It would be a shame to see Flyers go down in 'quicksand'

It would be a shame to see Flyers go down in 'quicksand'

The 2018-19 season is far from the Flyers' first rodeo.

Claude Giroux is one of the more decorated players in franchise history. He's currently the longest-tenured athlete in Philadelphia, has played in a Stanley Cup Final and carries 69 games of playoff experience.

Wayne Simmonds has worn orange and black since 2011. He embodies a toughness this city wraps its arms around, has two 30-goal seasons and is second to only Alex Ovechkin in power-play markers since 2011-12.

Jakub Voracek has played 30 postseason games in Philly, is a two-time 80-point scorer and owns the NHL's sixth-most assists since 2014-15.

James van Riemsdyk is a No. 2 overall pick, played on the Flyers' 2010 Stanley Cup Final team and has twice eclipsed the 30-goal plateau.

Sean Couturier has played in Philadelphia since he was 19 years old, is fresh off a breakout year (31 goals, 45 assists) and was a Selke Trophy runner-up (top defensive forward) last season.

These are résumés with some shine, track records that should exude confidence. It's why so many liked the makeup of the Flyers as training camp rolled around because the team looked good on paper.

But, as Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon put it, "Confidence is a tricky word."

The past doesn't always produce confidence. It doesn't just magically appear in a player's mind. While everyone on the outside is trying to wrap their head around this team sitting near the NHL basement 40 games into the season, the Flyers are fighting for their confidence.

The core's future, with pieces up against the clock, could depend on it.

That belief within.

Gordon said it's secondary. Actions build confidence.

When you do the right things, you work hard, you compete and you battle, you get a lot of confidence because you know you put in the time, the work, the effort, to be successful.

When a player is not playing well, he tries to play a little more on the perimeter, tries to be open where nobody sees him laying in the weeds, standing behind the net when he needs to get above the puck. There's so much value in being able to have a presence through the middle of the ice and the effort that is exerted to get there. Sometimes it doesn't show you the necessary offensive results, but it puts you in good position to be able to stop the opposition from going on the attack.

So instead of … maybe it's a chip out, maybe it's a turnover that you create by working to get to the middle of the ice as oppose to standing behind the net or standing in the weak-side corner and then all of a sudden you're on a 200-foot backcheck and you're getting scored against and you're losing confidence. 'Why am I getting scored against?'

The Flyers are 15-20-5 and tied for the NHL's fewest points at 35. They have lost a season-worst five straight games and have a minus-31 goal differential. And since Nov. 13, they are 6-13-4 and have seen a massive shake-up with the firing of their general manager, assistant general manager, head coach and an assistant coach.

"It's like quicksand right now," Simmonds said of the struggles Thursday night following a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes. "We're trying to get out and it feels like it's just getting deeper."

The next changes will come to the roster.

What those changes are will be up to the Flyers and their mental fortitude to keep things together and buy more time from new general manager Chuck Fletcher (see story).

The Flyers could look starkly different after the Feb. 25 trade deadline. 

The core is a good group of players. It's a good group of guys. They care. 

Truly, it would be a shame to see it end like this — without one last run, fighting for confidence.

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Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers' depth at forward is being seriously tested.

The team is without Travis Konecny (concussion, out indefinitely), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger, out approximately four weeks) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder, out indefinitely).

Going into their three-game road trip, the Flyers have only 12 healthy forwards. In his fifth stint with the big club since the beginning of 2018-19, Mikhail Vorobyev is centering the Flyers' fourth line. The 22-year-old is in audition mode yet again with the Flyers and will have to be noticeable in limited minutes to stick.

How Vorobyev performs moving forward and the Flyers' depth concerns could open the door for Connor Bunnaman. The 21-year-old forward made the Flyers' season-opening roster. He's healthy again with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after missing nearly a full month because of a lower-body injury.

Bunnaman brings size and positional versatility as the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder can player either center or winger. This past week, Bunnaman scored a goal and had eight shots in three games.

The Flyers may want to have him play more games with the Phantoms before calling him up. However, they may need him soon. Bunnaman has Raffl-like potential and ability.

On Sept. 26, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke highly of the 2016 fourth-round pick who scored 19 goals in 62 games with Lehigh Valley last season and two goals this preseason.

He’s been the best player in training camp. He was outstanding in the practices. ... By best player, I mean in terms of expectations. He’s come in and blown them away.

He honestly seems twice as fast this year to last year. I know we make a habit of saying players are quicker and faster but this guy is legitimately much faster than last year and he scored 19 goals last year, had a heck of a year in the American League.

There’s no reason to doubt that he can play some games for us this year.

The Phantoms play Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Flyers play Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Keep an eye on Bunnaman and the big club's bottom-six depth.

Quick hits

• Noah Cates is continuing to turn heads.

As a sophomore, the 2017 fifth-round pick leads defending national champion Minnesota Duluth with nine goals and is a point-per-game player (16 points in 16 contests).

The 20-year-old winger is coming off a four-point weekend (three goals, one assist) in the Bulldogs' two-game sweep of Omaha.

The Flyers couldn't stop bragging about Cates this summer and are probably bragging some more to each other this week.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development," Cates said in June. "They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

He's doing just that.

• Cam York, the Flyers' 2019 first-round pick, recorded a goal and an assist in Michigan's 4-1 win over Penn State last Friday.

The mobile and skilled puck-moving defenseman owns nine points (four goals, five assists) in 14 games as a freshman.

• Egor Zamula enjoyed a three-point weekend for the Calgary Hitmen.

The 19-year-old is third among WHL defensemen with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 28 games and has a plus-19 rating.

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Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

VOORHEES, N.J. — Monday started with bad news for the Flyers.

Travis Konecny, their 22-year-old leading scorer, is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Konecny was leveled in open ice by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period of the Flyers' 4-3 win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. He left the game and never returned.

The 2015 first-round pick is on pace to shatter his career highs. He's been arguably the Flyers’ most important piece to their turnaround through 30 games of 2019-20.

He has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) after having 28 points through the team's first 50 games last season. The Flyers are 2-4-4 in games that he hasn't scored.

I didn’t know a ton about him. I knew he competed like hell, fiery player," Matt Niskanen, in his first year with the Flyers, said Monday. "Playing with him, that’s reinforced that thought — hungry on the puck, good quickness, really good at creating turnovers. He’s shown a pretty good scoring touch, too, so far this year. A lot of good tools and he’s been a really important player for us.

Philippe Myers left the Flyers' skill practice Monday with back spasms. With Konecny out and Myers potentially out for Wednesday's game in Colorado against the Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Flyers will most likely have only 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen to open a three-game road trip.

Niskanen, who has 125 career postseason games on his résumé and a Stanley Cup title, said this can be a good challenge for the Flyers. The team is 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for the most points in the NHL at 28 since Nov. 1 (see weekly observations).

"Both guys have played really well for us," he said. "Hopefully they come back, we've been on a pretty good run here. But it gives somebody an opportunity and it tests us a little bit — and that's OK, early in the year, you're going to have to learn to deal with things."

As of Monday morning, the Flyers did not have plans to make a call-up. Forward Chris Stewart will enter the lineup and defenseman Robert Hagg will, as well, if Myers is unable to go in Colorado.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said it's uncertain if Konecny will or can travel with the Flyers. The team flies to Denver Tuesday afternoon.

"At this time, I would say no," Vigneault said, "but you never know how things change."

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