Flyers

Travis Sanheim makes costly mistake in debut as Flyers blanked by Kings

Travis Sanheim makes costly mistake in debut as Flyers blanked by Kings

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — On my way to the Staples Center Thursday, about three hours prior to face-off, a fan approached me on the street and asked if there were any lineup changes.

It’s a curious question considering that less than 24 hours before that, the Flyers exploded for five goals, which included a power play that went 3 for 5. That feat coupled with Wayne Simmonds posting the franchise’s first hat trick on opening night in a building where the Flyers rarely have had success.

What more could one fan possibly want?

Yes, it’s a hypothetical, but you don’t have to venture too far to find the answer — whether that’s a block from the hotel or on a thread of comments listed below a Flyers-related story on the internet.

People want to see the youth and they want to see it now. It’s like a bowl of Lucky Charms, except the Flyers’ young players are the marshmallows, and you can never get enough marshmallows. The rest of the cereal? That’s just filler for the bowl.  

On Thursday night, Travis Sanheim was the pink hearts or the green clovers or whatever color and shape you prefer. The 21-year-old made his NHL debut in the Flyers’ 2-0 loss to the Kings (see observations), much to the delight of anyone who was sitting at home in an orange and black sweater. 

All of that goodness that came out of the preseason was supposed to just carry over into the regular season. That’s what Sanheim’s girlfriend likely expected when she posted on social media earlier in the day that her sweetheart was playing in his first game.

That sort of information is never to supposed to leave Ron Hextall’s double steel-plated vault. Regardless, it leaked out. 

After all, this was a coronation, so let the greatness commence. Never mind that Sanheim played his very first game in one of the league’s toughest venues against one of the league’s toughest teams.

“This is a hard league,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You see it with veteran players, let alone with guys who are playing their first or second game. It’s a hard league.”

That hard part wasn’t supposed to be part of Sanheim’s night, until the rookie was asked to describe his first taste of regular-season hockey.

“Actually pretty disappointed with my effort,” Sanheim said. “I thought I could play a lot better. I started feeling more comfortable in the third. I got my feet under me and started to play more of my game, and getting up in the ice and making plays. I wish I could have done that early. Obviously, being my first game, I was a little hesitant early. I wish I could go back and tell myself maybe get a little bit more comfortable, start getting up in the ice and start playing my game.”

The plays Sanheim was remembered for making in the preseason weren’t exactly the plays Sanheim will be remembered for following this game. Most notably a neutral-zone turnover that saw Trevor Lewis work his way behind Sanheim and the defense. A pass, a one-timer and just like that, a 1-0 Kings’ lead.

“That shift in the second period was actually a turning point in this hockey game,” Hakstol said. “The one shift that they had there was a turnover that ended up in the back of the net. That’s something they’ll look at.”

“Yeah, I saw him,” Sanheim said of Lewis. “My gap was a little off. With the turnover, I wish I was a little farther up. I think then he doesn’t see that play. I wish I could have had a better gap. That’s a mistake and something I can learn from.”

Overall, Sanheim finished with 10:58 of ice time and a minus-two rating. He also somehow played just one single second on the power play, where he could have unleashed that rocket of a slap shot. 

As if Lucky Charms aren’t coated with enough sugar, Hakstol wanted to make sure he added one more teaspoon. 

“There’s lots of good to say,” Hakstol said. “This is a tough building and a tough environment to play your first NHL game and I really liked the way Travis stayed with it. I really thought he started to play his game in the latter half of the second period and in the third period. That’s a positive. There’s going to be some jitters there.”

Then again, if Hextall had it his way, he’d save Sanheim along with fellow rookie defensemen Robert Hagg and Sam Morin for another day. Not when you’re ready, when he’s ready, and most importantly, when they’re ready. All three will play this season. It just won’t be at the same time or with the same team.

“You can understand with these three guys, they’re three different players,” Hextall said. “Sam’s a big, heavy defensive defenseman. Hagg is a solid two-way guy and Travis has got a little more offense than both of them. You’ve got three different players there.”

“How we piece our lineup together is going to be specific to the team we’re playing against and specific to the situation,” Hakstol said.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Orange stars, yellow moons, blue diamonds and rainbows. 

After Thursday’s shutout, you can see the line of thinking. A bowl of marshmallows would not make for a good team. Unless you carefully craft them and combine them perfectly with the other bland pieces, you will fail to realize just how good the marshmallows can truly be.

Flyers reportedly bringing back Samuel Morin on 3-year deal

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AP Images

Flyers reportedly bringing back Samuel Morin on 3-year deal

On what is expected to be a busy NHL draft day, the Flyers checked one offseason item off their checklist.

The Flyers are expected to re-sign defenseman Samuel Morin to a three-year contract, according to Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic.

Morin will miss most of the 2018-19 season because of a torn ACL in his right knee. He suffered the injury during the Phantoms’ five-overtime playoff game against the Charlotte Checkers on May 9. He’s likely out until February.

Because Morin signed his entry-level contract five years ago as an 18-year-old, he’s no longer waiver exempt. He would have been a restricted free agent.

Morin, a hulking 6-foot-7 defenseman, was the Flyers’ first-round pick (11th overall) in 2013. He failed to make the Flyers last season despite a strong training camp and preseason.

The Flyers carried him on their opening-night roster but sent him to the Phantoms after their four-game opening road trip.

Last season was a nightmare for Morin. He dealt with several lower-body injuries and played just 15 regular-season games in Lehigh Valley.

Morin had a two-game stint with the Flyers in November and played well.

The reported three-year deal will give Morin an extra two years to prove himself and gives him a potential future with the Flyers.

It’s also a sign general manager Ron Hextall and the front office still has faith in him.

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Flyers reportedly interested in trading for Ryan O'Reilly

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USA Today Images

Flyers reportedly interested in trading for Ryan O'Reilly

Culture change is a funny thing, and it doesn’t just happen in Philadelphia — it’s happening in Buffalo.

It’s no secret the Sabres want to change their recent fortune of not being very good at hockey and it all begins tonight at the draft when they’re expected to take Rasmus Dahlin No. 1 overall.

As we’re hours away from the 2018 NHL draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas, trade speculation will only heat up as we inch even closer to Buffalo selecting the Swedish sensation.

Enter Ryan O’Reilly.

The Sabres are reportedly shopping the 27-year-old and the Flyers are one of the teams rumored to be interested, along with the Canadiens, Hurricanes and Wild, according to Pierre McGuire.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic also listed the Flyers as a potential suitor for O’Reilly on Thursday based on the Flyers’ assets and the player fit. From LeBrun:

The Flyers have two first-round picks Friday, 14 overall (from the Blues) and 19 overall (their own). That could be part of a deal, or one of the picks anyway, to entice the Sabres, but I suspect what really has Buffalo intrigued by Philly is their very deep pool of young players throughout their organization. No surprise that Flyers GM Ron Hextall might be looking at O’Reilly, he would fit the type of guy that organization wants.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Sabres are looking for a package similar to what the Flyers got for Mike Richards in 2011: a young roster player, a high-end prospect and a significant draft pick.

We all remember the day — June 23, 2011 — when the Flyers traded Richards and Jeff Carter in separate deals just hours apart. The Flyers acquired Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick from the Kings.

It should be noted the Sabres are believed as listening on most players as they look to shake things up. Because of draft picks and the mania that generally goes down on draft night, we could see some movement tonight. 

Analysis

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has stated his interest in adding another veteran centerman but said he’s not interested in doing something that will “bottle us up in three or four years.”

While in context, Hextall was talking about free agency, the same thought process can be applied to the trade market too. Making a trade for a trade’s sake isn’t in Hextall’s M.O.

If the Flyers were to acquire term as would be the case with O’Reilly, they would have to believe that the player is a fit here three or four years down the road.

From an organizational philosophy viewpoint, O’Reilly fits the mold of what Hextall looks for: a consistent 200-foot player who produces on a consistent basis and strong in the faceoff circle.

O’Reilly has averaged 22 goals and 59 points since 2013-14. He’s extremely strong in faceoffs, winning 60 percent of his draws last season and averaging 57.1 percent over the last five seasons.

The Flyers need a third-line center upgrade, and O’Reilly certainly would be a huge improvement. He would give the Flyers a power trio down the middle with Sean Couturier, O’Reilly and Nolan Patrick. He’d allow Dave Hakstol to relieve some pressure from Patrick in his second season. From a hockey perspective, O’Reilly would be a solid addition to the Flyers.

Now the money question. O’Reilly has five years left on a seven-year, $52.5 million extension he signed with the Sabres in 2015 and carries a $7.5 million annual average value.

That’s a hefty cap hit, and an acquiring team would likely ask Buffalo to retain some of it. For the Flyers, the cap is no longer an issue. Hextall has solved that issue, and they have plenty of cap space for 2018-19. Down the line, it could be an issue, but the cap likely will keep increasing.

In the end, I wouldn’t bet on the Flyers acquiring O’Reilly. There’s no rush for the Sabres to move him so if they don’t get what they want, they could kick the can down the road.

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