This wasn't one of those times Dave Hakstol benches a young player for no particular reason and Flyers fans throw fits on social media.
In actuality, fans were somewhat receptive to Hakstol's decision to healthy scratch Mikhail Vorobyev Thursday night for Corban Knight … as long as it's for the short term.
Vorobyev knocked the Flyers' door down in training camp and won the competition as the third-line center. He was impressive in his NHL debut, scored his first goal in his second game but hasn't made much noise since. He's been ineffective in his past three games.
"I wouldn't say concerned. I think what he's going through right now is fairly normal but you've got to be better," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "He played six really good preseason games. He played two, what I thought, really good games and three out of four he hasn’t been very good. It’s not good enough. An established player, you live with stuff like that because you know what he can do.”
Sitting Vorobyev down for a couple of games isn't such a bad idea, but it will get interesting what the Flyers do with Vorobyev once Nolan Patrick returns from his "upper-body" injury, which could be as early as Saturday afternoon against the Devils.
With Patrick's return looming, the Flyers' forward depth doesn't look like a mirage anymore. They're still without James van Riemsdyk.
When Patrick returns and with Knight healthy, the Flyers' depth down the middle will be strong again, at least in numbers, but it also means lineup changes are coming.
Currently, the Flyers are carrying 14 forwards with JVR on injured reserve but 13 healthy forwards. At some point in time, Michal Neuvirth will be healthy again. It's unlikely the Flyers carry three goalies, so Calvin Pickard likely will be on the move once Neuvirth returns. If Knight remains, then a forward will have to be on the move. The Flyers did waive Dale Weise before the season, so he could be an option.
While there remains a chance Vorobyev could be sent back to Lehigh Valley, it doesn't seem likely. Vorobyev made the team and a six-game sample size will not be enough for Hextall to send him back down to the AHL.
By all indications, Hextall will allow Vorobyev the opportunity to prove himself worthy of sticking around, but the GM did leave the door open, however slightly, for a scenario in which Vorobyev ends up back with the Phantoms.
Misha has to show us that he can do it. He's got to be better, and sometimes when guys sit out — first of all, he can let his breath out. It's a lot for a young player. He comes from Russia, playing 50-60 games and all of a sudden you go to the American League and you play 76 and a couple rounds in the playoffs, it's a lot of hockey.
Now, all of a sudden, you step up a level, everything's faster and stronger, more competitive. Points mean a lot, and it's a lot. He hit a little bit of a wall and he needs to get through it.
At the very least, Thursday's healthy scratch was a message well sent by Hakstol to Vorobyev. He may be out again Saturday; we won't know until warmups. It doesn't hurt to remind Vorobyev that his spot isn't guaranteed, that he has to work on the little details to get back to the player he was in the preseason and out West.
Whether we agreed with the benchings at the time or not, it's hard to argue against this coaching tactic. Hakstol has previously sat Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, and in the long game, it worked.
Ultimately, Vorobyev should be playing … somewhere. If he doesn't work hard enough to get back in the lineup up here, then the Flyers will have no choice to send him back to Lehigh Valley.
The Flyers have a lot of problems right now, mainly team defense and goaltending. A bottom-six rookie center sitting is nowhere near the top of the mountain.
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