Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

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Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

Flyers coach Dake Hakstol acknowledged a shakeup in the lineup might be on the way after his squad lost for the seventh time in eight games.

“We haven’t done much of that so far, but there’s a chance that we’ll make a change or two in terms of combinations, maybe even in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the lineup,” Hakstol said after Friday’s practice. “It’s too early to say that for sure right now, but we’re looking at a couple different things just to try to change a little bit of the rhythm, change a little bit of the chemistry.”

With only 10 games remaining and the Flyers’ once tight grip on a playoff spot suddenly in jeopardy, Hakstol may not want to wait too long to act.

The Flyers enter a pivotal weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but several teams are nipping at their heels. Their 81 points are tied with the Blue Jackets, who are behind in the standings based on a tiebreaker, followed by the Devils with 80 and the Panthers’ 77.

Not only that, but the Blue Jackets and Panthers are hot, both winning eight of their last 10 contests. The Devils and Panthers also have one and three more games remaining, respectively.

Time is not on the Flyers’ side.

“We’re going to address some things individually as well as team-wise and get pushing in the right direction,” Hakstol said.

Despite their recent tumble in the standings, the Flyers aren’t panicking. Hakstol noted several of the losses have been close, though that’s largely only true of their last three defeats. They’ve played a tough schedule during the ongoing slump, a slate that included the Lightning, Penguins, Bruins, Jets and Golden Knights – all teams with better records.

Plus, the Flyers have been incredibly streaky all season long, a fact not lost on the team captain.

“We’ve been in this position before,” said Claude Giroux. “We got out of it pretty well. We just need to find a way to get out of it and stay on the winning track.”

Prior to their skid, the Flyers had a four-game losing streak sandwiched between a run where they won eight of nine and another where they won 10 of 11. There was also a 10-game winless stretch that spanned from mid-November into the first week of December.

Giroux thinks the Flyers will be fine as long as they continue doing the things that brought them to this point.

“Obviously, we have to be a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Giroux said. “But in talking about our system, I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and just work a little harder and we’ll be more successful.

Having been through cold spells before, it’s safe to say the Flyers won’t be thinking about it once the puck drops.

“Right now it’s about our guys making sure mentally the deck is clear from anything from last night or from the past week and just a real clear mindset on what our next opportunity is here,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers’ next opportunity to snap out of their funk is at the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Flyers weekly observations: A Joel Farabee story, Scott Gordon's job, more

Flyers weekly observations: A Joel Farabee story, Scott Gordon's job, more

The Flyers endured a rough week, going 1-3-0 to unofficially kick themselves out of the playoff chase.

From Jan. 14 to March 11, the Flyers were neck and neck with the Lightning as both teams went an identical 18-4-2 for a league-most 38 points. The Flyers even scored nine more goals than Tampa Bay during that stretch.

But it looks like they've run out of gas and the focus is shifting to 2019-20.

Let's get into that and more with our latest weekly observations:

• There should be excitement over Joel Farabee.

He just seems like a kid that fits this city.

The No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 draft signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers on Monday after a superb freshman season at Boston University (see story). That means he will turn pro in 2019-20, most likely with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

But Farabee has been a quick riser, so don't put a timeline on his climb to the Flyers.

The 19-year-old is a strategic goal-scoring winger, utilizing his smarts and skill to beat goalies in a variety of ways.

He's also a hard-worker.

A moment that stuck out from development camp last summer was when he asked for extra instruction following an afternoon session. After getting some tips, he shook the coach's hand and thanked him. It was Scott Gordon, now the Flyers' interim head coach.

"I've got to learn a lot to make it to the next level," Farabee said after that practice, "so I'm just trying to get as much information as I can to be a better player."

• Speaking of Gordon, he has gone 24-17-4 as interim head coach after being summoned from the Phantoms to take over for Dave Hakstol, who was fired following a 12-15-4 start.

On the day Hakstol was relieved of his duties, general manager Chuck Fletcher made it clear Gordon was a candidate for the head coaching gig next season.

Gordon has done a good job. His players have responded well to his messages, he's gotten the best out of the younger pieces and the team became relevant in the postseason race.

We'll have to wait and see what it earns him. A new GM typically likes to hire his own guy, but there's no doubt Gordon has impressed to firmly put his name in the discussion.

He'll have tough decisions over the final six games of the regular season. Does he play Samuel Morin and Cam Talbot for the sake of giving them some looks or does he continue to employ his best possible lineup to win games? The latter will only help his case for where he lands in 2019-20.

• Jakub Voracek, always refreshingly honest, was a tough critic when talking to reporters following Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Capitals:

I felt like in that push we had, we had a good push, but unfortunately every time we got close to three points, five points, and then we played those big teams in front of us, those four-point games, we choked.

I don't want to take anything out of this season, to be honest.

We have to have a good look in the mirror.

It felt like the Flyers needed a clean slate all season. They were able to somewhat reset with a new head coach, but they had already dug too deep of a hole.

Next season, they should have all sorts of motivation. Expectations certainly won't be lowering. After all, the Flyers haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns.

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Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

It’s one and done for Joel Farabee at Boston U.

The Flyers' 2018 first-round selection signed his entry-level contract Monday after one season at Boston University. 

Farabee finished as the Terriers' leading scorer with 36 points in 37 games as Boston University’s season (16-18-4) came to an end Friday night in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament.

However, Farabee’s performance as a 19-year-old freshman was one of the team’s highlights after he finished the regular season on a tear with seven goals over his last nine games and was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. After getting acclimated to the collegiate game, Farabee adapted very quickly.

Farabee isn’t the only highly-touted prospect to leave BU after just one season. Buffalo’s Jack Eichel left after scoring 71 points in 40 games before the Sabres grabbed him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

Unlike CHL prospects, who can sign entry-level deals and still compete at the major junior level, Farabee forfeits the remainder of his college eligibility, so the question moving forward is where will Farabee start the 2019-20 season?

He can make the Flyers out of training camp or start his first year of professional hockey at Lehigh Valley.

Farabee needs to develop physically but the hockey IQ and playmaking ability coupled with high character are all important attributes that he brings to the pro level.

Farabee was the Flyers' first draft pick to come from the U.S. national team development program (USNTDP) since James van Riemsdyk was selected second overall in 2007. 

JVR spent two years at the University of New Hampshire before electing to turn pro. The Flyers' left winger played just seven games with the Phantoms in 2008 before earning an NHL promotion.

There’s a debate as to whether Farabee or Morgan Frost, the Flyers' 2017 first-round pick, is the organization’s top prospect. Personally, I think Farabee has a more NHL-ready game right now, and he’ll get the chance to prove that when training camp commences in September.

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