Flyers

Alain Vigneault, Flyers making right call to trust Travis Sanheim's 'money in the bank'

Alain Vigneault, Flyers making right call to trust Travis Sanheim's 'money in the bank'

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.”

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.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers call up Morgan Frost, send Carsen Twarynski to Phantoms

Flyers call up Morgan Frost, send Carsen Twarynski to Phantoms

Updated: 11:57 a.m.

Here comes Morgan Frost.

The Flyers called up the playmaking center Monday from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and sent Carsen Twarynski to the Phantoms.

Frost, an exciting 20-year-old prospect who the Flyers selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 16 games with Lehigh Valley.

Over his final two OHL seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Frost put up 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) and a plus-103 rating in 125 regular-season games.

He is expected to make his NHL debut Tuesday when the Flyers play the Panthers in Florida (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and will wear No. 48.

Frost very well will likely play center, which would allow Claude Giroux to play first-line left winger, where he’s had career-best success.

How long could Frost be here? His play could dictate that, but Scott Laughton (broken finger) is nearing his return from long-term injured reserve. Laughton could be back as soon as Saturday's game against the Flames.

Nonetheless, Frost is getting his first shot.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Something to think about with Alain Vigneault's system

Flyers weekly observations: Something to think about with Alain Vigneault's system

The Flyers went to the shootout two more times this week and stomached an 0-1-2 stretch punctuated by Saturday night's brutal collapse against the Islanders.

Twenty games into the 2019-20 season and the Flyers (10-6-4) are a complex group. Despite improvements under a new coaching staff with some new personnel, they are still the tough-to-predict Flyers.

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

• When head coach Alain Vigneault's system is at its apex, all four lines are making an impact. Setting up shop in the offensive zone requires constant effort. The hard-on-the-attack, get-after-it premise can be taxing, so balance through the lineup is vital.

The Flyers haven't had that and their record reflects it. So, too, does their failure to close games. It's very possible they're running out of gas in the final 20 minutes.

The sharing of ice time can also lead to a style not conducive for high-volume individual point production. When everyone is going, the minutes and scoring can spread out.

Through 20 games, the production is down for Claude Giroux (13 points), Jakub Voracek (13), James van Riemsdyk (nine) and Kevin Hayes (seven). The Flyers don't need career years from those four; that probably wasn't going to happen. But the Flyers do need them for better balance or this team will have a difficult time finding consistency in Vigneault's system.

• On top of the way the Flyers want to play, their schedule hasn't been favorable — all of which could be having a negative effect on delivering knockout punches.

After playing in four different countries from Sept. 30 through October, the Flyers are in the midst of playing 16 games during November. They've already played five back-to-back sets out of 17 this season. In the second game of such situations, the Flyers are 1-2-2 and giving up 3.8 goals per game.

The Flyers have gone to the shootout seven times compared to just four times all of last season. Suddenly the start of games isn't an issue but instead finishing them has caused concerns.

Over the Flyers' last six games, they've been outscored 7-1 in the third period. Five of those six games have gone past regulation and at least three didn't have to.

“Not knowing exactly what we had to work with, I believe that we’re a work in progress and I really believe that we have steps forward to make," Vigneault said before Saturday night's game. "We’re not where I want this team to be, we’re not where I know our team wants to be. But we’re in a good place. We’re right there with a lot of good teams battling.”

• It's obvious by his faceoff work that Sean Couturier is still dealing with a shoulder strain.

The 26-year-old is one of the NHL's best in the dot but lost 12 of 13 faceoffs taken over three games this week. Last season, Couturier had 21 games in which he won at least 12 faceoffs.

He's clearly not the same guy in the circle. However, the injury hasn't stopped him from recording 10 points (four goals, six assists) and a plus-6 mark in his last 10 games.

“I feel better and better every day," he said Tuesday. "It’s more of don’t want to get it worse, want to heal it properly, don’t want it to last all year.”

The left-handed Couturier has limited his number of faceoffs and has even tried taking them right-handed.

“It’s something he’s worked on and it’s something that is pain-free for him," Vigneault said. "He does try it now or then. If the centerman gets kicked out, he’ll go in and try to win them on the side that doesn’t hurt. I hope he’s getting close because we need him to take draws.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers