On April 18, the day he was initiated as Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault introduced a phrase he likes to use when discussing accountability.
“Certain players have a little bit more money in the bank,” he said.
Vigneault is new to Travis Sanheim this season. Fortunately for the Flyers, he’s aware of Sanheim’s savings, which the 23-year-old started stashing last season.
The fluid-skating defenseman has fallen down badly during three consecutive games, all on plays in which the opposition scored a goal. It happened for the third straight time Saturday night in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.
Such a development would make some coaches think twice about the player’s ensuing shift or next game.
Vigneault isn’t there yet and that’s good.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to let things work themselves out, by putting him back there, showing him that we’ve got faith in him,” he said. “Different guys have different money in the bank. He doesn’t have a lot of money in the bank but he’s got a little bit of money in the bank. I’ll give him time to work his way back. He’s a real good kid. Coaches have a tendency to be behind real good kids.”
The Flyers have other concerns greater than a promising defenseman who was one of the team’s biggest highlights in 2018-19, a season that was severely short on them. Through 13 games in 2019-20, collectively the Flyers’ blueliners have been too feast or famine. The group has the potential to be the Flyers’ backbone (see observations).
"In saying our defense corps is young, I do believe it's the strength of our team going forward,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in June.
Sanheim is a key to the corps when he’s confident.
“Obviously I’m a pretty good skater, can’t say I’ve ever had a stretch where three straight games I’ve fallen and it ends in the back of my net,” he said. “Hopefully I can figure that out here pretty shortly. It’s tough to see those.
“When you’re down a little bit, things tend to not go your way and vice versa — when you’ve got a ton of confidence, it seems like everything’s going in for you. I know there’s going to be a stretch like that coming up for me. Right now, I’m just trying to fight through, be better and that’s putting in the work, coming to the rink with the right mindset that I am going to be better and improve my game.”
Travis Sanheim texted Flyers skills coach Angelo Ricci yesterday and asked if they could do extra work today. Sanheim was out there for about 20-25 minutes before practice. Good stuff.— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) November 4, 2019
Looks like Travis Sanheim getting in extra work as well. pic.twitter.com/njdYlvLINa— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) November 4, 2019
In a game Saturday that featured six goals and an 11-round shootout, what may turn out to be the Flyers’ most important play was a third-period tally off Sanheim’s stick. The marker gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead, which didn’t stand.
But, in the grand scheme, it was money for Sanheim and the Flyers.
“On our bench when he scored that goal, it was funny, we had three or four guys just sitting in front me saying, ‘Watch him skate now,’” Vigneault said. “Obviously he’s feeling a little bit of heat, a little bit of pressure. We need him to be the player that he can be. He’s fighting it right now, he’s going through some growing pains. When he comes out of it, I’m very confident that he’s going to be a very useful player for this team.”
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