Vecchione beat out by Will Butcher for 2017 Hobey Baker Award

It's been a big week for Mike Vecchione.

After signing an entry-level contract with the Flyers last Friday and making his NHL debut Tuesday in New Jersey, Vecchione finished the week in Chicago on Friday night as one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's highest individual honor. 

But the Union College product came up shy of coming back to Philadelphia with the award, as Denver University defenseman Will Butcher won the 2017 Hobey Baker Award.

Vecchione was the first Union player to make the top three finalists. Shayne Gostisbehere, who was Vecchione's teammate during his freshman season, was a top-10 finalist three years ago when the two won a national championship at the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

Vecchione was the ECAC Player of the Year in 2016-17 after leading Union College with 29 goals. His 1.66 points per game average was tied with Northeastern forward Zach Aston-Reese for highest average in the NCAA. He is the Dutchmen's all-time leading scorer with 175 points and also holds the school's assist record with 104.

Aston-Reese was the other Hobey Baker finalist.

Earlier this week, Vecchione, Gostisbehere and Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid were part of an NHL-first at Prudential Center -- three players from Union College participating in an NHL game simultaneously. 

Vecchione left for Chicago on Thursday night. He will rejoin the Flyers sometime on Saturday, but coach Dave Hakstol said he won't be in the lineup because of the travel issues involved with the Hobey Baker ceremonies.
 
The Flyers have a rare 12:30 p.m. start against Columbus on Saturday. Instead, Vecchione will play in Sunday's season finale against Carolina.

CSNPhilly.com's Tom Dougherty contributed to this report.

Where is Dave Hakstol's sixth sense?

Where is Dave Hakstol's sixth sense?

VOORHEES, N.J. — Movie director M. Night Shyamalan may have created the sixth sense, and some of the more successful coaches in the NHL actually possess it. 

No, not the ability to see dead people, but rather, the recognition of assessing in-game situations and taking an immediate and proactive course of action before the team and the game itself begins to unravel.

Predators coach and former Flyers bench boss Peter Laviolette had an uncanny ability to utilize his only timeout at a moment when the team needed desperately to refocus during a stretch of poor hockey. Laviolette may have signaled for one during a lackluster first period or at the first sign of trouble in the third period.

He’d rip the gum out of his mouth and begin the process of chewing out his guys. His face would turn red and his temperature would rise as if it was measured by the red liquid in a thermometer. More often than not, Laviolette’s teams responded swiftly and appropriately to his message. He had an ability to seize the moment when others may not have seen it coming.

It’s a club Hakstol simply doesn’t have in his bag.

Hakstol prefers to hold onto his timeout predictably when the Flyers are down a goal late in the third period to draw up a play on the dry-erase board or to give his players a breather following an icing call. Rarely, if ever, is that timeout taken in an effort to overcome the opposition’s surge of momentum.

Same can be said for Hakstol’s decision to make a goaltending change.

In the Flyers' two most recent lopsided losses, both 5-1 setbacks to the Penguins and Rangers, Hakstol chose to pull Elliott after two periods with the outcomes pretty much decided heading into the third period. 

Regarding the Flyers' loss to New York Tuesday night: "We put [Elliott] in a pretty tough spot," Hakstol said postgame (see story). "Looking back on it, I could make the change after the fourth goal, but I felt like we put him in pretty tough spots tonight with the opportunities that we gave up in the first 30 minutes of the game."

While every coach seems to possess hindsight, not every coach has the appropriate sense of foresight. Goaltending changes can be the result of poor play in net and Elliott wasn’t great Tuesday night, but the decision can also take on a dual-purpose. Give the backup playing time while also attempting to ignite a spark up and down the bench.

Send a message that it’s not the goaltender’s responsibility alone for digging this hole, but since he can’t bench all 18 skaters, bench the goalie as a result of everyone else’s poor play. 

In both losses to the Penguins and Rangers, once Hakstol decided to replace Elliott with Neuvirth, the Flyers were facing a 4-1 and 5-1 deficit, respectively, heading into the third period. The coach would have had better success creating a spark by rubbing two sticks together.

Over the course of an 82-game season, it’s important for a coach to remain consistent with his message. Over the duration of a 60-minute game, that message is tailored around the team’s performance. Moments and situations elicit when a coach should be bold with his words or more reserved.

Judging by his manner and behavior behind the bench, Hakstol’s barometer rarely tilts one way or the other, and the team has seemingly taken on the personality of its coach, especially at times when urgency is required.

“It’s got to be the same this time of year,” Hakstol said when asked about the team’s mindset following a 5-1 loss. “It’s never as bad you think and it’s never as good as you think. Address the issues, be direct about it, fix them and move forward.”

However, the Flyers are now 27th in the league when trailing after the first period and 25th when trailing after two periods. Against the Penguins and Rangers, the Flyers gave themselves no chance at forcing overtime when every single point matters right now, especially against the two teams they’re chasing in the wild-card standings.      

Hakstol can attempt to correct X's and O’s, but at some point, his decision-making and ability to put his finger on the pulse of his team will become an X-factor.

Trip to Voorhees brings up old memories for Lindros

Trip to Voorhees brings up old memories for Lindros

VOORHEES, N.J. — Eric Lindros doesn’t have to lace up the skates and go through a physically exhausting practice, but the Flyers' Hall of Famer hasn’t had much time to catch his breath either, as he attempts to squeeze in as many activities and appearances during his week-long stay in the Delaware Valley.

Lindros on Wednesday stopped by the Skate Zone in Voorhees to visit with members of the organization and players on the team. It was his first visit to the practice facility since December 2011 when he returned for the Alumni Game at Citizens Bank Park.

“This is a beautiful facility they have here. We got off the highway and there’s Vito’s Pizza. That used to be the spot we’d pop in after practice,” Lindros said, realizing how landmarks have changed while others remain the same. “I always realized it was a big part (of my life). I came here as a 19-year-old with some great vets I had a chance to play with.”

Lindros made numerous commitments, including Tuesday night’s “Skate with 88” event in West Chester, the Flyers' Alumni outdoor game in Hershey Friday night, a sold-out appearance at Oxford Valley Mall in Langhorne on Saturday all sandwiched around the marquee event — the No. 88 retirement ceremony prior to Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs.

“It’s an honor,” said Wayne Simmonds, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario. “He’s one of my favorite players growing up so to get a chance to watch his number raised to the rafters at Wells Fargo is going to be special. He’s one of the all-time greats if you ask me.”

Along with Lindros' wife and three kids, Lindros’ family will be in attendance, including his father Carl and his mother Bonnie, as well as, his brother Brett and sister Robin.

“Wonderful thrill. I just went through the walkthrough this morning,” Lindros said, “Certainly excited, really excited. I feel honored to be part of it. I feel like the names that are up in the rafters are incredible names and after tomorrow it will be extremely special.”

Since sharing the stage with Legion of Doom teammate John LeClair during their induction into the Flyers' Hall of Fame in November 2014, Lindros was also enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in November 2016, and Thursday night, he will become the sixth player in the organization to have his jersey number retired.

“It’s been great," Lindros said. "The last year and a bit has been spectacular for us and our family. It gives you a chance to reflect and think back to good times and just how lucky you are to have played with certain guys.”