A change of lines was crucial to the success of Travis Konecny this past season.
But a change of attitude was equally important.
Konecny scored only four goals in his first 39 games, most of that time spent on lower lines.
When Flyers coach Dave Hakstol moved Konecny onto a top line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier during Christmas week, Konecny’s production took off.
He finished the season with a whopping 20 goals in his final 42 games.
Of course, plenty of that had to do with Giroux and Couturier, who enjoyed career years.
Some of it, though, had to do with Konecny learning when to take risks – whether it was with lugging the puck into high-traffic areas or when to pick his spots when it comes to the “extracurricular’’/after-the-whistle stuff.
You see, Konecny enjoys his role as a little pest, just as similar players like Brad Marchand up in Boston do.
Whether it’s a poke in the ribs, an embellished collision or some trash talk, Konecny seems to be at his best when he’s stirring things up.
The challenge was knowing the right time to do this and when to back off.
“I remember last year, I had one game in particular that kind of set me back,’’ Konecny said during Wednesday’s breakup day at the Skate Zone. “I realized there’s a fine line there.
“It was against Columbus. I had scored two goals and then I took a really stupid penalty. . .it actually cost us the game.
“I realized it’s part of the game. Sometimes you have to know that it (skirmishes) can be part of the game, it’s what gets me involved. It’s not worth it sometimes when it affects your team.’’
The same sort of approach applies to Konecny’s high-risk play on offense. Often he will take the puck into traffic and if there’s a turnover, especially in the neutral zone, it can be costly.
That’s one of the reasons he wasn’t able to keep that first-line job for the entire second half of the season.
“I have to make sure those high-risk plays, even though if you’re going to be a successful high-end player you have to make some of those plays, it’s just learning when and where is the right time,’’ Konecny said.
“I think it’s something I take pride in learning. It’s just making sure there’s always a 200-foot (buffer) is always there.’’
When did that light go on?
“I’m slowly learning,’’ Konecny said. “When you come out of junior, you expect to make a play every shift. You want to be a difference-maker on the ice.
“I think it’s taken me these two years to realize. Guys like ‘G’ (Giroux) and Jake (Voracek) are dumping the puck, anybody can.’’
Konecny hopes to be back on the top line next season. It’s a unit he can be more creative with.
“I like playing with those guys and being in the top six,’’ he said. “You push yourself to be the best player you can.
“It gave me that confidence to make plays, not be afraid to step up and make a big play. Be a difference-maker. Playing with those guys, maybe I wasn’t afraid to make a play I hadn’t tried before.’’