Flyers

With 2018-19 fading, at least Flyers are seeing the 2019-20 possibilities with James van Riemsdyk

With 2018-19 fading, at least Flyers are seeing the 2019-20 possibilities with James van Riemsdyk

At this point, the Flyers are in silver-linings territory.

One overwhelming positive the club can take solace in as the postseason hopes fade is the production of James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' five-year, $35 million man.

The focus is starting to shift to 2019-20, an important season for general manager Chuck Fletcher as he tries to capitalize on the team's core and push it back into the playoffs.

And van Riemsdyk is proving to Fletcher just how big time he can be in that win-now movement.

After putting up a hat trick against his old team in Friday night's crushing 7-6 loss to the Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk has 18 goals in 28 games since Jan. 10. Only one NHL player has more goals over that span: Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, who has 19 and is the league's second-leading goal scorer.

Van Riemsdyk has 27 points in those 28 games and is projected to finish with 29 goals, despite missing 16 games from Oct. 9 to Nov. 13 because of a lower-body ailment. He suffered the injury in the first period of the season's second game.

Understandably, it took van Riemsdyk some time to find his rhythm when he got back into the swing of things. Not only was he trying to catch up, but van Riemsdyk has also played on different lines, in different roles and under two head coaches. Prior to this 18-goal run, he had six markers in 25 games following his return on Nov. 15.

If van Riemsdyk doesn't miss 16 games, which also impacted his start, he would be looking at breaking his career high of 36 goals, set last season at 28 years old.

Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon, who was an assistant with van Riemsdyk's Maple Leafs from 2011 to 2014, had a talk with JVR before the Flyers' 2-1 win on Jan. 10, trying to help jump-start his winger.

Van Riemsdyk then scored in that victory and has been on a tear ever since.

"That's professional sports right there, there should be dialogue between your coaches and player, that's the only way you get growth," van Riemsdyk said Jan. 10. "For me, I'm in a new situation, new team, and I want to try to get my bearings right. There are always some things you can clarify, some things become a little second nature. When you're playing in a certain place for a long time, things become second nature that they may want you to do a little differently here, so there's been good communication and dialogue about some of that stuff. 

"I've had a good relationship with Gordo since I played for him in Toronto and some USA hockey stuff, so I appreciate him taking some time to talk me through some things he wanted to see and some different things we're trying to do."

The thought of a healthy van Riemsdyk, with no growing pains, over the course of a full season in 2019-20 should excite the Flyers.

Fletcher will have a fair share of work heading into his first offseason with the Flyers.

But he knows what he has in van Riemsdyk.

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What's next for Scott Gordon? Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs

What's next for Scott Gordon? Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs

Chuck Fletcher wanted to give Scott Gordon some time to think about his future.

The general manager said Gordon was understandably disappointed Monday morning when he was told he didn't earn the Flyers' full-time head coaching position.

What might Gordon be doing in the meantime?

Good chance he's checking in on the NHL playoffs.

Two weeks ago, Gordon was in limbo with the Flyers — a part of meetings moving forward and considered a strong candidate for the head coaching job, but with nothing guaranteed.

He was asked if such a dynamic was awkward at all.

"At the end of every year, it doesn't matter where you are or what your contract is, there's always a chance you're not going to be back," Gordon said. "I go into the summer or the end of the season, I obviously reflect on the past season, what I'd like to do different [or keep] the same."

In doing so, Gordon likes to study the postseason. A big advocate of dissecting game film, Gordon does the same with the Stanley Cup Final.

"I generally try to watch the playoffs as a fan and then in the finals, I'll watch it as a fan but then I will get those on a computer and break down, in August, some of the things … when the playoffs go through, just identify some things that I like that teams did," Gordon said. "Pay particular attention to the finals in August, as far as what I might consider doing differently, pull footage and present to my team maybe a different way of going about business."

Which team Gordon is working for in 2019-20 is unknown. He impressed Fletcher as the Flyers' interim head coach. The club was in the basement of the 31-team NHL standings more than halfway through the regular season. By March 11, the Flyers were within three points of a playoff spot following an 18-4-2 spree under Gordon.

Fletcher said he would likely touch base with Gordon again after Easter weekend. He will welcome him back to the organization with open arms. Fletcher said Gordon's previous job as head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley was his if the 56-year-old wanted it.

However, Gordon said after the Flyers' regular-season finale that his time with the 2018-19 club changed his perspective on coaching in the NHL again, a much-needed spark following a not-so-memorable two-plus seasons as head coach of the Islanders from 2008-10.

"My experience in Long Island wasn't a great one," Gordon said April 6. "So much so that I didn't really think too much about coaching in the NHL. If it happened, great, but I wasn't losing any sleep over it. As I told the players after the game tonight, coming in here and dealing with the character of the players — not just as players but as people — reinvigorated that desire to coach in the NHL. With that being said, I'll do what job is asked of me and I won't think twice about it."

Gordon won't have any issues finding a job. He'll be watching the Stanley Cup Final, ready to coach.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Maple Leafs, Golden Knights can clinch on home ice

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Maple Leafs, Golden Knights can clinch on home ice

Four first-round playoff series remain alive.

Two of those four series could end Sunday.

Both the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights can advance to the second round if they win their respective Game 6s on home ice.

Below is the full schedule for Day 12 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 3-2)
Game 6, Eastern Conference first round
3 p.m. ET | TV: NBC | Live stream here

San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights (VGK 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here