There was plenty of news coming out of Flyers practice on Tuesday – from the expected return of Derick Brassard to the “non-return’’ of Cam York and Morgan Frost to the celebration of Claude Giroux’s NHL All-Star MVP award.
But perhaps buried under those developments was a significant comment made by interim head coach Mike Yeo which should resonate throughout the local hockey community.
“I refuse to quit on the season,’’ Yeo said after the workout at the Flyers Training Center.
Pretty bold statement from a coach whose team is 17 points out of a playoff spot with just 37 games left in the season.
Maybe Yeo is conjuring up personal memories of the unlikely 22-8-2 run his St. Louis Blues went on in the second half of the 2016-17 season to qualify for the postseason.
Whatever the case, Yeo still believes this Flyers team can make some sort of revival and get things back on track by the time April rolls around.
However, Yeo is also a realist. He knows he’s probably not going to have the services of injured stars Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis anytime soon (or maybe not at all) plus Joel Farabee and Kevin Hayes are still probably weeks away from playing again.
“My focus,’’ Yeo said, “as far as a month ago, when we started to get on that run (a 5-0-2 streak in late December) – we were still a long ways out and my mindset then was the same (as it is now) as far as building the right habits, build the right game.’’
With so many players going in and out of the lineup due to injuries and COVID, that hasn’t been an easy thing to do.
“We have to make sure that every one of our players it (the proper style) is the same for,’’ Yeo said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s (Travis) Konecny, it doesn’t matter if you’re (Zack) MacEwen, every guy has a responsibility in every situation.’’
Yeo and his staff continue to pound away at the small details with hopes the team eventually gets rewarded.
“When you do those things, you win games,’’ Yeo said. “We have a big hole to climb out of. I feel like it’s getting closer. We’re definitely not quitting on making the playoffs but you can’t even think about making the playoffs until you improve the habits, breed the culture that allows you to be one of those playoff teams.’’
Meanwhile Giroux, who might not even be here past the March 21 NHL trade deadline, expressed equally cautious optimism.
The Flyers went into the All-Star break off a pair of wins after a franchise-record 13-game winless streak.
“We had some trouble getting some wins,’’ Giroux noted. “We were playing some decent hockey. Some games I thought we should have won; in the last two we played pretty solid. (Optimistic) not just because of the wins but because of the way we were playing. You look at the standings, it looks pretty bad. It (a comeback) is going to be almost impossible. What we have to do is take one step at a time.’’
>Brassard set to go
After playing just one game over the past two months, Brassard (hip injury) is set to go for Wednesday night’s home game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Given his durability over more than a decade-long career, it’s been tough to sit out.
Now the only question is Brassard’s conditioning level.
“It’s been a long two months,’’ he acknowledged. “Came back too quick three times. It’s been tough losing 10 games in a row two times, not being able to help my teammates. That was the hardest part. It will probably take a couple games to get back to normal.’’
Brassard practiced on a line with Max Willman and Gerry Mayhew on Tuesday.
>York, Frost stay with Phantoms
The Flyers loaned York and Frost back to the Phantoms before the break and that’s where they will stay for the time being. The return of Brassard probably would have pushed Frost to a more limited role if he had stayed with the Flyers.
Also, the Flyers are bringing back Isaas Ratcliffe from the Phantoms and that takes up another roster spot on the NHL team.
Yeo doesn’t view the moves as demotions. Rather just a chance for them to get more experience and work on their games in a different environment.
“Obviously their development is first and foremost,’’ Yeo said. “The experience of them being up with us has been invaluable. I think we’ve seen improvement in both their games.’’
In Allentown, Frost will get a chance to play in all situations, something which was limited in Philadelphia. York will get upwards of 30 minutes playing time with the AHL team.
“We’re very happy with what those guys have done,’’ Yeo said. “We want to keep pushing them to find that next level. That’s just part of the process.’’
The Flyers were a little disappointed Patrick Brown (sprained knee) is not quite ready to go.
“It’s not a setback,’’ Yeo said. “But it’s not progressing as quickly as we would have hoped.’’
In addition to Couturier and Ellis, both Farabee and Hayes have been limited to just skating so far.
“Hayes (adductor issue) was on the ice this morning and I think that’s a real good sign,’’ Yeo said.
>Giroux’s big homecoming
Giroux returned to the training facility to chants of “MVP! MVP!’’ in the morning. Later, when he led the team stretch at the end of practice, there were similar shows of respect, including the tapping of sticks.
“Before the video session, you could hear the ‘MVP’ chant,’’ Yeo said. “We were all ecstatic for ‘G.’ He’s accomplished so much in his career. You don’t take something like that lightly. It’s pretty special.’’
Giroux said all the attention made him feel a quite “uncomfortable.’’
“But it’s great since I got here this morning,” he said. “It made me feel pretty special.”