Flyers

Morgan Frost call-up has to do with everyone (especially James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jakub Voracek)

Morgan Frost call-up has to do with everyone (especially James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jakub Voracek)

VOORHEES, N.J. — Could Morgan Frost have used more time in the AHL?

Possibly.

But 20 games into the 2019-20 season, the Flyers were in a spot where they needed the 20-year-old’s ability. Uniquely, Frost impacts all four of the Flyers’ lines.

The Flyers are searching for greater balance and consistency within their forwards. They haven’t had it through 20 games and it’s a reason why they’ve been up and down during a 10-6-4 start.

Frost’s advertised prowess for playmaking permeates the big club’s makeup. Monday’s arrival of the 2017 first-round pick allows head coach Alain Vigneault to do many desired things with the Flyers’ lineup.

It moves Claude Giroux from the middle back to left winger, where he’s had his career-best success, without seriously hampering the Flyers at center. Frost will play between Giroux and Travis Konecny, a spot that accentuates the prospect’s strengths.

“T.K. is not a 10-year veteran, but he’s one of our young players that is definitely on the uprise and playing real well,” Vigneault said. “We’re playing Morgan with our captain. The captain will lead the way and help the young man out.”

It pieces back together the Flyers’ fourth line of Andy Andreoff, Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick, which was strong and gives the Flyers the necessary depth to augment Vigneault’s system.

“We felt that by bringing Morgan in and being able to go back to Raffy’s line, which had success with Andy on the left side and Tyler on the right side, it gave us better balance,” Vigneault said.

It keeps Sean Couturier with Oskar Lindblom, a duo that has highly performed, while adding Joel Farabee to the group. The trio showed promise in the 4-3 shootout loss Saturday night and it’s important the 19-year-old Farabee is around talent.

“Whoever we’ve played with Coots has played well,” Vigneault said.

And, most notably, it creates a line of James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Jakub Voracek, three players that haven’t produced the way everyone expects them to produce. JVR, Hayes and Voracek have combined for 29 points in 20 games. They are three of the Flyers’ four highest-paid players, all with an average annual value of $7 million or above. 

Vigneault knows those players must perform overall and especially at 5-on-5 for his team to take a legitimate step forward.

The Hayesy line, Jake and James, that should be a big, good NHL line, they should be able to contribute 5-on-5 and play well both offensively and defensively.

All those guys, I love the person. I love Kevin Hayes as a person, James and Jake I’m starting to know, they’re great people. I need more from the hockey player. Two different distinctions, right? The person and the hockey player. Those three guys, I need more from the hockey player. I know that they want to do well. We’re 20 games in. It’s time. I’m not telling you anything that I haven’t told them. Obviously they feel pressure, but that’s why they’re paid the big bucks. You’ve got to deliver, you’ve got to produce, and we expect those guys to produce.

Older guys, because of their reputation, because of what they’ve done in the league, they have more leash, they have more money in the bank. Some of our guys, they’ve used a few withdrawals. I’m not stating anything that [anybody doesn’t know], but I expect more from James, I expect more from Kevin, I expect more from Jake as far as 5-on-5 play. You’d ask those guys, they’d tell you the same thing. They need to be better for our team to get into the playoffs and we’re aware of that.

Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher speak daily with AHL affiliate head coach Scott Gordon. On Sunday, Vigneault spoke with Fletcher for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. After hearing from Gordon, they felt the time was right for Frost.

“Putting our two minds together, we came up with this,” Vigneault said. “It wasn’t about coming up with a plan, it was just looking at our overall team — our four lines, our defense.”

As much as it was about Frost and the Flyers, it had a ton to do with van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Voracek. Frost is here and will make his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Panthers in Florida. While many eyes will be on Frost, Vigneault will continue to look for more from van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Voracek.

He’s a head coach with a track record of making the playoffs — and he sure doesn’t want to miss them in Year 1 with the Flyers.

 

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

Why Flyers are in good spot after Gary Bettman's latest on NHL season amid coronavirus outbreak

Why Flyers are in good spot after Gary Bettman's latest on NHL season amid coronavirus outbreak

The NHL is at a standstill and won't be moving any time particularly soon.

Across sports, the reality is vast patience. The NHL, like everyone else, will have to wait for answers during the coronavirus outbreak, which forced the league to suspend its 2019-20 season back on March 12.

Waiting for answers means mulling decisions. The NHL, understandably so, is in no rush to make them. Right now, everything remains on the table.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman provided an update Tuesday regarding the league's 2019-20 status in an interview with NBC Sports' Mike Tirico:

Our clubs, if nothing, are extraordinarily competitive and whatever we do has to be fair, which is why there has been some public speculation in the media about neutral site games in remote parts of the country. That’s just part of considering all of the potential options, depending on how we find the circumstances.

But when you talk about fairness, we also have issues about if we get to play a playoffs, who gets in, if we can’t complete the regular season — we had I think seven teams on the bubble and they all think they were to have a chance — we have to deal with the lottery and orders of selections in the draft.

So, the best thing and the easiest thing would be if at some point we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do. We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is. But again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.

What does this all mean for the Flyers? They're in good shape, even a win-win situation for any type of resumption.

If the NHL can find a way to conclude 2019-20 in full, the Flyers will have a shot to finish off what was on pace to be their best regular season in nine years. Prior to the stoppage, according to Hockey-Reference.com, the Flyers were projected to finish with 104 to 105 points, which would be their most since 2010-11, when they had 106.

With 13 games left on their schedule, the Flyers are one point behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals and own the NHL's sixth-most points at 89. They would love to go for the Metro crown and have an opportunity to cap off their 2019-20 regular-season turnaround following a tumultuous 2018-19.

“When you have time, use it," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said March 30. "To me, there’s no sense in making any decisions until you have to make them. If we’re able to come back and play, that means that the world is in a much better spot than what it is right now, and I think that would be a tremendous sign. Obviously I hope that we have the ability to finish up this year, a lot of work was put in and we got through the majority of the regular season. We’re all competitors, we all want to play and if we’re playing, it means this situation has changed dramatically and we’re in a much better spot.”

If the NHL is forced to trim or completely ax the remainder of the regular-season schedule to expedite the process to the playoffs, the Flyers' work before the hiatus will have paid off.

Prior to the league's pause, the Flyers had won nine of their last 10 games and were 19-6-1 since Jan. 8, a stretch in which they were tied with the Bruins for the NHL's most points at 39.

And they finally had a positive, season-changing November in which they went 10-2-4 with an NHL-best 24 points. Over their previous five Novembers, the Flyers went a combined 23-29-14.

The improvement in the second month of the season and huge push since early January could turn out to be huge if the league jumps right into the playoffs. If the playoff format remains the same and games are played in the teams' regular arenas with fans, the Flyers already hold second place in the division, which would give them home-ice advantage.

The marked progress has put the Flyers in strong standing with whatever avenue the NHL may take to resume the season and award the Stanley Cup.

If hockey returns in 2019-20, in any shape or form, the Flyers should like their outlook.

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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

Pushing Olympics to 2021 makes Brian Boucher optimistic for NHL to finish season

Pushing Olympics to 2021 makes Brian Boucher optimistic for NHL to finish season

Brian Boucher, best known in Philadelphia for helping the Flyers push to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and now a well-respected analyst for NBC Sports, caught up with our own Michael Barkann during the current stoppage of play.

There, Barkann and Boucher discussed a wide variety of topics, the biggest being the future of the current NHL season. 

“My hopeful side, my optimistic side says that we’ll have a playoffs,” Boucher said last Friday. “Why I say that is because the Olympics getting pushed to next year, 2021, opens up a window in July and August for the NHL to jump in there.

"That to me is a positive, so something tells me the NHL is going to do all they can to see this season through. Whether or not that means having a conclusion to the regular season remains to be seen.”

It’s a valid argument — and knowing that the league is going to do all it can to award the Stanley Cup, this could very well be one of the more viable and logical options. 

Of course, this all depends on how the next few weeks play out. When will games even be able to start back up? If they do, can fans attend or will it be done in a smaller arena? There are still many unanswered questions during this time, but planning for just about every possibility is the right move. 

Now if things were to eventually start again, how would the Flyers be affected? After going from one of the top teams in the league for months to going cold turkey for a significant amount of time certainly raises some concern.

“They were the hottest team in the National Hockey League,” Boucher said. “A stop like this certainly stops that whole momentum in its tracks, and whatever they were doing in early March and late February, it’s going to be next to impossible to replicate if they start up again in July.

“You cannot expect them to pick up where they left off. They’re going to be starting at square one, but I’ve been impressed with this club all year long — impressed with the direction that Alain Vigneault has brought to this club. They are much more organized, they defend better, I like the veteran leadership that they brought into this locker room and that’s a credit to Chuck Fletcher.”

To hear more about Boucher’s time during the NHL hiatus, his thoughts on the league moving forward and his former team the Flyers, you can watch the rest of the interview above.

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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