One of the main reasons Scott Laughton chose to re-sign with the Flyers on Monday was because he believes in this team.
And he says he still has faith the Flyers, despite their tailspin over the past six weeks, can remain in contention for a playoff spot.
But Laughton also quickly points out the Flyers haven’t been quite the same since a COVID-19 outbreak on the team in early February.
Shortly after a game at Washington on Feb. 7, a half-dozen players, including Laughton, had to go into quarantine. During the ensuing pause, four games had to be postponed.
Prior to the multiple-player infection, the Flyers sported a record of 8-3-2.
Since beating the Capitals on that Sunday by a score of 7-4, the Flyers have struggled in the past 28 games to a record of 11-13-4.
Starting March 2, the Flyers have won back-to-back games only once (March 27-29).
Laughton, who signed a “last-minute’’ five-year, $15-million contract on Monday, gave the impression during a media Zoom call after Tuesday morning’s skate at Capital One Arena in D.C. that the Flyers haven’t been quite the same since the coronavirus hit.
“I do believe we’re close,’’ Laughton said in response to a question about whether the Flyers can get things turned around in the final 15 games.
“I know the results don’t show it this year some of the times the way we’ve been playing. I believe in this group. I want to be here and bring a (Stanley) Cup back to Philly.’’
It’s safe to say the Flyers basically picked up where they left off last year by getting off to that 8-3-2 start. Then a number of key players were sidelined, including Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny among others.
“Last year we probably played some of our best hockey since I’ve been here,’’ Laughton said. “We have a really good group of guys, a lot of young guys coming up. (Joel) Farabee has made huge progress.
“We had a really good year last year and then COVID hits (in February). We haven’t been quite the same. But I really do believe we are close.’’
Laughton, 26, was asked if some players might still be feeling aftereffects of the illness.
“That’s tough to say,’’ he said. “I don’t know if it has. I know I had it. I feel OK, no aftereffects. It’s been tough for us.’’
As for Monday’s high drama, the contract negotiations basically held Laughton’s career in the balance.
Even general manager Chuck Fletcher admitted he woke up Monday morning not knowing if he was going to sign Laughton or trade him before the NHL 3 p.m. deadline.
“A huge relief for sure,’’ Laughton said. “It was a pretty stressful couple hours in the morning for me just not knowing what was going to happen.
“I’m just very thankful that we got something done in the afternoon and I was able to stay in Philly. I love it here.’’
The length of the deal might have been the biggest reason why it went down to the wire. Long-term security is always on a player’s mind.
“It was pretty important for me,’’ Laughton said, “to have that security. Like I said before, I really believe in this franchise. I want to be a part of something here where we can do something special.
“Having that term is part of that — trying to win a Cup at the end of the day.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault is happy for Laughton because he wanted to stay with the Flyers.
“He’s a Flyer and he wanted to stay here,’’ Vigneault said. “That’s important to me as a head coach. He’s got versatility. He brings his emotion and his heart every game.’’
>Tough parting ways with Raffl
As happy as Laughton was to stay in Philadelphia, he said it was tough parting ways with teammate Michael Raffl, who was traded to the Capitals.
The two came to the Flyers at about the same time (2012-13 season) and became close over the years. They sit near each other in the locker room at the team’s Skate Zone practice facility in Voorhees, N.J.
“I talked to him a little bit, he’s a really, really good friend of mine,’’ Laughton said. “It’s a tough part of the business. He’s going to a good team so I’m happy for him to go here to Washington and have a chance.’’
Added Vigneault: “He (Raffl) is a great young man and well liked by all the coaches and all his teammates. He brought his best game on the ice even though he wasn’t always a hundred percent. He’s one of the players I’ve coached who’s played through more stuff than I’ve seen. I wish him nothing but the best.’’
>Elliott starting; Morin returns
Vigneault announced Brian Elliott would start against the Caps on Tuesday night. Also, Samuel Morin returned to the lineup after sitting out the Buffalo game to get a breather. Phil Myers was scratched for the Caps game.
>Maintaining a positive attitude
During a pre-game Zoom call, Vigneault talked about how his team was coping with the trades of Raffl and defenseman Erik Gustafsson on Monday.
“Very simply, we have to stay in the present,’’ he said. “We need to show consistency. That’s on me. We need to bring consistency. I believe we have a good team, I believe we have a playoff team. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played here and we need to stay in the present.’’
>Trade deadline aftermath
Vigneault wasn’t surprised by what the Flyers did – and didn’t – do at the deadline.
The Flyers currently are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and it made little sense to acquire players on a “rental’’ basis (unrestricted free agents).
“We as a team haven’t shown the consistency that a playoff team needs to bring,’’ Vigneault said. “Because we haven’t shown the consistency, management did what they had to do. I totally understand that.’’