VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s more than just a catchy slogan on a T-shirt.
To a man, the reason for wearing those black with orange lettering “something to prove’’ tops around training camp is because the Flyers really do believe they have something to prove after last season’s disappointing, embarrassing no-playoff performance.
Even coach Alain Vigneault has been seen wearing one and he admits the three words about seeking redemption apply to him as well.
“Without a doubt, since day one, I’ve said last year doesn’t represent who we are,’’ Vigneault said after Thursday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center as the team prepared for Friday night’s season opener against Vancouver at the Wells Fargo Center. “I believe this team is a playoff team and a good one. We all have something to prove, I have something to prove. Now I have to do my job and I can only do that if the players are playing well, playing hard, playing smart.’’
The team’s performance in the preseason and throughout the training camp did nothing to lower Vigneault’s confidence. He believes the Flyers can avoid the dubious distinction of missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons, something which hasn’t happened since the early ‘90s.
“Everything I’ve seen so far from this group tells me not everything is going to be up but we have the personnel to live through some ups and downs,’’ Vigneault said. “To win games, to get into the playoffs and once you get there, anything’s possible.’’
Defenseman Ryan Ellis, cleared to play after missing a couple days of practice due to a lower-body injury, has played through a disappointing season or two with his former team, the Nashville Predators. It’s the same with any team: Have a bad year, vow to prove it won’t happen again.
“I think everyone from top to bottom has something to prove,’’ Ellis said. “Whether it be to themselves, the coaches or the GM. Everyone in every walk of life has something to prove, somewhere to someone. I mean day in, day out, that (something to prove) is our motto. That’s hopefully how we will be carrying ourselves all year. No nights off. Doing the best we can every single day. We had a meeting yesterday and that covered some of that stuff. It was a group thing – the importance of every day.’’
Goalie Carter Hart, who gets the start on Friday, knows all about seeking redemption. He suffered through the first down year of his career and looks like he’s ready to answer his critics.
“It’s a new start for us, it’s a clean slate,’’ he said. “Last year is in the past. It was nowhere near what we wanted to accomplish. We made some moves in the offseason, added some new guys. I think this group is really strong and we’re all just ready to go.’’
If the Flyers are to make a turnaround this season, a lot will depend on improvement for both the power play and the penalty kill.
“l would say they are like the rest of every team’s game right now, they’re a work in progress,’’ Vigneault said. “You go into camp and you’ve got different ideas on your mind. Some work, some others don’t.’’
The Flyers will open with a first line of Sean Couturier centering Claude Giroux on left wing and Travis Konecny on right. Second line: Derick Brassard, C; Oskar Lindblom, LW; Cam Atkinson, RW; Third line: Scott Laughton, C; Joel Farabee, LW; James van Riemsdyk, RW; Fourth line: Nate Thompson, C; Max Willman, LW; Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW.
The defense pairings are: First: Ivan Provorov-Ryan Ellis; Second: Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun; Third: Keith Yandle-Nick Seeler.
Despite all the new faces, Giroux believes his team can get on the same page pretty quickly. They’ve had a week of uninterrupted practices to get ready.
“We like the direction we’re going in right now,’’ he said. Asked if a full house at the WFC (where the Flyers had the best record in the NHL two seasons ago) can make a difference in the season opener, he added: “Playing at home in Philly you feel more comfortable with the fans. They’re pretty aggressive. The last time we played with a full house, we were playing some good hockey. I don’t expect anything less than that.’’
>New faces in lineup
The Flyers announced on Thursday several lineup changes for the game against the Canucks.
Forward Patrick Brown, just claimed off waivers from Vegas, has been placed in COVID-19 protocol and will not be available. His spot is being taken by Willman.
Also, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, bothered by an upper-body injury, will not play and his spot will be taken by Seeler, who was called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Forward Zack MacEwen, claimed off waivers from Vancouver on Wednesday, will be unavailable while he awaits entry into the United States by way of a work visa.
Vigneault doesn’t consider Ristolainen’s injury too serious and he’s listed as day-to-day.
“It’s the start of a new season,’’ Vigneault mentioned. “It’s a great opportunity for a lot of people, considering our situation.’’