Given the health challenges both had to face, Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick couldn’t be faulted for playing below their usual standards last season.
Lindblom, coming off a seven-month battle with Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer), managed to play in 50 games, registering eight goals/14 points with a minus-9.
When the 24-year-old Swede received the diagnosis back in December, 2019, he was leading the Flyers with 11 goals. The previous season he played in 81 games with career highs in goals (17) and points (33).
Patrick, who missed the entire 2019-20 campaign due to a chronic migraine headache condition, got into 52 games and could manage only four goals/nine points with a staggering minus-30.
Both want to put this past season in the past, hoping that a return to a normal schedule – plus some good health – will get their careers back on track.
For Lindblom, just returning to the ice and competing again was a big plus, along with a possible springboard to next season.
“That (compressed, 56-game) schedule didn’t help,’’ he said during a media Zoom call on Tuesday. “I felt like the recovery part was a big part that I was struggling with. I felt better, but I still feel I have a lot more to give.
“And I actually feel great to get back to work this summer. I’m so excited for that because I know what I can do out there. And when I’m in good shape, I know I can play good in this league. It’s been a tough year both physically and mentally. It’s going to be nice to recover here and get back in shape.’’
Lindblom was recently named the Flyers’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (dedication, perseverance, sportsmanship – as voted by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association). His ability to play and compete on a nightly basis showed why he’s a worthy candidate for the award.
“I didn’t know what to expect, if I ever could play again from the start and to play on the highest level in the world,’’ he admitted. “And I still managed to do that. It’s making me proud just to think about it. I feel great about myself. And like I said earlier, I know I got some work to do every summer, but still I’m proud of myself that I was able to play this year.’’
Toward the end of this past season, Lindblom was declared cancer-free and the hope is he will remain that way for the rest of his life.
Lindblom said just being around his teammates in the locker room and so forth played a role in getting him through the trying times.
“It meant a lot to be honest,’’ he said. “Just to be around, didn’t matter if I was playing or not. Those games when I didn’t play this year, I still felt I was a big part of a team and just to have them around me makes me feel so much better. Just the energy you get from seeing all the boys every day is great.’’
As for Patrick, the mountain ahead of him might be even more steep.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft had shown promise his first two seasons in the NHL, posting identical 13-goal seasons.
This past year, the confidence on offense seemed to be lacking and the minus-30 number would appear to indicate his defense was not up to par as well.
But, like Lindblom, getting through the season in one piece was the big thing. Thankfully, none of the migraine symptoms were evident, at least as far as we know.
Patrick took a few real hard hits to the upper body area this past season and looked none the worse for wear.
The Flyers still believe he can be a third-line center in this league and haven’t given up hope yet, although all bets are off for nearly everyone on this team after a vastly underachieving performance in 2020-21.
“This will be the most important offseason of my life,’’ the 22-year-old Patrick said. “I’m looking forward to having a healthy summer of training.’’
Patrick was moved all around the lineup this past season, even spending some time on right wing as coach Alain Vigneault looked for a comfortable fit.
Again, a full training camp should help matters. Last year’s 10-day stint really didn’t help much, since he hadn’t played since April of 2019.
“I really came in behind the 8-ball,’’ Patrick acknowledged. “Struggling to find my game. Clearly didn’t adjust great and get back to the top of my game quick. Being able to do everything (now) is exciting, I can do everything.’’