Flyers

Brian Elliott returns to Philadelphia for medical appointment

Brian Elliott returns to Philadelphia for medical appointment

EDMONTON, Alberta — Brian Elliott may never be quite right again this season.

The Flyers' goaltender returned to Philadelphia Friday for what the Flyers termed “a scheduled medical appointment.” When Dave Hakstol was asked when exactly the appointment was scheduled, the coach was rather elusive. 

“I don’t want to get into that detail,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think I want to go that far.” 

It’s believed Elliott had a reoccurrence of a previous hip injury, particularly within the abductor muscles that helps the leg rotate and move from the hip. Elliott had skated throughout the road trip, starting in Buffalo Saturday and continued again on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But curiously he wasn’t on the ice during Thursday’s optional practice, an apparent scheduled day off. Hakstol had mentioned there was an outside chance Elliott could play at some point during the Western Canadian swing. 

“We had Moose here with the intention to do everything that we could to make sure that he had every chance, if possible, to play on this trip,” Hakstol said Friday morning. “We’ve got our goalie coach and we’ve got our medical staff. He’s not going to be available for the rest of the trip, so he’s back for that appointment.”

With Michal Neuvirth and his wife expecting a child any day, it was imperative to have a third goalie on this trip ready to back up at a moment’s notice. Neuvirth had informed the team of this possibility and he left Edmonton not long after Thursday’s practice. 

If Elliott had a scheduled medical appointment in Philadelphia that wasn’t planned in the past 24-48 hours, then it certainly wouldn’t have made any sense to have him on this trip at all.  

Former general manager Ron Hextall initially gave Elliott a two-week prognosis, but it’s now been a month since his last appearance, and who knows how much longer he’ll be sidelined with this latest setback.

All of which is a clear indication that if the Flyers have any chance at salvaging their season, they need a veteran goaltender to step in and help the current tandem of Anthony Solarz and Alex Lyon.

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Former Flyers assistant coach Rick Wilson's comment on Shayne Gostisbehere a key reminder for 2019-20

Former Flyers assistant coach Rick Wilson's comment on Shayne Gostisbehere a key reminder for 2019-20

Maybe Shayne Gostisbehere and Rick Wilson weren't best friends.

That's OK.

A player and coach don't have to be buddy-buddy with each other, but they do have to understand each other. That's how you get the best out of a player.

In 2018-19, Gostisbehere underwhelmed significantly. He didn't blame anyone but himself. But he did play for two head coaches and two different assistants that oversaw the Flyers' defensemen. So, systematically and stylistically, things can change.

Wilson, with 30 years of NHL coaching experience, came on board in December. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman caught up with Wilson for parts of his latest 31 Thoughts column, an always-excellent read for hockey folks.

The 68-year-old Wilson, who was not retained by the Flyers, offered some insight on the team's blueliners after working with them for the final four-plus months of the season.

Here was the section on Gostisbehere from Friedman's piece:

Wilson did not mention Shayne Gostisbehere, so I brought him up. He was careful.

'I would just say that I'm a little disappointed I couldn't help him bring more of his best on a consistent basis … he is very talented and it is in there.'

By the time the calendar flipped to 2019, the Flyers were allowing the NHL's third-most goals. In an attempt to clean up the team's issues, adjustments were made. Gostisbehere's ice time fluctuated at different points. The 26-year-old is an offensive-minded defenseman. His game is predicated on playing freely, taking calculated risks, moving the puck up ice and making things happen.

At his end-of-the-season press conference, Gostisbehere was asked if he felt he had the freedom to take chances on the ice throughout the year.

"With Rick coming in and different coaches and whatnot, they tweaked the style — not just me personally, but how he wants the defense to play," Gostisbehere said. "I wouldn't say they put handcuffs on me or anything, but they pulled the reins back quite a bit just in what they wanted us to do collectively as a D core."

None of this is to say Gostisbehere is some type of player incapable of being coached. None of it's to say his role isn't safe with the Flyers. He doesn't have a problem listening or taking instruction. His strengths, though, are sometimes criticized and put under a microscope for being viewed as not playing his position wisely or correctly.

"I just want to get better, get better as a player, I want to be a staple point as a defenseman in this league — one of the better ones, not one who's just looked at offensively," Gostisbehere said in April. "It's tough when you start a season and you see the net filling up and we're giving up seven goals every other game. Changes happen. It's tough, it was a tough season in general, but you've got to stick with it and remember what got you there."

All of this is further emphasis on how imperative coaching is to a player like Gostisbehere. Getting the best out of him is vital to the Flyers. When he's clicking, when he's dynamic, when he's elusive, the Flyers are substantially better. That was evident in 2017-18, when he experienced a career year with 65 points (13 goals, 52 assists), the fourth most among NHL defensemen.

"Ghost is obviously elite in some of those areas," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in April. "He can break a guy down 1-on-1 and he can also make a 100-foot stretch pass."

Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo are Gostisbehere's new coaches. How quickly the two mesh with an important player will be one of the biggest storylines in 2019-20.

"He's always been a believer of getting the puck going north and getting the D up in the play," Fletcher said of Vigneault. "I think our D is ideally suited for Alain."

That should be music to Gostisbehere's ears.

h/t to CBS Philly's Tom Dougherty.

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The South Philly bar that's gone 'all in' on the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

The South Philly bar that's gone 'all in' on the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Jacks NYB has been rooting for the St. Louis Blues since an encounter with some of the players in January.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Farzetta takes a deeper look at why these life-long Flyers fans are now pulling for the Blues in the video below.