VOORHEES, N.J. – It might have been a season to forget but at least it can be used as a reference point for how to fix the things which went wrong.
The Flyers have nowhere to go but up after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign. Mistakes were made but the feeling going into training camp is that many, if not all of them, can be corrected.
Both goaltender Carter Hart and captain Claude Giroux believe a return to a normal training camp (which started Thursday at the Flyers Training Center), a steady practice regimen and a traditional game schedule will allow the Flyers to show their true colors.
From a personal standpoint, Hart is looking to rebound from some discouraging work of his own. After a summer of rigorous training the 22-year-old netminder expects a return to form from his first two seasons.
“I just worked on my game,’’ he said of his summer back home in the Edmonton area. “Just get bigger, faster, stronger. I feel good, ready to go.’’
Getting Hart back to the top of his game starts with better defense in front of him.
“Last year is in the past, so it has no effect on the upcoming season,’’ he said. “Guys coming in are going to fill some big roles. We’re looking forward to a clean slate here. I think the guys coming in are going to do a good job. They’re veterans, they’re solid defenders.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault likes what he sees so far from Hart.
“I like his demeanor,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s smiling. He does look bigger, real fit. The fact that he was able to have a normal summer of training, it was a real good summer for him. I think it will really help him moving forward.’
Giroux said he senses a goaltender who’s more sure of himself.
“Carter is looking good right now,’’ Giroux said. “He looks confident, mentally he looks loose, ready to go. I’m personally excited to see him play.’’
Recently, general manager Chuck Fletcher said his team might have been a little bit too young to handle the pandemic adversity. So he brought in players who know how to handle crisis conditions.
If the Flyers are going to contend for a playoff spot, it starts with that sort of leadership.
“I think we have an older team, guys we brought in they all have experience,’’ Giroux said. “Some guys feel they have something to prove. As a team, we definitely feel like we have something to prove.’’
Vigneault, sporting a “Something to Prove’’ T-shirt, went along with that premise.
“This is what our guys are walking around in this year,’’ said a grinning Vigneault. The back of the shirt says “let’s get to work.’’
“We all have something to prove, from coaches to players,’’ Vigneault said.
Just having some new faces in the locker room can raise the energy level. Right now, the Flyers are projected to have about a fourth of their roster taken up by recently acquired players.
“Anytime you have new players coming in from other teams, there’s always a little excitement to get to know the guys,’’ Giroux said. “This camp might be a little different than the one we had before. Guys are excited but it doesn’t matter the roster you have, you need to find a way to get the chemistry. Today was a good first day.’’
Although Jake Voracek was traded to Columbus and depleted the veteran leadership core a bit, experienced players such as Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson and Keith Yandle can help fill that void.
“When you bring guys in, whether they have a letter (a “C’’ or an “A’’) or not, they bring leadership,’’ Giroux said. “Our leadership group got a little bit bigger. We can’t have too many leaders on one team. I think the more important thing is we all get on the same page. There’s only one message out there and that’s something we have to work on.’’
A high priority on camp will be working to get that league-worst 201 goals allowed reduced. It starts with longer possession time with the puck.
“Obviously you want to be better defensively,’’ Giroux said. “I think last year we weren’t helping our goalies and defense as much as we wanted to. A good way to defend is to have the puck. Making good decisions with the puck is a start to playing good defense.’’
>Giroux not thinking contract
Giroux is playing the final year of his eight-year, $66.2-million contract but he insists he’s not thinking about anything but this season right now.
“I’ve had some conversations with (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher),’’ he said. “But it’s not something we’re going to address right now. We’ll talk later.’’
>First day goes well
Vigneault was impressed by the work ethic of some of the new players.
“I noticed a lot of the new guys wanting to get to the front of the line on some of the drills,’’ Vigneault said. “They’re paying attention in the video (sessions), the pre-ice; you had a lot of guys who wanted to do it the right way. So that’s a very positive sign.’’
>Frost gets shot at top six
With Kevin Hayes (abdominal surgery) out for a couple months, Vigneault sounds like he wants to give rookie Morgan Frost an honest shot at the vacant second line center spot.
“Morgan is a young player who hasn’t played a lot of hockey (due to shoulder surgery) the last couple years but has had high expectations, (he’s) a high-end prospect,’’ Vigneault said. “With Hayes going down, it kind of gives him a quick opportunity to show what he can do. That’s supposed to be his skill set, in theory he’s a top six forward. I want to give him that opportunity.’’