The schedule for the NHL’s 2020-21 season might be short on games but for certain it will be long on demands when it comes to roster depth.
While only 56 matches are planned, the days off will be scarce. Plus, with just a 10-day training camp and no preseason games, the rush to get ready could result in the possibility of injuries.
So the expanded roster – allowing teams to carry several extra players – will come in handy for coach Alain Vigneault.
Speaking on a Monday media conference call, Vigneault acknowledged the Flyers and the other 30 teams face a formidable task.
“I look at the season ahead of us with the different challenges that we are going to face,’’ Vigneault said. “(It’s) a shortened schedule but a more condensed schedule.
“If ever we’re going to need depth at all positions, it’s going to be this year.’’
In addition, the Flyers will only play in their division (eight games against each of seven other teams). Adding a powerhouse like Boston won’t make things any easier.
“Each team starts with a (traditional) 23-man roster,’’ Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt in my mind because we’re going to be playing four games in six nights and a lot of back-to-backs, you’re going to need depth throughout the lineup.
“It’s obviously going to be a challenge for our group. But I think it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to. We’ve taken a step forward in the last year – our intentions are this year to take another step forward.’’
Vigneault plans to revise his normal training camp when official workouts commence at Voorhees, N.J. on Jan. 3. With no preseason games, he intends to go with intrasquad scrimmages on a daily basis.
“As coaches, we’ve been planning, we knew at some point we were going to get started,’’ Vigneault said, who’s been huddling with his staff on and off since October. “We definitely expected no exhibition (games).
“Guys need to get that game feel, get those game hands and legs and I feel that (daily scrimmages) is the best way of doing it.’’
Another byproduct of the short camp might be a lesser chance of prospects making the roster. There’s little time for experimenting when trying to form line chemistry in a situation like this.
“Yes,’’ Vigneault said, “there is a challenge there. We will need organizational depth. A lot of guys that might not be initially in the lineup. . .at some point we’re going to need them.
“When you (a young player) get the opportunity, you have to make it very hard for me and my coaches to take you out of the lineup. I expect some good internal competition at all positions.’’
No doubt Carter Hart and Brian Elliott will be kept busy, especially with a number of back-to-backs on the slate.
“I expect us in a condensed schedule to need both our goaltenders throughout this format to get into the playoffs,’’ Vigneault said. “I know it’s going to be a great challenge.’’
One thing is certain, there won’t be any time for a player who’s 90 percent in shape to get to 100. Most players have been working out on their own to hit the ice skating.
“I’ve made sure our two conditioning coaches are in constant communication with our players,’’ Vigneault said. “To see where they are in their conditioning; depending on where you were in Canada or the States, it might have been a little more challenging to get to a gym or rink.
“So we’ve stayed on top of that. I’m very confident that once we jump on the ice, guys are going to be in good condition and good spirits.’’