Flyers

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

One ring down, one ring to go.

Claude Giroux is enjoying a summer of marital bliss after tying the knot with fiancee Ryanne Breton.

When he returns to Philadelphia later this summer, he’ll begin his quest once again to earn that much more elusive championship ring. Of course, few people believe the Flyers are close to winning a Stanley Cup, but with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, they’re closer.

Maybe one more stud defenseman, Carter Hart in his prime, and switching the captain back to center?

Is it possible that after topping the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career, Giroux’s left wing conversion was just a one-year experiment?

General manager Ron Hextall stated a desire to sign a third-line center who would help kill penalties, but only signing one on his terms. The players that seemingly fit that role — Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash and Derek Ryan — all signed three-year contracts elsewhere, and the concern within the organization is eventually blocking Morgan Frost’s path to the NHL (see story)

So Hextall was asked on July 1 how the Flyers find that center they weren’t able to sign through free agency and the first answer that almost immediately came to mind was moving Giroux back to center. 

I believe the Flyers' brass has already given the idea consideration, and if you move the pieces around on paper, the team looks considerably deeper with Giroux in the middle again. 

Several elements stand out when you compare and contrast the different combinations.

1. The Flyers are considerably more balanced with Giroux at center, with three lines that can do offensive damage and create matchup problems for the opposition, especially at home with last change.

2. Konecny could be buried with Giroux at wing. He’s almost guaranteed a spot in the top six if Giroux switches back to center. During the first half of last season, Konecny was paired with players that didn’t have a similar skill set, and consequently, the super-skilled winger struggled to find any offensive rhythm.

3. While effective at times last season, Laughton doesn’t seem ready to jump into the role of a third-line center. The 2012 first-round pick played some of his best hockey late in the season on the left wing with Jori Lehtera at center. 

If Dave Hakstol elects to make this change in the preseason, the biggest concern moving forward doesn’t necessarily involve Giroux’s move back to center, but rather can Couturier continue to excel by posting solid offensive numbers without Giroux on his wing? The two players were inseparable last season until the final two games of the Flyers' playoff series against Pittsburgh.  

And it may be the best option to start next season. 

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Flyers vs. Golden Knights: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Golden Knights: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

It's Joel Farabee time.

The prospect everyone wants to see will make his NHL debut Monday night when the Flyers (2-3-1) host the Golden Knights (6-3-0).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers have been pleased with their work at both ends of the ice (see story). Alain Vigneault's team has put up the NHL's third-most shots per game with 36.2 while allowing the league's fewest per game at 26.

But the Flyers, with 15 goals through six games, need somebody to make a play. That's why Farabee and Mikhail Vorobyev were called up Sunday night (see story).

"In Misha’s case, we’ve been looking for a guy to play that fourth-line center spot that would give us a little bit more balance," Vigneault said Monday after morning skate, "while Joel has got a tremendous amount of skill and he’s also a very smart hockey player."

Farabee can deliver goals on pure skill and understands how to score in a variety of ways. He was dynamic with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, netting three goals and an assist in four games.

Can he be the Flyers' spark plug?

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable," Farabee said. "Stickhandling in tight and stuff like, I feel a lot more comfortable. I’m not afraid to try certain plays, I’ve got more confidence. Going down there definitely helped a lot and I’m sure it will help me tonight."

• Farabee will play on the first power play unit and why not?

"If we’re going to call up a young player like that, with that amount of skill, we’re going to put him in a position and in a role where he can have success," Vigneault said.

“He’s an offensive, gifted player that plays smart at both ends of the rink.”

Shayne Gostisbehere will be back running the point of the man advantage after Ivan Provorov did so in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Stars. Gostisbehere is scoreless through the first six games of the season for the first time in his career.

• The Flyers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak. They haven't lost five straight games in October since the 2008-09 season, when the Flyers dropped their opening six games.

• The Golden Knights' penalty kill is 33 for 35 with an NHL-best 94.3 percentage.

Quotable

Last two games, I know we didn't have the result we wanted, we lost both games, but if you really look into the game, if you understand the game, you understand that we played great games.

- Claude Giroux after the Flyers outshot the opposition 91-38 but lost by a combined score of 10-4 in the past two games

Projected lineup

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
Michael Raffl-Mikhail Vorobyev-Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg

Goalies

Brian Elliott
Carter Hart

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    What to make of Flyers' roster moves, which have Joel Farabee on his way

    What to make of Flyers' roster moves, which have Joel Farabee on his way

    The Flyers challenged Joel Farabee.

    The 19-year-old needed only four games to answer that challenge.

    “It won't be long in the American League if he does start there,” USNTDP coach John Wroblewski said in March.

    Farabee is on his way to the big club as the Flyers called up the 2018 first-round pick Sunday night, along with Mikhail Vorobyev. As a result, the Flyers sent rookie Carsen Twarynski to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

    Twarynski handled himself well over six games in a bottom-six role and this isn’t a demotion for the 21-year-old.

    This is about the Flyers needing an early offensive jolt after losing four straight games. The Flyers outshot the opposition 91-38 over the past two games but were outscored by a combined 10-4 in consecutive regulation losses.

    “At the end of the day right now, we’re having a challenging time as a group finding the back of the net,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday night.

    Here comes Farabee, a point-producing winger who is a versatile goal-scorer that can play in a variety of roles. After somewhat surprisingly not cracking the Flyers’ season-opening roster, Farabee went to the Phantoms oozing with motivation.

    He ripped off three goals in his first three games as a pro and added an assist Saturday night.

    That was enough to tell general manager Chuck Fletcher the time was now for his call-up, especially with the Flyers having a difficult time putting the puck in the net and lacking some offensive depth.

    “I had a good talk with Joel up in Europe about if he goes to Lehigh Valley with the right mindset, the right work ethic, the willingness to get better and get his game to where it needs to be, there's no doubt in my mind that at some point, if he plays well there, we'll probably see him back here,” Vigneault said Oct. 8.

    Farabee will make his NHL debut Monday against the Golden Knights at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP). Expect to see Vorobyev in the lineup, as well. The 22-year-old also brings an element of skill and playmaking. The center can play on the penalty kill and totaled two goals and two assists in five games with Lehigh Valley.

    Farabee has proven to be a quick starter and riser. During his draft year with the U.S. under-18 team, he put up four goals and two assists in his opening three games. As a freshman with Boston University last season, Farabee had three goals and three assists through his first eight games.

    Let’s see how quickly he can impact the Flyers.

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