Flyers

Has the Flyers' winning streak altered Chuck Fletcher's approach?

Has the Flyers' winning streak altered Chuck Fletcher's approach?

VOORHEES, N.J. — The last time Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher met with the media came on the morning of Jan. 28 with the Flyers staring at a 14-point gap between themselves and the last wild-card team in the Eastern Conference.

Even after stringing together three straight wins heading into their bye week, there was little belief that the Flyers would extend that streak to eight games. In doing so, they’ve taken a hacksaw to their double-digit playoff deficit. 

Prior to Tuesday night, the Flyers were just five points back of the Blue Jackets, and even the most optimistic side of Fletcher couldn’t have imagined the Flyers cutting off that much fat in such a short amount of time.

As the Flyers have narrowed the gap, one has to wonder how much Fletcher has altered his approach with the trade deadline now less than three weeks away. He stated he wanted to be a buyer and a seller, looking to add a player that could help the Flyers beyond this season. 

“We’d like to get some pieces in here that will be a part of this for a few years,” Fletcher said nine days ago. “That’s really where my focus has been and what we talked to the scouts about. I’m trying to make the team better at all costs, I guess, would be the best way of putting it.”

But now Fletcher has to weigh those decisions at the expense of disrupting team chemistry. The transactions Fletcher has made so far have been to fringe contributors — trading Jordan Weal to Arizona and placing Dale Weise and, most recently, Jori Lehtera on waivers — taking up roster spots.

The decision surrounding Wayne Simmonds seems directly tied around the possibility of signing a multi-year extension, and not so much connected to the short-term success of the team.

Moving forward, Fletcher also has the luxury of leaning on his past experience with the Wild, especially in early 2015 when Minnesota was in a uniquely similar situation to where the Flyers are now. 

With that team struggling, eight points back in the West and on a four-game losing streak, Fletcher secured stability in net by acquiring Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes.  

On Feb. 6 of that season, Minnesota was five points back of the second wild-card position. 

Over the course of the next five weeks, Fletcher proved to be much more of a buyer than a seller leading up to the deadline. On top of the Dubnyk deal, he added forward Sean Bergenheim from Florida for a third-round pick and Chris Stewart from Buffalo for a second-round selection, while maintaining his philosophy of not parting with a first-rounder for a two-month rental.  

Bergenheim was a free agent after that season while Stewart stuck around for two more years.

Defenseman Christian Folin was part of that Wild team and is beginning to see the similarities between that 2014-15 Minnesota squad and this current Flyers team. 

“We were not doing well at all. We were struggling and then we got the stability in goal and things started rolling from there,” Folin said. “We got a couple of key guys. Fletcher hasn’t been afraid of making moves towards the deadline. Every year when I was there, we got one or two players to help us out.” 

Much like the Flyers have done with Carter Hart recently, the Wild caught fire with Dubnyk in net and Minnesota rode that momentum to a 26-8-2 finish over its final 36 games. 

It may take that type of finish to propel the Flyers into the playoffs, and it might take Fletcher making a few moves he hadn’t anticipated just a few weeks ago just to get there. 

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2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

BOX SCORE

Travis Konecny stormed into the NHL All-Star break already with a new career high in assists. The Flyers' winger has 26 helpers and is projected to finish with 44, a sign of significant growth in a breakout 2019-20 season for the 22-year-old.

On Saturday night in the 2020 All-Star Game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Konecny put his facilitating on display during the 3-on-3 action featuring the world's best players. He finished with three assists in the Metropolitan Division's 9-5 semifinal loss to the Atlantic Division.

"I had a lot of fun," Konecny said Saturday, via Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill. "It was pretty funny, I was watching my parents in the stands and my mom didn't understand why we weren't playing like a real game.

"It's my first game and it's her first time seeing it. I don't know if she was expecting me to be blocking shots and forechecking, stuff like that. I had a lot of fun with it.

"It was a really cool experience, getting to play with some players, too, that I usually won't get the chance to play with was fun."

Konecny playing in his first All-Star Game at 22 years old should be exciting for the Flyers. Claude Giroux was 23 years old for his first All-Star Game back in 2011. The future looks bright for Konecny, who signed a new six-year, $33 million contract back in mid-September.

With 17 goals and 43 points through 47 games, Konecny is eight goals and seven points away from setting career highs across the board.

A breakout, indeed.

Here are more sights and scenes from Konecny's first All-Star Game:

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Why Flyers fans should be hopeful about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

Why Flyers fans should be hopeful about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

Today, we break down why Flyers fans should be hopeful for the post-All-Star break stretch. On Sunday, we’ll look at the reasons for concern.

Through 50 games, the Flyers have done two important things. They’ve played well within the division and have dominated at home. 

Those two trends bode well for after the All-Star break because divisional games become much bigger and confidence at home is paramount as the pressure builds.

The Flyers are 17-4-4 at home and 9-2-3 against Metropolitan foes. The marks are notable given the Flyers fell sorely short in those areas last season, when they finished 19-18-4 at home and 10-16-2 in divisional play.

Another positive is the Flyers are getting healthier after the break. Shayne Gostisbehere (knee) could be back Friday in the Flyers’ first game out of the bye week, while Carter Hart (abdominal strain) is expected to return not long after.

But what might be the Flyers’ most convincing piece of evidence for optimism is how they’ve performed against the NHL’s best teams. The Flyers have shown they can play with any club, which is huge for their own belief moving forward.

The Flyers are 11th in the NHL standings at 27-17-6. They've gone 9-5-3 against the top-10 teams and 5-1-1 vs. the top four.

Head coach Alain Vigneault has a history of taking teams to the playoffs, and doing so in Year 1 on the job. At his previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons produced playoff bids and at least one series victory.

Vigneault’s track record will be tested over the Flyers’ final 32 games.

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