The Philadelphia Flyers moved closer to finalizing their roster for the 2022-23 season with more news in restricted free agency. Although no organized team activities took place and any upcoming acquisitions via trade or unrestricted free agency are unlikely, buzz about general manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher and the relentlessness of the fan base’s frustration against the organization continues.
Bobby Brink’s Hip Surgery
The Flyers announced on Tuesday that Bobby Brink underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. The top prospect led the NCAA in scoring in 2021-22 and helped the University of Denver to a National Championship at the Frozen Four in Boston. The Hobey Baker Award finalist recorded four assists in 10 games in a short stint in the NHL after the NCAA season ended.
The approximate five-month timetable set for Brink’s recovery lands him for a return around Christmas. He likely would’ve begun the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) even if he was fully healthy, and a longer stint in the minors will probably be necessary throughout the early weeks of the new year after a major hip surgery. The Flyers now need to temper expectations for any contributions from Brink at the NHL level in 2022-23.
Joel Farabee and Ryan Ellis are both likely to miss the beginning of the season because of injuries. Fletcher spoke on July 13 about the organization’s hopes to move past its recent history of injury-riddled seasons.
“We had over 500-man games lost (to) injuries (in 2021-22). We’re putting a lot of time in this summer to look into why that has happened. We’re still working through the process and looking for areas where we can upgrade, in terms of bringing in some specific specialists to help in different areas. I think we’re looking at ways to really add to our support staff to make sure our players have everything they need to hopefully prevent some of the injuries from happening that have occurred over the last year.”
Fletcher’s Job Security
Some of the discourse among an unsatisfied fan base still focuses on the need to “retool” and bring in first-line talent from outside the organization or “rebuild” and trade away veterans to bottom out and pick higher in the draft in upcoming seasons. The frustration is primarily aimed at Fletcher, but fans shouldn’t expect the Flyers to commit to either of the two arbitrary terms used to quantify team-building. The GM’s hopes for “stabilizing” the organization will constitute the direction of the franchise, no matter how realistic or unrealistic the notion might be.
Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic addressed the likelihood of a change at GM (from The Athletic, Flyers’ front office’s plan? Job security? Team success? Mailbag, 7/26/22).
“Do I think Fletcher is on the hot seat? Yes, I do believe the Flyers have to be showing tangible progress in 2022-23 for ownership to continue to stick with Fletcher. There has to be evidence that things are playing out according to Fletcher’s plan — that the team is looking more competitive, hanging around in the playoff hunt and checking the ‘tougher to play against’ box…if ownership feels like a big change needs to be made to showcase their dissatisfaction with the direction of the organization, the general manager is the next logical spot for them to look.”
Restricted Free Agency
The Flyers signed Tanner Laczynski to a two-year, two-way deal worth an average annual value (AAV) of $762,500. The 25-year-old forward will compete for a roster spot in the bottom six during training camp with six games of NHL experience under his belt. He underwent two hip surgeries in the year 2021, and his clock is ticking to find a full-time position with the big club.
Patrick Brown will push for the fourth-line center role against Laczynski, while wingers Noah Cates, Wade Allison, and Hayden Hodgson will also be in the mix for a spot in the lineup on opening night. Restricted free agents Allison, Hodgson, Owen Tippett, and Jackson Cates still need to work out deals before the 2022-23 season. Zack MacEwen will go to arbitration to determine his status.
Community day also took place at the Flyers Training Center in Vorhees on Wednesday. The facility hosted free open hockey, public skating, and hockey clinics. Bill Meltzer also confirmed that the Flyers will elect one or two new members to the franchise Hall of Fame in 2022-23. Rick Tocchet and Paul Holmgren became the first inductees since 2016 in November 2021.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.