James van Riemsdyk did his homework on Dave Hakstol and was sold

James van Riemsdyk did his homework on Dave Hakstol and was sold

James van Riemsdyk had all sorts of selling points for returning to the Flyers.

A familiarity with the organization's culture and brand.

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek lobbying for his services.

Prominent roles within a mix of youthfulness and veterans.

But perhaps one of the more underrated reasons for van Riemsdyk's decision to sign a five-year contract with the orange and black last Sunday: Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.

Before pulling the trigger on his landing spot in free agency, van Riemsdyk did his homework. He talked to players like Giroux and Voracek and gained a grasp of Hextall's vision — whatever it took to make certain the Flyers were his best fit among the 10 to 12 suitors.

To do so, he also studied the coach — and quite extensively.

It's clear he was won over by Hakstol and the information he gathered from others on the Flyers' bench boss.

"I've gotten a chance to talk to him a couple of times over the course of the free agency week there, just got to talk a little bit on his philosophies and stuff like that for hockey," van Riemsdyk said on Thursday's edition of Philly Sports Talk. "I also got a chance to talk to some different guys that have played for him over the years, whether it was in college or even with the Flyers, [players] who may not be there anymore, so I got a chance to know a little more about him and I'm excited to work with him."

The addition of van Riemsdyk raises the ante for Hextall and the Flyers' process. The same goes for Hakstol, who is entering Year 4 of a five-year contract, according to Hakstol was already facing some pressure prior to the van Riemsdyk signing. It only grows when you drop a 36-goal scorer onto the roster without losing anything other than cap space. 

Hakstol's decision-making and system will now be even more directly under the microscope.

"Ninety-eight points is respectable, being a playoff team is respectable — we're not here to be respectable, we're here to be better than that," Hakstol said in late April after a first-round playoff exit, the second during his three-year tenure. "I look at the little areas that lead up to those outward benchmarks."

Hakstol's newest left winger was impressed by the coach's makeup and mindset.

"He's a passionate guy about hockey and he's knowledgeable, as well," van Riemsdyk said. "So I think it's going to be great."

In fact, van Riemsdyk saw great aspects across the board.

"My fit within what they were looking to add to their team and what they already have in place, I thought that was great," he said. "Organizationally, you just know with Philadelphia, every year, they're going to give you the resources you need to win, they're going to try to do everything they can do to help you, so you just have to worry playing hockey versus the other stuff.

"They're not going to leave any stone unturned."

During his research, van Riemsdyk didn't, either. After turning them all over, he picked the Flyers — and Hakstol is a big reason why.

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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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Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

While the Flyers lost their winning streak and point streak, they still put together a productive 2-1-0 week.

Alain Vigneault's team is 7-1-1 over its last nine games, a stretch in which the Flyers have allowed 2.11 goals per game. Since Nov. 1, the Flyers are 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for most points in the NHL at 28, continuing to make strides under the new coaching staff.

We'll get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Scott Laughton's performance in Saturday's emotion-filled 4-3 win over the Senators served as a microcosm of his importance to the Flyers.

The team-first attitude, the hard skating, the physicality, the forechecking, the penalty killing and the secondary scoring.

He is not undervalued by the Flyers.

If I look at today’s game where it got heated, he’s one of the guys I thought that responded the best. He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that — he did both of those things.

As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice.

- Vigneault

And check out these marks: the Flyers are 7-0-0 when Laughton records a point and 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of a broken finger.

• In 30 games, Ivan Provorov has already matched his goal total from last season (seven) and set career highs on the power play (four goals, six assists).

He's projected to pass his numbers from a breakout 2017-18 season in which he scored 17 goals and 41 points. The 22-year-old's rebound from his letdown 2018-19 campaign might be the most impactful development to the Flyers' overall rebound so far in 2019-20.

Before the Coyotes' 3-1 win Thursday over the Flyers, Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet extolled Provorov.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said, via Coyotes public relations.

"He plays with an edge in a sense that he doesn’t play safe. He’s up the ice, he makes plays, he’s not scared the way he plays. Not so much scared physically, just the way he plays, he’s trying to win the game. As a young guy, he wants to be in those spots. When I watch him, he wants the puck. I love young kids like that, they’re not scared.”

When asked if Provorov reminded him of anyone, Tocchet said "a little bit of Phil Housley," who is a Hall of Fame blueliner and now an assistant coach with Arizona.

• Carter Hart owns 10 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average.

By Dec. 8 of last season, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon had combined for 12 wins and a 3.30 goals-against average.

As much as some people want to knock the previous coaching staff, the Flyers were a mess in net at this point last season and things predictably unraveled. Really, from the outset of 2018-19, things were problematic between the pipes for the Flyers.

• One of the biggest signs of growth with the 2019-20 Flyers has been goal prevention. They've allowed 80 goals through 30 games. In 30 games last season, the Flyers gave up 111. That's 31 more goals.

A lot goes into that — goaltending and offseason acquisitions to name a few. But Vigneault's system has turned the Flyers into a more structured team.

Much more often compared to 2018-19, the Flyers, even if they're struggling to score, look like they're controlling games instead of letting the opposition do the honors. Through 30 games last season, the Flyers had 11 losses by three goals or more. This season, they have only four such defeats.


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