Flyers

Flyers should have been more patient with Andrew MacDonald's recovery from lower-body injury

Flyers should have been more patient with Andrew MacDonald's recovery from lower-body injury

Updated: 1:07 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — It took five regular-season games for the Flyers to realize what they told us back in early September. 

They rushed defenseman Andrew MacDonald back from a lower-body injury he suffered during an offseason workout, and as it turned out, he wasn’t remotely ready for the start of the regular season.

Either the Flyers hurried MacDonald back out of concern the defense was thin without him, or he was rather convincing in relaying his pain threshold. A week before the season started, general manager Ron Hextall said he believed MacDonald was simply a fast healer, even though his speedy return felt more like a Mr. Miyagi type of recovery.

“I think in hindsight those couple of preseason games were a little premature,” MacDonald said. “I thought I could work back into it. I felt pretty good. It’s just the nature of the injury, I was able to skate a little bit sooner than you can do a lot of off-ice stuff. I wasn’t able to do much in the gym as far as getting that power and strength back. I thought I would be OK.”

As it turns out, MacDonald wasn’t and neither was the Flyers' defense.

Dave Hakstol needs a 95 to 100 percent version of MacDonald. Anything less, you run the risk of using an inefficient player. Through the Flyers' six games, MacDonald’s 5.06 goals against per 60 minutes played is a team worst by far. The next closest defenseman is Ivan Provorov (who hasn’t looked that good either) at 3.47 goals allowed per 60. That alone shows how much the Flyers' defense was suffering with MacDonald on the ice.

From the season opener in Vegas, MacDonald clearly wasn’t himself, falling to the ice without contact while struggling at times to keep up when opposing forwards brought speed into the Flyers' zone. Interestingly, coming off a 1-0 loss to the Golden Knights in which the Flyers played their best defensively structured game of the season, Hakstol felt a change was necessary.  

“When you miss training camp, it’s tough, I’ll say that,” Hakstol said. “Any player that’s missed training camp I’m sure could tell you it’s hard to catch up in a hurry. For me, that’s a big part of it.”

This Sunday would have marked the end of the original six-week timetable, and even now, MacDonald admits he’s physically still not where he needs to be to perform at the highest level.

“I wouldn’t say I’m completely 100 percent, but I feel pretty good,” MacDonald said. “It’s a just matter of getting into that routine and that game shape type of thing.” 

“It’s always a tough situation,” Hakstol said Tuesday. “There’s things in Mac’s game that he knows and we know that he can work at. He’s a huge part of our team and he’s going to be a big part of our lineup. Don’t make too much of it. It was the right thing for our team tonight.”

Turns out MacDonald was at the hospital during the Flyers' 6-5 win over the Panthers, as his wife gave birth to their baby daughter early Wednesday morning. MacDonald said mom and newborn are both doing well.

Now it’s dad who needs a complete recovery.

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Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing Flyers' odds in NHL's 24-team format, Bill Daly's insight on what's next

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing Flyers' odds in NHL's 24-team format, Bill Daly's insight on what's next

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall analyze the orange and black's odds in the NHL's 24-team return-to-play plan.

From Michael Barkann's interview with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to predicting the Flyers' lineup, let's dive in:

1:05 — What would be a fun wrinkle to the 24-team return-to-play model

8:55 — Giving our predictions for the Flyers' lineup to start the 24-team format

21:55 — There will be some unique strategy for Alain Vigneault in the round robin

25:15 — What do we think of the Flyers' odds in this field?

30:50 — Daly talks all things 24-team format

35:00 — How will finishing this season impact the 2020-21 season?

• 44:05 — A taste of the "Marathon on Ice"

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Gritty slippers for James van Riemsdyk's baby girl will make for adorable picture

Gritty slippers for James van Riemsdyk's baby girl will make for adorable picture

James van Riemsdyk has been a busy guy lately.

He's experiencing fatherhood for the first time as he and his wife Lauren welcomed their baby daughter Scarlett Everly into the world earlier this month. He's in the process of moving into a new home in Minnesota. And he's the Flyers' representative for the NHLPA, which has been critical to the league's return-to-play plan.

So maybe Gritty decided it was a good time to help out his teammate. JVR's little girl already has some Gritty apparel.

“Gritty slippers, so she’ll be introduced soon enough hopefully," van Riemsdyk said Friday on Lunch Talk Live with NBC Sports' Mike Tirico. "We can’t wait for that picture.”

Same with Gritty. Let's give a stick tap to whoever supplied the Gritty footwear for Scarlett Everly. What a clutch gift. You'd expect the orange fella was going to make it happen one way or the other, even with a busy schedule of his own.

While van Riemsdyk probably misses Gritty, he has enjoyed being a dad during the NHL stoppage.

“It has been incredible," van Riemsdyk said last week on a conference call. "The silver lining out of all of this stuff is just the extra time I’ve been able to spend at home and be there for all the little moments and just worry about being a dad first and foremost. That has been unbelievable. Everyone who has kids knows, it’s a life-changing moment and something that’s hard to even describe until you see her and meet her for the first time. That has been awesome."

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