Flyers

Where will Cam Talbot fit in Flyers' unusual goalie picture?

Where will Cam Talbot fit in Flyers' unusual goalie picture?

MONTREAL — The Flyers have had so many goaltending trios over the past 12 months that looking at a locker room with Brian Elliott sitting next to Cam Talbot sitting next to Carter Hart shouldn’t seem bizarre at all.

But somehow it is.

If you thought the goaltending position was complex before, there’s a lot to untangle moving forward, especially when you look at the makeup of each netminder.

Hart was drafted three years ago, Elliott signed here two years ago and Talbot was traded here nearly a week ago. Unlike some of the previous combinations we’ve seen from the Flyers in the past, all three goalies believe they’re still capable of being a No. 1.

Talbot and Elliott combined have over 700 NHL regular-season games played, excluding the postseason, and now they’re forced to take a backseat to a red-hot Hart, who will continue with his heavy workload unless the Flyers tail off in the standings. 

Talbot was the last one off the ice following Thursday’s morning skate in Montreal and needed “a bagger,” as he referred to it, after doing very little since learning of his trade to the Flyers last Friday.

“I heard this was a great group of guys and they’re obviously on a bit of a hot streak right now,” Talbot said. “So, I just want to come in and try not to mess with the chemistry in here.”

There simply are not enough nets and games to go around for this new-look three-headed monster, and who knows how it plays out moving forward.

“I don’t know those details, ins and outs,” Elliott said. “You just have to come here with a smile on your face and ready to play when called upon. I’ll never turn down a start. It’s a coach’s decision. I’m available and I just want to help the guys.”

Elliott will back up Hart for Thursday’s game against Montreal and likely Saturday’s outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field, but after that, who knows where it all goes with the trade deadline on Monday.

You have to believe general manager Chuck Fletcher would like to find a playoff-bound team that could use a veteran goaltender like Elliott, but the 33-year-old's injury history could scare a handful of teams away.

Fletcher also needs to evaluate Talbot moving forward and determine if he’s the goaltender who solidified the Oilers' net from 2015-17, which included Edmonton’s only playoff appearance in the past 13 years, or if he’s the player that has seen his play take a tailspin over the past 18 months.

Even Talbot would like to figure that part out.

“That’s a hard question to answer,” Talbot said. “Anytime your numbers slip like that, you always look internally. I’m never looking at anything else. I’m always looking at what I can do different on a given night. I’m not the kind of guy to place blame on anything else but myself. I just have to find that confidence again and hopefully I can do it behind this group.”   

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With the 2019-20 NHL regular season concluded, Alain Vigneault should win the Jack Adams Award

With the 2019-20 NHL regular season concluded, Alain Vigneault should win the Jack Adams Award

In general manager Chuck Fletcher’s first offseason with the Flyers, he had quite an extensive to-do list before October came around. While adding depth and a few new faces to the roster were toward the top of the list, nothing was more important than the task of bringing in a new head coach.

Many had their sights set on Joel Quennville, who was fired by the Blackhawks early in the 2018-19 season. It was a shock to the hockey world, considering he helped Chicago bring home three Stanley Cups over the course of 10 years. Ultimately, he chose to go to Florida. No, not to retire. Quennville was off to his new team the Panthers to be their bench boss. 

Eventually, news broke that Alain Vigneault was coming to town. Like every other offseason acquisition, the response was all over the place. Little did Philadelphia know at the time, but it just received a perfect fit for its city, its team and the organization.

It is an honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Flyers," Vigneault said following his hire. "The history they have established and the passionate fan base has made this a first-class franchise. I am excited to work with Chuck, the talented group of players and prospects coming up through the system, in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape.

Who knew that in just a few short months, the Flyers would in fact be near the top of the NHL landscape once more. Again, a lot of this is owed to Fletcher and his moves in the offseason and around the trade deadline — but when you look at the team’s overall success on a nightly basis? That’s all Vigneault.

There was a mentality tilt this season in comparison to prior ones. The locker room had a different vibe right from the jump and you could sense how it has positively affected the Flyers' overall game. Vigneault has also shown he is not afraid to speak up and be honest to his players and the media to give his team a kick in the right direction.

The abrupt halt to the NHL season has been rough for many — especially Flyers fans, as they had been anticipating a season precisely like this one for quite some time. The official word was released that if hockey does return, the league will go straight to the playoffs, meaning the 2019-20 regular season has concluded. Now, since that’s the case, league awards will have to be given out based on the condensed season — all the more reason to name Vigneault coach of the year. 

A few key examples

• From the beginning of training camp, he didn’t hold back when discussing his thoughts on Travis Konecny and the need to have him here to get familiar with the new faces and systems in the organization. Thankfully for the Flyers, Konecny and the team came to terms, he arrived shortly after and is having the best season of his young career. 

• Vigneault has not been afraid to call out the veterans on the team, either. Knowing what his players are capable of, it’s important for him to get the best out of them.  

• When the Flyers released a statement that Oskar Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, it was a difficult time for everyone. Sports aside, the human aspect of it all is mentally draining. Lindblom has received such overwhelming support from players, fans and especially Vigneault — always referencing his “great smile” when the 23-year-old forward attends a game or practice.  

• Looking at a near-complete season without Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder), a shortened season from Lindblom and injuries that popped up throughout the whole season — James van Riemsdyk with a broken hand, Shayne Gostisbehere’s knee injury, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl’s broken fingers and Konecny missing a handful of games because of a concussion … it’s safe to say it never looked like this team was missing a key player. That’s all due to call-ups and how Vigneault adjusted his lines every time the Flyers hit the ice. 

Vigneault has been everything the city could want in a coach and more. And while there certainly are a handful of other coaches within the league that are also deserving of this award (John Tortorella in Columbus, Travis Green in Vancouver), nothing comes close to the case the new bench boss has made in Philadelphia.

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Ever wonder series: What the heck is Gritty?

Ever wonder series: What the heck is Gritty?

Squeaky paws. Majestic beard. Colorful belly buttons (with piercings). Dance moves that can never be beaten. Wild entrances. Orange from head to skates. Internet sensation. Lover of hot dogs. 

Only one, uh, thing comes to mind, right? 

That right there is the power of Gritty. 

While he is only in the second season of his head mascot duties with the Philadelphia Flyers, it seems like he’s doing a pretty great job with it. 

But when the zamboni dust settles and the mascot that stands seven feet tall comes into the picture … you can’t help but wonder — what the heck is Gritty?  

Well, we got to digging … 

Brian Allen, the designer of the Gritty, recalled the days that went into creating concepts for the mascot — all two of them. Within that 48 hours though, 25 different ideas were brought to the table. 

“They wanted it to be a monster,” Allen said. “We didn’t want him to be associated with any kind of species or anything like that, so we went in the other direction — because if you make something that’s sort of a blank slate, like Gritty is, it’s so much more fun.”  

Did you know at one point, there was a design that gave Gritty wings? Which — at first — sounds crazy, but it would’ve been another thing the mascot had that the Penguins didn’t. You know, the ability to fly. 

In retrospect, that might have been for the better. Gritty already has too much power, imagine if he added flight to his résumé.

 “He’s sort of a misfit," Allen said. “I just think that makes him so much more fun.” 

This makes sense — given the ample amount of detail that went into his origin story. The Flyers noted that in 2018, Gritty emerged from the construction that was going on at the Wells Fargo Center, where he had been hiding out for who knows how long. Seriously, if his dad was a “bully,” he’s been around for a long time — though how he snuck over from the Spectrum and set up camp in the bowels of where the Flyers now play is another interesting question. 

At the end of the day, Gritty captures the essence of what it means to be a Flyer and we wouldn’t want it any other way. 

If you want to learn more about how Gritty became the mascot we all know and love, watch the full video above

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