Why All-Star break comes at perfect time for Flyers

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Why All-Star break comes at perfect time for Flyers

If you’ve driven from the Sports Complex to Center City up Broad Street, then you have a pretty good indication of what the Flyers' schedule has been like over the past month.

Start, stop, start, stop, start and then stop again.

I’m not exactly sure why the traffic signals can’t be synchronized at least for a good half mile stretch, but every time the Flyers have a good pace to their schedule, they’re forced to pump the brakes. 

First came the league-wide Christmas break when the Flyers had four days between games. Then came the Flyers' five-day bye week and now a brief three-day holiday for the All-Star Game.   

“It’s crazy, three breaks in one month, I don’t think I’ve had it before,” Jake Voracek said. “Personally, I like to keep going. On the other hand, if I know I’m going to have that bye week or if I’m going to have that All-Star break to get some rest, it’s going to help. I’m playing around 20 minutes a night. That rest is awesome.”

Head coach Dave Hakstol approaches each break a little differently depending on the workload leading up to that break and where they are on the schedule.

“Everyone’s a little bit different,” Hakstol said. “Each one of the breaks, you’re in a different spot when you come into the break or come out of that break. I think right now for our team, it’ll be a good time for a break. It’s a short break.”

For most teams, you’ll typically find a heavy workload of games that precede the break. Just before the Christmas break, the Flyers endured a stretch of seven games in twelve days. They reeled off three straight wins before dropping three of their next four, the first sign of physical and mental fatigue setting in. Thursday’s 5-1 to the Lightning wrapped up a stretch of six games in ten days and Hakstol believes this break comes as a bit of relief.

“I’ve probably been split down the middle on the last couple, to be honest with you," Hakstol said. "They are what they are. You can make a positive spin or you can make a negative spin. Honestly, I think at this point in time we’ve played a lot of hockey. I think you saw a little bit of that in our game the other night. Mentally and physically, we looked like we had some fatigue to our game I thought the other night in Detroit.”

Interestingly, in the first 49 games of the season, the Flyers have had seven extended periods between games — stretches where they’ve had at least three full days off in between games. In that first game back the Flyers are 4-3-0, ranging from an 8-2 blowout victory over the Washington Capitals in the home opener to the last time they were shutout, 3-0, at home to the Bruins.

In other words, the Flyers haven’t responded one way or the other coming out of a significant break in action. 

Once the league reconvenes following the All-Star Break, that will all change.

From here on out it’s a sprint to the finish. A 31-team drag race, foot to the pedal, with no opportunity to decelerate. 33 games over the final 67 days of the regular season, and for the Flyers, not a single three-day break.

“We’re in the fight and it’s going to be a dogfight now coming back as soon as we come back off the break,” Hakstol said after Thursday’s game. “The schedule doesn’t lighten, but it doesn’t really lighten up for anybody. We got to keep finding ways to get points and keep finding ways to get a little bit better.”

“Every team in our division is capable of making a push,” Travis Konecny said. “It’s just going to come down to whatever team sticks with it, whatever team stays positive, grinds the longest, just battles it out.”

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Carter Hart approached Garry Davidson with a message.

For that brief moment, Davidson didn't have to answer his phone, hang up and then wonder.

The general manager's decision was made — and by the teenager who sought him out like a 30-year-old pro.

"Had he not come in and pushed those buttons," Davidson said, "who knows what I would have done."

The Everett Silvertips' 2016-17 season had just ended in the second round of the WHL playoffs. Davidson, the team's GM, was fielding trade call after trade call regarding his goalie.

It felt like everyone wanted a piece of Hart's final go-around in junior hockey.

"In the offseason this time last year, I was already being approached by several teams," Davidson said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "'Would you move Hart?' There were probably six, seven teams that came after us. As a GM, I had to weigh everything out to see how it might work out."

Until Hart, the Flyers' exciting goalie prospect, had a word with him.

Hart was an eighth-round Bantam draft pick of Everett at 14 years old before he signed his WHL educational contract at 15. He eventually turned himself into a record-setting junior goalie and wanted Davidson to know he had goals of finishing what they started.

"Carter came to me and said, 'Hey, I'd love to do something here with my team and my teammates,'" Davidson said. "He came in at 15 and didn't play obviously a lot but was around at 15 and then a regular member at 16 when he was allowed to stay here. When he came in and we had that discussion, then I dug in and tried to see what I could do to make us better."

Hart's plea and the circumstances offered revealing aspects of exactly why the 19-year-old has Flyers fans giddily awaiting his arrival. The competition after Hart's services speaks volumes about his ability in net; yet maybe even more impressive was the loyalty to his team and the maturity behind it.

"That's one of the big things that Carter has always been, old for his years," Davidson said. "He's all about doing things, day in and day out, the right way."

Davidson never imagined what Hart ultimately became.

But he saw the makeup.

"I always liked Carter because I thought he was athletic but I always liked his composure," Davidson said. "He played with a confidence and not on emotion.

"We had a pretty good goalie here, so we just signed [Hart] and said he'll be our No. 2 guy. He came in here at 16 and a month in he sat in my office and said, 'You know what, I think I can be the best goalie here and I'm going to prove it to you.' Not in a cocky way, but just in a confident way. And subsequently he went on to do that."

In more ways than one.

The Flyers' 2016 second-round draft pick became the first goaltender to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL's top goalie) three times, while his 26 career shutouts are tied for the most in Canadian Hockey League history. His WHL-leading 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage this season make him a favorite to win CHL Goalie of the Year for the second time, something no netminder has ever done. He also rewarded Davidson by leading the Silvertips to the 2018 WHL Final, where they lost in six games to the Swift Current Broncos.

While all the accolades surprised Davidson, the success didn't. Not with a kid as detail-oriented as Hart, who with time, grew into his body at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

"He made a comment in our exit meeting the other day, 'Oh, we went out last night and I really actually enjoyed a double-patty burger,' and a whole bunch of foods that he wouldn't normally eat," Davidson said with a laugh. "Because he takes care of every aspect — his rest, his eats, his diet, his off-ice workouts. But that's Carter."

Hart's game will test the pro ranks in 2018-19 as he turns 20 years old in August. Given the big club's situation, a season in the AHL seems more than likely.

"That's a decision the Flyers are going to make," Davidson said, advising patience. "It's also a decision Carter will make because it'll depend on his performance and what he does between now and the start of the NHL season in October."

Long odds or not, Hart already has one thing going for him.

He knows how to make a GM believe.

Samuel Morin's future with Flyers grows murkier with torn ACL

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Samuel Morin's future with Flyers grows murkier with torn ACL

Samuel Morin is taking the long and winding road to the NHL, one that’s now more rugged and elongated than ever.

The Flyers confirmed Thursday that Morin tore the ACL in his right knee when his skate caught a rut on the ice in Charlotte while he was attempting to check an opponent. The injury took place in the first period of the Phantoms' epic five-overtime game against the Checkers two weeks ago.

General manager Ron Hextall told the Courier-Post's Dave Isaac that Morin is facing a nine-month recovery process and that the 6-7 defenseman is “probably out until February” as he recovers from surgery — which Morin will undergo sometime in the near future.

Morin’s 2018-19 season will now be spent rehabbing from injury and utilizing what’s left of the regular season working his way back with the Phantoms.   

The Flyers' 2013 first-round pick is also a restricted free agent after playing out the final year of his three-year entry-level contract. In the five years since he was drafted, Morin has suited up for just three NHL games. 

Expect the two sides to reach an agreement on a one- or- two-year extension rather easily since Morin doesn’t have much leverage in negotiations at this point. Since Morin signed his rookie deal at the age of 18, he also had a five-year (or 160-game) waiver exemption that has now expired.

In other words, the Flyers will no longer have the luxury of shuttling Morin back and forth from Lehigh Valley without exposing him to the rest of the league if they attempt to send him back to the minors.

The Flyers have no choice but to give Morin the necessary time to ensure he’s not only ready physically, but also that his game can be trusted at the NHL level.  

Hextall has preached patience in the deliberate development of the organization’s prospects.

Right now, Samuel Morin is the poster child for that process.